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Panhandle Gardening Webinar To Continue Beyond Pandemic Restrictions Lifting

Saddleback caterpillar crawling on a leaf
University of Florida
Gardening in the Panhandle Facebook Page
Saddleback caterpillars are common insects in Northwest Florida.

Home gardeners in the Panhandle can get their landscaping questions answered through a monthly webinar series that features several horticulture experts.

“Gardening in the Panhandle LIVE!” covers a variety of topics from common predatory insects to turf diseases. The University of Florida’s Institute for Agricultural and Food Sciences started the program last spring as in-person programs, classes and events were transitioning online.

The next webinar episode covers ornamental and turf diseases. It streams live on Thursday at noon CT or 1 pm ET. Participants must register for the Zoom webinar and are encouraged to submit questions in advance. Every episode is recorded and archived on YouTube for later viewing.

This week’s panel includes faculty at extension offices across the Panhandle — including in Santa Rosa, Okaloosa and Washington Counties. Julie McConnell, an entomologist at the UF IFAS Extension Office in Bay County, says the program wouldn’t have been possible without the shift to virtual learning.

“Getting that many faculty together at one event, this often — it just wouldn’t happen,” McConnell said. “Taking out all that travel time and the expense of people moving around the state has allowed us to work together and collaborate and offer programs like this.”

McConnell says the webinar episodes have been getting about 60-90 participants on average.

The series has covered a variety of gardening topics, including weeds, pollinators, herbs and caring for holiday plants. McConnell says the next episode will focus on common predatory pests found in the region. “It’s interesting that we have natural pest control on in our landscapes, and we don’t really need to do anything.”

The program will continue indefinitely, she said. "It's been neat that our team can work together like this," McConnell said. "We don't plan to stop it even when we plan to do more in-person activities."

Valerie Crowder hosts and produces state and local newscasts during All Things Considered. Her reporting on local government and politics has received state and regional award recognition. She has also contributed stories to NPR newscasts.