Garden Talk

with Rebecca Jordi


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Q: I keep seeing these small black grasshoppers with red stripes. What are they?

 

Lubber nymph

Lubber nymph

A:  This is the early stage of the large Eastern lubber grasshopper, Romalea microptera, which can grow to over 3 inches long.  They can be extremely colorful making them very easy to identify.  Color variation can be from light yellow to dark black with many variations between. We would recommend you get rid of the young grasshopper now as it is an eating machine and it likes just about anything green.  Insect growth regulators will stop it from reproducing any more grasshoppers or you can simply take the Rebecca Jordi method and smash it.  I particularly enjoy killing them knowing I am reducing the future population and I find it very therapeutic. The young, black grasshoppers are often found in large numbers clustering together on weeds or green vegetation.  “Lubber” is derived from an old English word “lobre” which means lazy or clumsy.  There are some very serious chemicals but you must weigh that against the possibility of killing beneficial insects at the same time.  Take the smash method route instead!! Check out the publication from the University of Florida Entomology department.
http://entnemdept.ufl.edu/creatures/orn/lubber.htm


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Q: I am seeing clusters of blue flowers which look similar to phlox along the roadsides. Were these areas seeded

 

Blue phlox

Blue phlox

A:   Some of our median areas have been seeded with wildflowers but phlox generally likes partial shady sites so these areas are not a favorite.  We do have a native phlox so I suspect it is the flower you have been noticing. Many of us have been enjoying these sweet flowers and you are correct, they are indeed blue or wild phlox, Phlox divaricate. This beautiful flower is native to North America and found westward to New Mexico and as far north as Eastern Canada.  It is a perennial and blooms from late February through April.  The blooms may last longer in your landscape if you provide them with morning sun and protect them from the harsh afternoon heat. They are propagated by cuttings rather than seed. Nevertheless, they will come back year after year for you.  Also, there are many cultivated varieties of Phlox divaricate, be sure to try some for your yard. 


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Q: How can you tell the difference between the native Florida privet and the invasive Chinese privet?

Chinese Privet

Chinese Privet

A:  Both have shiny leaves which are attached to the stem directly across from each other (opposite). The most distinct difference will be the flowers.  The native Florida privet, Forestiera segregate, has small flowers with almost no petals and each flower contains greenish yellow or reddish purple stamens (male flower parts).  The Chinese privet, Ligustrum sinense, has long clusters of white flower petals.  It can easily reproduce from suckers and if disturbed can reproduce quickly in addition to its large seed production.  Chinese privet is native to China and was introduced into the United States in 1852 for use as an ornamental shrub. Generally, it was planted as a hedge and mass plantings and sometimes as a single specimen for its foliage and profuse small white flowers. The variegated form, which can ultimately revert back to its solid green relative, continues to be widely sold in nursery and gardening centers although it was recently be placed on the Florida Noxious weed list.  This plant successfully overtakes native species then alters the flora and fauna balance.  It becomes especially abundant along fencerows, streams and it has the ability to invade forests.  Truly, this is a plant no one should have in their landscape. 

 

 


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Q: I was thinking about seeding a small, sunny area of my lawn with Argentine bahiasgrass. My neighbor thinks it is a bad idea. What are your thoughts?

 

Florida Lawn

Florida Lawn

A:   Argentine bahiagrass is a beautiful grass for home lawns and would be a good choice providing your soil pH is acidic enough.  I have found most of the soil in our area is quite the opposite – most soils are alkaline. After testing your soil, it became obvious you should consider another grass as the soil pH measured at 7.45.  Bahiagrass ideally would like the soil pH to be 5.5 so your soil is almost 100 times more alkaline than bahiagrass would prefer. This gives the grass a very poor starting point in addition to providing a permanent stress factor.  While we might be able to adjust the pH on a temporary basis it will only be temporary.  For your soil, the best choices for warm season grasses are Bermudagrass and St. Augustinegrass.  It is difficult enough to grow grass here with normal stress factors such as heat, drought and cold.  If the soil pH is too high or alkaline it will only compound your problems.  One other thing, it is a misconception to assume your soil pH is acidic simply because oaks are growing in your yard and the leaves drop into the soil.  It takes so long for them to decompose and alter soil pH. The only sure way to know the soil pH is to have it tested.  We can do a test for you at no cost.  Get a bucket; collect soil 4-6 inches deep from various areas within your lawn and drop it into the bucket.  Mix the soil in the bucket and bring up a portion of the soil to one of our offices.  The main office in Callahan is available most days from 8am – 5pm.  The Yulee satellite office has a Master Gardener on duty from 10am – 2pm on Fridays only (if it is not a holiday).


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Q: Can you identify this weed for me. I am seeing all over my pastures and open field areas.

Heartwing Sorrel

Heartwing Sorrel

A:  This weed looks very similar to red sorrel which is a perennial. But this is actually a winter annual called heartwing sorrel, Rumex hastatulus.  If you look closely at the seed head you will see the seeds are slightly heart-shaped. Right now it is full of seeds so the best thing to do is mow it and collect the clippings then bag them and throw them away.  If you do it now, the crop of heartwing sorrel should be diminished next year.  This weed is found throughout most of the southern states.  It is edible for humans and great when a few are added to salads but it is somewhat sour which is where it gets its name – sorrel.