EDITOR’S NOTE: A University of Florida faculty member and Nassau County Extension Horticultural Agent, Rebecca Jordi addresses some of the questions she receives about landscaping and gardening in northeast Florida, in GARDEN TALK. The Extension also offers helpful clinics throughout the year, providing assistance to local gardeners on Amelia Island and in the surrounding areas of Nassau County, Florida. __________
GARDEN TALK COLUMN
QUESTION: What herbs can I grow here in the cool months? LM
JORDI: Cool season herbs are cilantro, coriander, dill, fennel, sorrel, thyme, sweet marjoram, oregano, salad burnet, St. Johns Wort, soap wort, lavender, and viola. Parsley and calendula can take the cold but they will show damage if the temperature drops below 20 degrees. They will re-grow, however, when temperatures rise again. Nasturtiums, geraniums and lemon balm like cooler weather, too, but they cannot tolerate frost. Many of these herbs are can be found in our local garden centers and nurseries.
Start out with a small area and try a few of your favorites. Consider first growing those herbs which you are fond of using in your favorite recipes. Don’t be afraid to cut or use the herbs. They will grow back quickly. I believe everyone will notice how wonderful your recipes taste when you use freshly grown herbs. Growing herbs is one of the easiest and most rewarding garden hobbies. Have fun and good luck.
__________HERBS CLASS: On October 21, 2009 Master Gardeners will hold an herbs class at 10 am at the UF/IFAS Nassau County, Florida Demonstration Garden. This is a free class, for more info see the Nassau County Extension website.________
QUESTION: We want to plant a screening hedge across the rear of our property. I believe that either Ligustrum or Viburnum would serve very well. Do either of these plants have obvious advantages over the other, or do you have another recommendation? Any advice would be welcome. MG
JORDI: Both are hardy and easy to grow and both grow quickly. As long as you do not have overhead irrigation, they would need watering only once in a while and our regular rainfall should take care of it for you. If we have a long spell with no rain, you may need to supplement it, but I never water mine. Of course, initially they will need watering and it will take about 4-6 months to get them established.
Do not plant them too deeply and keep the top root just at soil level. Consider planting them in a zigzag pattern rather than a straight line as this will allow the plant more root and branch room as they grow. Do not amend the soil; simply loosen it up about 2-3 times the size of the root ball (all the way around the plant). Water it daily for about 2 weeks, then every other day for a week or so; then taper the amount of water off within the next few months.
It is not necessary to prune the shrubs at planting but you can remove any dead limbs. A light mulching would be beneficial (about 2-3 inches) and consider using some organic type (like pine straw or pine bark) but be sure to keep the mulch from touching the trunk. That’s it! Easy as pie – wait making pies is not easy. How about “It’s a cake walk”? Yeah, that’s easy.
QUESTION: I almost stepped on a snake in my yard and wanted to know what kind it was. It was light brown with patterns on the back. I couldn’t tell if the head was truly triangular but I am curious if it is dangerous. BK
JORDI: It is tough to identify a snake just by oral description. A photo would make it much easier to determine if it is poisonous. According to the Florida Museum of Natural History, of the 45 species of snakes found in Florida only 6 are venomous and dangerous to humans. They have a wonderful on-line guide to local snakes: http://www.flmnh.ufl.edu/herpetology/FL-GUIDE/onlineguide.htm
In general, snakes are protected if they are not poisonous. Most Florida snakes are not aggressive and will try to get away from humans but will bite if threatened or cornered. According to the Florida Museum of Natural History, “The only acceptable treatment for venomous snakebite, involves the use of antivenin. So if you or someone else is bitten by a venomous snake, seek immediate medical attention at the nearest hospital or medical facility. Stay calm, remove any rings that could restrict circulation if tissues swell, keep the bitten limb below the level of the heart, and immediately seek medical attention. Your most important aids in getting to a hospital and treatment may be car keys or a cell phone.”
This website is very user friendly and I especially like that it gives a picture of the adult and the juvenile. The juvenile snake often looks quite different from the adult. Spend some time looking over these pictures and become familiar with them ahead of time, especially if you live near a body of water or a heavily wooded area.
It is interesting that most snake bites occur when people reach down to pick up a snake. Our advice is walk away from the snake and do not reach down to touch it.
Obviously there is no way to totally eradicate snakes from our area. We would not want to get rid of them because they are so valuable in controlling our pest rodent populations. In addition, some of the beneficial snakes even prey on the poisonous snakes. So the take home message is to develop a “live and let live” stance and then talk to your family and children about leaving snakes alone. We don’t want children to become fearful of snakes and other creatures, we just want them to have a healthy respect.
Now that I have said all this, I was pleased you sent me a picture of the snake. You identified it as a banded water snake, Nerodia facitata – nothing like someone doing my job for me. The banded water snake is harmless but is often mistaken for a more serious poisonous snake. I have included the picture you sent me so the public can now recognize and appreciate this beneficial snake.
Rebecca L. Jordi
University of Florida/IFAS
Nassau County Extension
Environmental Horticulture Agent III
543350 U. S. Highway #1
Callahan, FL 32011
904 548-1116 or 904 879-1019