By Master Gardener Volunteer Lesley Arrandale

It’s early March and, as I often find, I’m running behind on garden tasks. I hope you’re feeling more in control! I’m enjoying seeing what my local big box store is bringing in for spring planting — all that color — and trying not to buy on impulse, which is something many gardeners find difficult. The trick is to have a plan — not one that is cast in stone, but which allows you to understand what you really need for that particular spot in your yard, be it dry and shady or moist and in sun. This allows you freedom to choose that beautiful new plant, once you have checked the label to ensure that it will be “the right plant in the right place.”

Late winter has been warmer than it should be, with hardly any cold snaps, and deciduous trees and shrubs are increasingly showing their beautiful fresh spring-green colors. Relying on my rain gauge, there has been a reasonable amount of rain in my area of town, and I have been able to save water as my vegetable garden has been doing fine without irrigation. Generally our weather is kinder to us than in many parts of the country. Our next challenges will be the dry spring fire season and, as of June 1, the hurricane season. 

While thinking further about the year ahead, I’ve been looking at the University of Florida website “Gardening Solutions,” which has evolved in recent years from “Solutions for Your Life.” It has been updated with articles that introduce material to general readers, with readily accessible links to more in-depth articles that get right to the heart of our gardening issues. The home page has what you need to get started: You will find it a very accessible resource and I encourage you to check it out, whether you simply need reminding of best practices for lawn care, are troubled by a wretched insect that’s beginning to feel like a plague, or are feeling inspired to do your bit for our pollinators, birds, and other wildlife. 

Our local resource, A New Leaf newsletter, is available at Summer vegetables are on many gardeners’ lists, and you will find tips from Beth Marlowe for planting out tomatoes and their pepper and eggplant relatives. Summer heat brings more pests and fire ants can be among the worst; see Chris Kerr’s article on dealing with them and how you may be able to do so without using chemicals. Now is the time we begin to see the city arborists inspecting trees that could potentially cause power outages during summer storms. As homeowners we can make sure that any trees we plant won’t grow up and into power lines by choosing our tree species wisely. Larry Figart has details on some lovely options if you are considering a new tree or two. 

We had been planning to hold our Master Gardener Volunteer Plant Sale on May 2, but this is now not certain. All Master Gardener Volunteer activities have been postponed until further notice and the Extension Office will be closed through the end of March; however, Extension Agents and staff will be working remotely and can be reached at or through the City of Jacksonville call center at 255-CITY. Agents will be answering questions in place of our volunteers.

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