I recently took a review class before sitting for the International Certified Arborist exam and was reminded about how much I have forgotten. The information from the class helped me pass the exam. It never hurts to continue your education, and I met many people there who did not take the exam but just wanted to learn.
This class was also a great reminder about the many programs available through the extension service. The Hillsborough County Extension Service Office, based in Seffner, has its Web site at hillsborough.extension.ufl.edu. Pinellas County's Web site is at pinellas.ifas.ufl.edu. Both offices offer a wealth of information about gardening in our area, which can be challenging at times.
Another great resource is the University of South Florida. The USF Botanical Gardens hosts an orchid show and sale noon to 4 p.m. today; 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday; and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday. Admission is $4 and Botanical Gardens members get in free. You can usually buy a blooming orchid for the same price as a fresh bouquet, and the orchid will last much longer.
Don't be intimated by the orchid's exotic look. Experts at the event have the information you need to keep your orchid happy and living for many years.
If you have used the many area resources to gather the information you need, fall is the time to add some cool-season vegetable crops to your garden. Here are a few tips to get your started:
• Plant seeds for fall crops when the soil is still warm.
• Keep an eye out for pests.
• Pick a location that gets at least six hours of sunlight a day.
This is the time of year to plant beets, cabbage, carrots, collards, English peas, kale, kohlrabi, leaf lettuce, mustard, radish, spinach, Swiss chard and turnips.
The probability of a great harvest can be increased by adding lots of organic materials before planting.
It's a good time of year to add leaves, compost, chemical-free grass clippings and other organic materials to all areas of the garden. Be sure to use a lawn mower to shred leaves, and top with mulch, compost or top soil.
Once the garden area is prepared, apply two pounds of 6-6-6, 6-8-8 or similar fertilizer per 100 square feet every two to three weeks. If you have healthy, well-composted soil, you can reduce the number of fertilizer applications.
A word about pests: Watch for caterpillars in your vegetable garden and spray with Bacillus thuringiensis if detected. If you notice just a few, remove them by hand. Aphids and other soft-bodied insects can be controlled with insecticidal soap.