Author: Maria Logan Montgomery

My Favorite Cake Icing to Make — Cream Cheese Icing

My Favorite Cake Icing to Make — Cream Cheese Icing

Don’t you want to swipe your finger through the icing on this cake, and take a bite? This delicious, creamy icing (a.k.a., frosting) works well with many types of cake and cupcakes. Bo especially loves it on devil’s food, or any dark chocolate cake. I […]

Making Chicken Pot Pie

Making Chicken Pot Pie

Occasionally I make little individual pies, and freeze them. It’s a bit more trouble, but on days when we do not want to cook, it’s nice to be able to reach into our freezer and pull out two of these individual servings of chicken pot […]

I Made it!

I Made it!

This is an old blog post originally published a year ago, and moved from my old blog “In the garden With Maria”:

 

After several years of wanting to take the Florida Master Gardener course, and having multiple conflicts, I was finally able to fit my schedule to theirs, and enroll in the 2017 class with 16 other gardeners extraordinaire. Before beginning this course, I had planned to use this blog as a journal of what I was learning as a way of sharing the knowledge, but I was so busy during that 3-month course, I didn’t have time to make any posts at all. It was hard work, but I loved every minute. Would I do it again? You bet I would!

It’s All About Community Service

Each new class of graduates is considered to be interns for the first 12 months, during which time they must complete 75 hours of volunteer service and 12 hours of continuing education units (CEUs). After the first year, all Master Gardeners must complete at least 35 volunteer hours and 12 CEUs annually. The next training class for our county is scheduled to begin in late August of 2018.
 

GIBMP?  What’s That?

 
That acronym stands for “Green Industries Best Management Practices”. It’s extensive training in using and advising people on the proper use of fertilizers, herbicides, pesticides, and insecticides. During the course, our class also received GIBMP training, and we are now GIBMP-certified by the State of Florida.
I will be sharing a lot of what I have learned in future blog posts. I hope you enjoy each of them. For now, here are just a few little tips:
 
  • Be sure to remove the coverings over your plants as soon as the temps rise above freezing, especially if they are in the sun.
  • Resist the urge to remove freeze-damaged portions of plants until the danger for more freezes or frosts has passed. If we have another freeze, the damaged portions will shelter any tender new growth down below.
  • Your warm season grass is either dormant, or going dormant this time of year. This means its roots become much shorter, and it need no irrigation. Do not apply nitrogen to dormant turf grass. Over time (several years), applying nitrogen to warm-season grass during winter will damage your lawn. Excessive nitrogen attracts and feeds chinch bugs. More on that later. For now, please just trust me.
  • Some folks like to over-seed dormant warm-season grass with winter rye grass. Please don’t do this. Dormant grass does not need water, but winter rye does — this  will damage your dormant grass. The rye seeds also get into your neighbors’ yards through wind and bird droppings. 
  • In the event of another hard freeze, use cloth or cardboard boxes to cover to cover your tropical or tender plants, not plastic bags or tarps — everywhere the plastic touches a plant there will be freeze damage. Overturned plastic pots that plants come in can be used to cover small plants if they are large enough not to touch the plant. Placing a rock or brick on them will (a) keep the pot from blowing off in strong wind, and (b) cover the drainage hole, thus keeping out cold air.

Coming Up

I’ve been working on a blog post about which of my flowers and foliage plants survived our recent nights of freezing temps. It’s not quite done yet, but it will show photos of those that survived. Another post will show those that did not do well.  Hint:  the flowers that did best were the snapdragons.

How to Prune Variegated Ginger

How to Prune Variegated Ginger

Jennifer P. told me of her variegated ginger, and how tall it has grown. She asked the best way to prune it.   There Are Several Reasons to Prune Variegated Ginger (Alpinia Zerumbet Variegata):   1. When the plant grows too tall for your garden: […]

Goldenrod

Goldenrod

  As early as July, the goldenrod had grown tall, but was blending in with the other wildflowers and, yes, weeds, along highways throughout the South, and probably other places, too. I saw it in Georgia and Alabama on a trip in early July. By […]

Do I Need to Dig Up My Dahlias Here in Florida?

Do I Need to Dig Up My Dahlias Here in Florida?

Barbara’s Question About Dahlias:  Barbara G-H. moved here from New York where dahlias have to be dug up every autumn, stored over the winter, and replanted each spring.  During a golf outing, she told me about her dahlias that had become quite ragged-looking the previous summer, and that she and her husband had pulled them up and trashed them.  She asked about growing them here in central Florida:

 

 

 

My Answer:  As far north as Zone 7, dahlias can be left in the ground for years. Most likely, Barbara’s dahlias were suffering from the heat and periods of dryness we experienced that summer. Here in Zone 9-A (central Florida), dahlias can be left in place year-round. They will likely suffer during times of extreme heat, and if they begin to look too badly, they can be cut back. As with many flowers, when the heat wave is over, they will perk up and begin to bloom again.

At the time we spoke, I had not grown them here, so I didn’t know for sure whether they would die completely down to the ground during winters, as many plants don’t during mild winters. If we were to have a hard freeze, they probably would die back to the ground. I have now grown them here, but just this year, so mine have not yet had to deal with winter. I do know that the best times to plant them in here Zone 9 are March, April, October, and November.

Update to come after this winter.

 

 

I had beautiful red dahlias when we lived in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, much farther north than we are here in Florida. There, of course, the dahlias died down every winter, and came back every spring. Barbara was disappointed to learn that she could have simply trimmed off the ragged part of the plants, and waited for them to put out new growth. I wish we had had our conversation a month or so earlier — her dahlias could have been saved.

 

 

Here are two more dahlia photos showing the fruit-like flower buds, then the lovely single-layer blossoms of these mini dahlias. Those buds remind me of tiny heirloom tomatoes, but, no, they most definitely are not edible.

 

How to Shape a Crepe Myrtle Tree Grown Too Large

How to Shape a Crepe Myrtle Tree Grown Too Large

Sharon F. recently read my article on HubPages, entitled “Proper Pruning of Crepe Myrtles” and e-mailed me about her myrtle. Here’s Sharon’s question:    “My Crepe Myrtle is getting too large (both tall and wide) for the space where it was planted. How would you approach […]

Keeping Poinsettia Alive After the Holidays

Keeping Poinsettia Alive After the Holidays

Some of my friends have been asking about keeping poinsettias alive after the holidays. So here is what I’ve learned over the years. I have lost count of the questions I’ve been asked about how not to kill these beauties, so rather than take a chance on […]

Making Strawberry Jam

Making Strawberry Jam

 

We recently spent a week in Scotland and England, where we ate delicious scones with strawberry jam every day. In England, we had them with clotted cream. In Scotland, butter was used instead.

 

After returning home, we decided to try our hands at making them at home. Bo began the search for a good recipe. With one, the scones tasted fine, but did not rise, so the texture was off. With another, they rose a little, but were still not right. He’s still perfecting his own recipe.

 

When we kept having to return to the store to buy more strawberry jam, I decided to try my hand at making it. My first attempt resulted in something more like strawberry puree. While my daughter, Tracy, of Designs By LolaBelle fame, was visiting, we tried it again. This time, it jelled perfectly, and was a huge success. Here’s the link to the strawberry jam recipe.