I moved from Michigan to Florida in 1979. My parents settled in Clermont, Florida (the center of the state). My newly-retired Dad started learning about gardening in the south. My Dad had always taken pride in his yard up north, but now the grasses were different, the annuals were different, bugs were year-round, and all kinds of scale and disease infected our plants and vegetables.

I caught the gardening bug in the 80s. It started with orchids and hibiscus but quickly grew to include lawns (because I now have one), pruning shrubs, organic control of pests, and finally, vegetable gardening.

There are years when everything blooms perfectly. The yard explodes with color and fragrance, and I feel like it’s worth the effort. Then there are times when I fall behind and the pests or powdery mildew challenge me to keep up. I’ve hired lawn crews, pesticide companies, and gardeners. The one thing I know is that no one takes care of your lawn, gardens, and plants like you will if you get inspired.

My sister and I travel around Florida and the southeast and we always make stops in the public gardens and historic homes to check out what they are growing. We look for native plants and the tricks that old-time Florida residents know about gardening in extreme heat.

Florida is not unique in these resources! Most states celebrate a city garden or two or more. The best way to determine what grows best in your area is to visit the local gardens. Many offer classes on lawn care, native plants, weed control, disease, and more. Another option is the University of Florida Horticulture Extension. UF/IFAS has offices in every region of Florida. Locate your local extension office here.