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The Amazing Amaranths

Nichelle Demorest, UF/IFAS Horticulture Agent     print this

Amaranth What gardener wouldn't love to find a flowering plant that is fast growing, heat and drought tolerant, easily grown, unusual and beautiful? Do I have your attention? Add edible and nutritious to that list of desirable characteristics of the Amaranth plant and we have a winner for Florida gardens.

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There are about 60 different species of amaranths, and there are many uses for them worldwide. Most are annual plants grown for their colorful ornamental quality, nutrient-rich edible leaves, or cereal grain-like seeds. These plants are not to be mistaken for wild amaranth weeds which are no strangers to many farmers and gardeners.

One of the best known ornamental types is Joseph's Coat Amaranth, or Amaranthus tricolor. This annual is a fast upright grower, often needing to be staked when reaching 4 feet in height. As the name implies, the colors of Joseph;s Coat's large leaves are brilliantly variegated red, purple, green and yellow.

To obtain the best leaf color, ornamental amaranths should be planted in full sun, although some shading in high afternoon is acceptable. They grow well in acidic sandy soil that is well drained and they are moderately drought tolerant. Limit fertilizer applications, however, because their vibrant leaf colors fade when grown in rich soil.

Love-lies-bleeding, my favorite, is another breathtaking amaranth that can take its place as a specimen in the garden. Gracefully drooping branches laden with foot long chenille-like blooms make the 4 feet tall plant a spectacular focal point. The name of this plant can evoke emotion, but combine that with the sight of this plant in its full glory and you may shed a tear.

According to the UF/IFAS publication on amaranths (https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/mv006) a green form, A. gangeticus, is commonly grown for use as boiled greens. Young leaves and shoots, reportedly similar in taste to spinach, are ready to harvest about 3-6 weeks after sowing. These nutrient-rich greens can be cooked or eaten raw in salads.

Amaranthus edulis is a 'grain' amaranth, grown for the edible seeds. These seeds can be ground into a flour to make nutritious breads, noodles and pancakes. When heated, the seeds will expand and pop like popcorn for a crunchy gourmet treat. Many markets and health food stores carry the seeds and seed products.

Maybe your flower garden, edible landscape or vegetable garden has a place for amaranths this year.

Environmentally Friendly Perennial Peanuts

Nichelle Demorest, UF/IFAS Horticulture Agent    print this

When you meet someone for the first time, one of the things you ask is "where are you from?" perennial peanut Many of us are from other places across the U.S. and beyond. We now live in a dynamic global society and never again will communities become stagnant. Leaving behind everything familiar to relocate takes a strong character. It’s much easier to stay in an original location than it is to move on to new places.

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Consider plants in the same way. Our non-native plants did not originate in Florida, but have been relocated here from other places across the U.S. or beyond. Some non-natives can cause problems by spreading and competing with our native plants in natural areas. But many non-natives prove to be just what we need for certain jobs in the landscape.

Take the perennial peanut, for instance, which grows well south of the Georgia-Florida border. This non-native low ground cover was introduced from Brazil in 1936. It is not invasive and shows promise as a lovely low maintenance plant for Florida. Many homeowners and municipalities have had great success with the perennial peanut as an ornamental plant in the landscape.

The perennial peanut has no major insect or disease problems. When an introduced plant has no natural population controls, they often become a problem as an invasive. But this plant spreads slowly by rhizomes (underground runners). There are no seeds produced to be scattered by wind, water or wildlife. Edging can be used to keep the plant in a confined area.

Although the peanut will grow in shade, it won’t grow to be as thickly carpeted as in full sun. The plant is very hardy but the foliage is often browned by frost in north and central Florida. Weeds are not a problem because they cannot compete in the thick growth of the peanut. The University of Florida does recommend that the planting bed is treated for weeds before planting, however, and certain chemical herbicide applications should be made during the establishment period. Read all about how to establish your own perennial peanut bed by visiting the UF/IFAS site:

Guide to Using Rhizomal Perennial Peanut in the Urban Landscape

After establishment, infertile soils are no problem. The perennial peanut is a legume. Legumes have specialized bacteria on the roots that take nitrogen from the air and change it into a form that plants use as a nutrient. Essentially, the plant produces its own fertilizer. Dollars are saved when fertilizer applications are not needed, and the environment is saved from possible nutrient leaching.

The perennial peanut is a plant that is well worth welcoming to your Florida landscape. Besides saving fertilizer costs, this ground cover is well adapted to our dry conditions and will save on irrigation costs. Because it spreads slowly, the low plantings can be easily confined in the desired location. The yellow flowers are not only attractive, but they are also edible and have a nutty flavor.

The perennial peanut is a plant that is well worth welcoming to your Florida landscape. Besides saving fertilizer costs, this ground cover is well adapted to our dry conditions and will save on irrigation costs. Because it spreads slowly, the low plantings can be easily confined in the desired location. The yellow flowers are not only attractive, but they are also edible and have a nutty flavor.


Call the Columbia County Extension Office with your questions. 752- 5384.


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Master Gardener Program

The Master Gardener Volunteer Program began in Washington State in 1972. Dr. David Gibby, an extension agent for horticulture created the program in response to the overwhelming number of requests for gardening information. Volunteers were trained in horticulture to provide gardening information to the public.

The Master Gardener Program provides gardeners with intensive education in home horticultural principles. Participants who complete the program are certified as Master Gardeners by the Florida Cooperative Extension Service.

Working with the Extension Agent, Master Gardeners provide volunteer leadership and service to their community in gardening activities. Master Gardeners work with the Extension program and have the opportunity to participate in organized volunteer activities.

This service consists of such things as answering gardening questions, conducting plant clinics, beautifying the community, and other activities designed to increase the availability of horticultural information and improve the quality of horticultural projects.

Activities
Gardening Workshops
Join the Master Gardeners every third Tuesday of each month at the UF/IFAS Extension office in Lake City, 4:00 pm.

And every third Thursday of each month in Fort White at the Public Library branch on Rt 47, 5:45 pm.

Each month the Master Gardeners offer a presentation, discussion, and question/answer period on a different gardening topic. Topics include vegetable gardening, lawn care, butterfly gardening, hydroponics, composting and more. All presentations are free, open to everyone, and informative. Join other gardeners who share your interests and enjoy some time out with UF/IFAS Master Gardeners of Columbia County.

Plant Clinic at the Extension Office
Tuesday and Thursday Mornings 9 am - 12 noon Master Gardeners are on duty at the Clinic Room to help you with your gardening questions. Bring in your plant samples or insects of concern, or call with questions. (386) 752-5384 The UF/IIFAS Extension office is located at 971 W. Duval St. (state rt. 90) in Lake City.

Soil pH Testing for Homeowners
The Master Gardeners offer homeowners this free service. Drop off your soil sample at the front desk of the UF/IFAS Extension office. We perform soil pH tests on dry samples every Wednesday and call clients with results and recommendations


Resources

General

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Master Gardener Program (EDIS)

Master Gardener - UF|IFAS Site

UF Environmental Horticulture Department

Florida Turfgrass Association

Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services

Extension Master Gardener Blog (national)

In the News



FAQ: Zika virus (IFAS Entomolgy Dept)

Bugs

Florida 4-H Bug Club

Purdue Extension Entomology

Soil / Fertility

Florida's Online Composting Center

Plants/Weeds

Florida-friendly Plant Database

Plant Atlas

Landowner's Guide to Shrubs, Forbs, Vines and Grasses of North Florida (pdf download - free)

Vegetables

Vegetable Gardening in Florida

More Vegetable Gardening

Small Farm / Sustainable Agriculture

Small Farms Alternative Enterprises

Sustainable Agriculture

The University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) is an Equal Opportunity Institution

The Master Gardener Program is open to all people regardless of socioeconomic level, race, color, sex, religion or national origin. After receiving intensive horticultural training and satisfactorily meeting other program requirements, Master Gardeners are required to provide a number of hours in volunteer service and continued training. Continued training is available at the state and county levels.
    updated:06/30/2016 mlg