Thursday, December 17, 2009

Melaleuca Mulch

You may have heard of Melaleuca mulch, but wondered what it is, and why it is an environmentally-friendly mulch.

Melalueca mulch contains bark and wood from Melaleuca quinquenervia, an invasive exotic tree. The Melaleuca, or punk tree, was introduced to Florida over 100 years ago, and since then has taken over parts of South Florida. The Everglades has been threatened by the dense stands of Melaleuca as they move quickly by wind-dispersed seed and form thick monocultures. These monocultures damage the ecosystems that they overtake by displacing native flora and fauna. They also are very susceptible to fire and burn quickly. The native wildlife that depend on native vegetation for survival are pushed out of the area, and migrating birds suffer.

But luckily something is being done about the Melaleuca infestation. Numerous organizations use a multi-faceted approach to the eradication of the trees in South Florida. Biological control (using a plant's natural enemy), mechanical control and herbicides are used. There are companies that create a garden mulch out of the removed and composted trees. This mulch is environmentally-friendly because it is a usable product created from a potential waste product. The high heat of composting ensures that no Melaleuca trees will sprout up in your yard. This organic (it breaks down in the garden, benefiting the soil) mulch is a shredded wood mulch that resists floating and retains a light brown color. It has also been shown to settle the least in University of Florida research. This means that it retains its beneficial qualities for a longer period of time and would not need to be replenished as often as other mulches. This means that Melaleuca is also a budget-friendly mulch!

Just like all mulches in the landscape, Melaleuca should be applied 2-3 inches deep and never touch the base of the plant. The benefits of mulch are numerous and a University of Florida study shows that termites prefer not to eat Melaleuca mulch. Weed suppression, improved soil structure, soil moisture retention, and increased landscape beauty are some of the many reasons that mulch is so important in the landscape. To purchase Melaleuca mulch contact the Polk County Master Gardeners. The mulch is $3.00/bag from the Master Gardeners at the UF/IFAS Polk County Extension Service at 1702 Highway 17 South in Bartow. Call (863) 519-8677 for more information. Proceeds benefit the Polk County Master Gardeners.

Rain Barrel Workshop Scheduled for January 9, 2010

Creating a Rain Barrel Workshop
Saturday, January 9, 9:00 am-11:00 am
UF/IFAS Polk County Extension Service 1702 Highway 17 South, Bartow
Learn how to collect rain water and use it to water plants. A 55 gallon rain barrel (barrel and spigot included) can be purchased for $30. You must pre-register if you would like a rain barrel as quantities are limited. Register at:

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Need a Last Minute Christmas Gift?

Master Gardener calendars are still for sale! They contain a wealth of information that is helpful to both the novice and experienced gardener. They make great stocking stuffers for all family members and friends. The calendars are $8 (include $2 for shipping) and can be purchased at the UF/IFAS Polk County Extension Service at 1702 Highway 17 South in Bartow. Call (863) 519-8677 for more information.

Interactive Way to Learn About Polk's Natural Wonders

A new interactive feature on the Lake Wales Ridge will teach the eager learner all about the unique flora and fauna of the ridge. Click on the animals and plants to learn about their habitat. There is also a video and a list of cool facts about the Lake Wales Ridge:


Where: Polk, Lake, Highlands. Osceola counties
Size: The Lake Wales Ridge stretches for 100 miles. Scrub habitat once covered 341,000 acres, but today scientists estimate only 44,157 acres remain in fragments throughout the area.
Significance: Habitat contains one of largest concentrations of rare and endangered species in the United States.
National importance: First location in the United States where a national wildlife refuge was established primarily to protect rare plants.
Global importance: Many of the species on the Lake Wales Ridge are found nowhere else on the planet.
Number of endangered/threatened species: 38.
Why: The rare species evolved in isolation during the thousands of years the Lake Wales Ridge was a chain of islands when the rest of Florida was underwater.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Winter Water Conservation Tips

As cool weather approaches it is time to change the way we irrigate our lawns and landscapes. Even though you may not notice, many plants (including your grass) will become semi-dormant in the winter months. When temperatures are cool, plant growth is limited and irrigation frequency should change.
If you are not sure when to water in the winter, always remember that your plants will let you know when they need it; you just have to learn how to read the signs. When it comes to watering your plants, look for signs of stress before watering. Wilting leaves are the best indicator. If you notice wilting leaves, water at the end of the day or the next morning. The best way to reduce the need for watering is to install drought-tolerant plants.
The height that you mow your lawn is directly related with how much water your grass will need. Mow your grass high and cut no more than 1/3 of the grass blades at each mowing. This practice encourages a much deeper and stronger root system. Also remember to give your lawn a break in the winter. In the winter, lawns do not need weekly mowing and even in Florida lawns go semi-dormant and need much less water.
When watering with a sprinkler system, the most efficient systems are drip or micro-spray systems. These systems are easy to install and to maintain. By choosing and maintaining these systems correctly, you can reduce your water bills, fungal diseases and maintenance requirements.
Always remember to follow the current watering restrictions when irrigating your lawn and landscape—it is our job to conserve water for Florida’s future!
Refer to the Guide to Florida-friendly Landscaping for other watering information or contact the Florida Yards and Neighborhoods Program Coordinator at the UF/IFAS Polk County Extension Service.

Holiday Plants

As the holidays draw near and the weather cools, gardeners turn to winter-blooming plants. Both the holiday cactus and the poinsettia are at their peak this time of year. You may own or purchase one of these plants (or be lucky enough to receive one as a gift) and need to know how to care for them. The following care guides are also a great thing to include in a poinsettia that you may give as a gift. Dr. Shibles, the Polk County Urban Horticulturist, has provided the following information on holiday plants.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Use Native Plants to Spread Holiday Cheer!

The benefits of native plants are abundant: they support native wildlife, they are well adapted to Florida's climate, and many are drought-tolerant and low maintenance. They also have many interesting features that make them great for holiday decorating. Use the following plants in your yard for year-round beauty--plus the added bonus of free decorations during the holidays!

Holly species (East Palatka, Dahoon, Vomitoria)
There are many different types of hollies that are native to Florida. Many have attractive berries that can be used in arrangements, wreaths and other decorations. The glossy green foliage can also be used. They are easy to grow outside and handle pruning well.

Silver Saw Palmetto
The silvery fronds of the Silver Saw Palmetto make it a very interesting addition to any holiday arrangement. Use the fronds alone or with other greenery for a centerpiece or in a vase. Saw Palmettos are low maintenance shrubs that support native wildlife.

Southern Red Cedar
The Southern Red Cedar is a large evergreen tree that can be used as a large hedge in the yard and small cuttings can be used in wreaths and other decorations around the holidays.

Southern Magnolia
The glossy green leaves of the Southern Magnolia are great for making an attractive wreath or mixing with other evergreens for a swag or centerpiece decoration. This large tree has plenty of leaves to spare for holiday decorating.

Slash, Longleaf and Loblolly pine
The native pine trees of Florida will provide you with a natural mulched area in the yard and also with lovely smelling greenery for your holiday decorations. These trees will get large so make sure you have room to plant them in your yard. And don't forget the pine cones are great decorations!

Florida Privet
Florida Privet is one of the many native evergreen shrubs that can tolerate pruning--making it great for all of your holiday decorating.

The native Viburnum species are evergreen shrubs that can be used to add variety to your holiday arrangements. It looks lovely mixed with pine and holly leaves.

The many types of evergreen foliage and berries that these native plants provide are sure to provide plenty of interest in your holiday decorating. So go out into the yard to gather natural decorations for your holiday celebrations.

Monday, November 30, 2009

How can you save water and Skip A Week?

District asks homeowners to "Skip a Week" of irrigation this winter

Overwatering in winter can encourage pests and disease

The Southwest Florida Water Management District recently launched a new campaign to encourage residents who irrigate their lawns to "Skip a Week" of watering during the cooler months of December, January and February.

According to research by the University of Florida, grass doesn't need to be watered as often during the cooler months. In fact, one-half to three-quarters of an inch of water every 10–14 days is sufficient.

“Over-watering in the winter can encourage pests and disease in your lawn," said Sylvia Durell, Florida-friendly landscaping project manager. Skipping a week of watering is as easy as “off” for residents with irrigation timers. “Turn the timer to ‘off’ for the week that you want to skip, and ‘on’ for the week that you want to water,” said Durell.

Homeowners can determine when their grass needs water when:

Grass blades are folded in half lengthwise on 30 percent of the lawn

Grass blades are blue-gray

Footprints remain on the lawn for several minutes after walking on it

Skipping a week of irrigation will help conserve drinking water supplies. Following the “Skip a Week” plan saves water that the public needs for other critical uses during the dry season.

In addition to entering the dry season, the region is experiencing the effects of a four-year drought. All 16 counties within the District are under one-day-per-week lawn watering restrictions through the end of February.

For more water conservation tips, information about the drought and the current water restrictions, please visit the District's web site at

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Converting Your Yard to a Florida-Friendly Yard

A Florida-Friendly yard is not only a beautiful yard, it serves many other purposes. It conserves water, is low-maintenance and it protects our natural resources and preserves the beauty of Florida. If you would like to start making changes to a more Florida-Friendly yard begin by determining what will work to make it a better place for you and for the environment.

1. Begin by determining your needs and desires for your landscape.
Do you want to eliminate high water use plants? Are you tired of mowing the grass? Do you want to swap out high-maintenance plants for low-maintenance plants? Whatever you decide, write these decisions down and come up with a plan.

2. Know your site conditions.
Make sure you know why your current landscape isn’t working. What is your soil type? Do you have plants in the wrong place? Are your plants receiving proper irrigation? Make note of the conditions.

3. Draw a plan
Don’t be nervous! This can be done with graph paper, a pencil and a ruler. Make sure your plan includes your house and all existing plantings. Include any power lines, septic systems and underground utilities. Once the “bones” are in place you can start to determine what changes you want to make in your yard. Sketch these on your paper.

4. Remember the Florida Yards and Neighborhoods principles
As you determine how you want to convert your landscape to a Florida-Friendly landscape remember the Florida Yards and Neighborhoods principles. The nine principles are: right plant, right place, water efficiently, fertilize appropriately, mulch, attract wildlife, manage yard pests responsibly, recycle yard waste, reduce stormwater runoff, and protect the waterfront. These principles should be integrated into your new plan to create your Florida-Friendly yard.

5. Make the changes
After you have a plan you can begin to make the changes to your landscape. If you are going to install new plants, make sure you are choosing the right plants for your yard. There are many drought-tolerant native and exotic plants that can survive on rainfall alone once they are established. Do your research to determine if these plants will work in your yard. The goal is to install plants that will require little to no fertilizer, pesticides, and irrigation after establishment.

Converting your landscape to a Florida-Friendly landscape may sound like a big job, but it can be done one plant at a time! You can take out a high water use plant and replace it with a drought-tolerant plant to reduce irrigation. You can convert your existing irrigation system to micro-irrigation. You can use recycled mulch. You can turn off the irrigation to your butterfly garden. Each of these small things will add up and more things can be done over time. If you are not sure where to start or would like to get some more information about Florida-Friendly Landscaping, contact the Florida Yards and Neighborhoods program at the Polk County Extension Service (863-519-8677 or

Florida Yards and Neighborhoods is a grant-funded program in cooperation with the University of Florida, the Alafia River, Hillsborough River and Peace River Basin Boards of the Southwest Florida Water Management District, and Polk County. The program emphasizes creating and maintaining attractive landscapes to enhance the community and protect our valuable natural resources.

Friday, October 30, 2009

The Positive Benefits of Indoor Plants

Do you have plants in your home or office? Indoor plants can help improve indoor air quality and may be linked to a more productive workplace! Consider using some of the following plants to help reduce airborne pollutants in your home.

  • Peace lilies, ivies and mums are some of the plants to use indoors to combat benzene-based toxins such as detergents, inks, dyes, petroleum and rubber products and tobacco smoke.
  • Ficus plants, Philodendrons, snake plants, bamboo, ivy and pothos are recommended in situations where formaldehyde-based toxins are present. Such toxins would include carpet, cleaners, insulation, paper products and furniture.

  • Dracena, peace lilies and mums will help reduce the toxins produced by trichloroethlene. Sources include adhesives, inks, dyes, paint, paper products, dry cleaning and varnishes.
Incorporating indoor plants into your home or office is an easy and inexpensive way to improve aesthetics, improve the health of the people, and reduce stress and anxiety. For more tips on indoor plants, contact the UF/IFAS Polk County Extension Service at (863) 519-8677 or learn more about house plants here.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Why Did The Butterfly Cross The Road?

I saw this butterfly one afternoon while I was stopped the intersection of Lake Miriam and South Florida Avenue in Lakeland. Guess it goes to show you that habitat can be found anywhere!

Perennial Peanut in the Landscape

Perennial Peanut (Arachis glabrata) is a plant that is gaining popularity in the landscape. This drought-tolerant groundcover is often used as a turf alternative and can be grown in the full sun. It can be planted in medians, on septic tank mounds, on berms, in the lawn and along ponds. It requires no fertilization, pesticides or supplemental irrigation after establishment. This makes it an ideal plant for a low-maintenance landscape. Mowing is not required as most varieties only grow to a few inches tall. Traditionally a forage crop, this plant is a Florida-Friendly choice for many landscapes if you choose the right variety.

Perennial Peanut is a rhizomatous plant (meaning it grows and spreads by underground modified stems). This aids in its drought-tolerance, and if the top of the plant freezes back, the plant will come back when the weather warms up. Make sure that you purchase a rhizomatous variety of Perennial Peanut (such as 'Ecoturf', 'Needlepoint', or 'Arblick') to ensure drought tolerance. These varieties also bloom more profusely and are better suited to the landscape than other varieties. Perennial Peanut can be installed as a sod, and instructions on installation, establishment and maintenance can be found here. In the 2004 UF/IFAS Guide to Using Perennial Peanut in the Urban Landscape, maintenance costs between Perennial Peanut and St. Augustine grass were compared. Perennial Peanut was determined to save over five times the amount of money in maintenance than St. Augustine grass.
For more information on Perennial Peanut or other groundcovers for the landscape contact the UF/IFAS Polk County Extension Service.

Florida-Friendly Yard: Before and After

This landscape was installed in 2002, and recognized as a Florida-Friendly yard that same year. Now, seven year later, the landscape has matured into a beautiful example of what a Florida-Friendly yard should be.
Proper plant placement, by-product mulch
Right plant, right place
Groundcover for shady areas, large mulched beds, low-maintenance plants
Asiatic Jasmine, a good groundcover for shady areas
Plants have filled in, but are not crowded
Right plant, right years later

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Ornamental Grasses

Ornamental grasses are a great addition to any landscape. They can be used in mass plantings or highlighted as a specimen plant. Many of the ornamental grasses that can be used in Polk County are drought-tolerant and low maintenance. The following native grasses are good choices for any yard and can grow in full sun, sandy and poor soil conditions. Look for them at your local nursery and add them to your yard!

Muhly Grass (Muhlenbergia capillaris)
Muhly grass is a native, drought-tolerant, attractive ornamental grass. It grows two feet tall and wide. Look for the flowers now as they are very showy. Large purple plumes rise above the foliage. This grass is low maintenance, pest-free, and can be used in mass plantings or as a specimen plant. A great choice for any yard.

Gama Grass (Tripsacum dactyloides)
Gama grass is a large ornamental grass, growing five feet tall and wide. It is a native, drought-tolerant and attractive in mass plantings or as a specimen. Gama grass is low maintenance and can withstand being cut back in the spring and fall. The bright green foliage makes this ornamental grass a great backdrop to many landscape plants.

Dwarf Fakahatchee Grass (Tripsacum floridana)
Dwarf Fakahatchee is the small version of Gama grass as it only grows to about two feet tall and wide. It has thin blades, is drought-tolerant, native, and low maintenance. Make sure that you know which Tripsacum you are purchasing at the nursery because of the large size difference!

Sand Cord Grass (Spartina bakeri)
Sand cord grass can be grown in wet or dry conditions. It is a native, drought-tolerant, low maintenance grass. It is pest-free, and grows four to five feet tall and three feet wide. It can be used in any landscape situation and looks very attractive next to ponds and lakes.

Love Grass (Eragrostis spp.)
Love grass is a small ornamental grass that grows to about one to two feet tall and wide. Elliot’s love grass and purple love grass are common species that are grown easily in the landscape. Both species have attractive flower plumes in the fall and are pest-free.

For more information on ornamental grasses contact the UF/IFAS Polk County Extension Service at (863) 519-8677 or go to and search for grasses.

Composting: Turn Your Yard Waste into Garden Treasure!

Composting is a great way to practice recycling in your yard. It has been estimated that you can reduce your total annual volume of waste by 35% if you practice home composting. Most people have all the elements they need to create a successful compost pile without purchasing a bunch of fancy equipment. Kitchen waste along with yard waste make a great mix for your compost pile.
There are many methods of composting and there is one that will fit your needs. Whether you have a small yard, a large yard or live in a deed-restricted community; there is a method for you. Basic knowledge of how the process works will ensure your success in creating usable compost.
Your compost pile requires five basic elements to work. They include adequate moisture (adding water with a hose or bucket to your pile), aeration and oxygen (turning the pile), pile temperature (not so important if you want a slow pile), particle size (less than two inches so that the material can break down quickly) and carbon to nitrogen ratio. The carbon to nitrogen ratio often seems like the most confusing part to get right, but if you know you are adding a “brown” (high carbon material like leaves, branches or paper) add a “green” (high nitrogen material like grass clippings, fruit waste or coffee grounds) as well.
Practicing the “art of composting” is rewarding to both the environment and to your landscape. Your plants will appreciate all the wonderful nutrients the compost will give them. If you would like more information on home composting attend one of the free Composting Workshops offered by the Florida Yards and Neighborhoods Program. Go to to register.

Monday, September 28, 2009

The Neighborhood Gardener

The UF/IFAS Extension Service offers a monthly gardening newsletter, The Neighborhood Gardener. This newsletter provides monthly gardening tips for Florida gardeners. You can sign up to receive the newsletter each month, or you can view past issues by clicking on the link above. Happy Gardening!

Water Conservation in the Home Landscape workshop is this Saturday!

Do you need to learn how to conserve water in your yard? Attend the Water Conservation in the Home Landscape workshop this Saturday, October 3, from 9:00 am-12:00 pm. This free workshop will be held at Circle B Bar Reserve on Winter Lake Road in Lakeland. The workshop will feature Florida-Friendly plants, water conservation tools, irrigation system maintenance, micro-irrigation in the home landscape and ways to conserve water at home. Register for the workshop here.

The workshop is presented by the UF/IFAS Polk County Extension Service Florida Yards and Neighborhoods Program, The City of Lakeland Water Utilities Administration, Precise Irrigation Design and Consulting, Inc., and the Florida Automated Weather Network.

Florida-Friendly Photos

We have posted some new photos on our Flickr site. Check out the site for photos of yards, Florida-friendly plants, painted rain barrels, and compost bins. We will be posting more photos soon so check back often!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Do you know how to use your irrigation controller?

The University of Florida now has some very helpful videos on the topic of irrigation. Irrigation controllers are often scary, but check out the video below for step-by-step instructions on how to set your irrigation controller.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Florida Water Star Gold Home in Lakeland

HOT OFF THE PRESSES! Master Gardener Calendars Are For Sale!

The Polk County Master Gardener 2010 calendar is now available for sale! The calendar is your month-by-month guide to gardening in Central Florida. Each month features gardening tips, lawn care advice, vegetables and herbs to plant, flowers to plant, Florida-friendly tips, and full color pictures! The cost of the calendar is $8.00 (include $2.00 per calendar if you would like it shipped to you). It can be purchased at the UF/IFAS Polk County Extension Service in Bartow, at the Lakeland Farmers Market (3rd Saturday of the month) and at the Munn Park Garden Extravaganza on October 24th in Lakeland. Call the Extension Service at (863) 519-8677 for more information on the Master Gardener calendar!

Mark Your Calendars!

The Polk County Master Gardeners are holding the Backyard Gardener Festival and Plant Sale on Saturday, November 7th from 9:00 am-2:00 pm at the UF/IFAS Polk County Extension Service in Bartow. This event features workshops, free literature and exhibits, and a plant sale! A great place to stock up on unusual plants AND get helpful advice from the Master Gardeners!

Landscape Photos of PCBA Green Home

Go to my Flickr site to view a gallery of photographs that I took during the installation of the Florida-Friendly and Florida Water Star Gold landscape at the Green Home.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Lynn's Garden at Florida Southern College

I visited Lynn's Garden at Florida Southern College last week because driving by I noticed that it was planted using a lot of Florida native plants. The landscape beds in the garden are primarily native plants and some of the ground cover areas include Perennial Peanut. I would suggest a visit to this little garden on Lake Hollingsworth, particularly if you would like to see how easy it is to incorporate native plants into any landscape or garden.


Ornamental Grasses

Elliott's Love Grass

Yucca and Dwarf Schillings Holly

Beautyberry and Chickasaw Plum

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Master Gardener Training Starts Next Week!

Master Gardener Training is offered once a year at the Polk County Extension Service in Bartow.The program will start on September 15th and meet every Tuesday (except Thanksgiving week) for 5 hours until December 8th. Classes hours are 9 a.m. to noon and 1 to 3 p.m. There is a fee of $110 to cover the cost of materials. If you are interested, click on The Sprouting Kit (88.32KB pdf), which will give you all the details about the program, along with an application and short quiz. Or, you can call the Extension Office at (863) 519-8677 Ext. 109 and request a Sprouting Kit.
Please keep in mind that the program is designed to train volunteers to help the Environmental Horticulturist with his programs, which include taking homeowner telephone calls, working on demonstration gardens, working with school children, working with the disabled and the elderly and many more. After training is completed in December, you will be expected to contribute 75 volunteers hours over the next year. To maintain Master Gardener status in following years, you will need to contribute 35 hours of volunteer service per year.

Butterfly Gardening is Easy!

Installing a butterfly garden is an easy way to enjoy wildlife in your own backyard. Many plants that attract butterflies are readily available, easy to maintain and drought tolerant. If you are just starting out there are a few things you need to know.
An important thing to remember when starting a butterfly garden is to provide food for both the larvae (caterpillars) as well as the adult butterflies. The larval plants will be devoured by the hungry caterpillars and many times will be left with out any leaves, so don’t worry if you start to see plants without leaves they aren't dead. Examples of larval plants include Milkweed, Dutchman's Pipevine, Passionflower, Parsley, Dill and Fennel.
The nectar plants for the adults will not be chewed, as the adults feed on the nectar in the flowers. It is
important to have both of these food sources available so that the butterflies will live and reproduce in your garden. Examples of nectar plants include Pentas, Plumbago, Liatris, Lantana, Golden Dewdrop and Coral Honeysuckle.
Another important thing to remember when planting a butterfly garden is to abstain from using pesticides. Use natural predators (such as ladybugs) or remove any pests you find by hand. Any pesticides you use will harm your butterflies!
You may also want to provide a puddling station for your butterflies to drink from. It can be made using a plant saucer and layering a few inches of sand, compost and finally small stones on top. Fill the saucer with water and make sure the stones are not covered. The butterflies will land on the stones and drink the water from the pore spaces.
Now you have a few tips to get started creating a butterfly garden in your yard. For more information contact the Florida Yards and Neighborhoods program at the Polk County Extension Service. Our Florida-Friendly Demonstration Garden in Bartow is a great place to get ideas, learn about what plants attract butterflies, and what plant combinations work well together. Visit the garden at the UF/IFAS Polk County Extension Service, 1702 Highway 17 South in Bartow.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Micro-Irrigation: A Water Saving Alternative

There are so many options when choosing an irrigation system that it can be confusing. Micro-irrigation is a great choice. Not only is it easy to install, but it is also inexpensive. Micro-irrigation is also referred to as “low-volume” irrigation. It can be used for landscape plants but is not recommended for lawn irrigation.
The advantages of micro-irrigation are numerous. Water-use savings are the most important. With micro-irrigation you decrease evaporation by watering a smaller portion of the soil and soaking the soil and roots of the plant. Another advantage is the smaller flow rates. This means that micro-irrigation requires less energy to run than high-pressure systems. While a traditional sprinkler system uses as much as 400 gallons per hour (gph), micro-irrigation emitters have a maximum flow rate of 30 gph.
Micro-irrigation is also easily adaptable to changing topography. If your system is well managed, hilly terrain will not create runoff. Just like any irrigation system, if you follow proper maintenance practices your micro-irrigation system will help you save money on costly water bills.
Different types of systems are available including, in-line drip tubing. This is a tube installed below the mulch where plants are placed close together. Drip emitters are used for precise applications, such as potted plants or individual landscape plants. Micro-sprayers will irrigate the most area out of any of the systems and come in a variety of sizes and patterns. The type of system you choose depends on your landscape and the type of plant material.
For other tips on saving water go to or contact the Florida Yards and Neighborhoods program.
If you are interested in learning more about the advantages of micro-irrigation, attend the Water Conservation in the Home Landscape workshop on October 3 from 9:00 am-12:00 pm at Circle B Bar Reserve in Lakeland. Visit the Florida Yards and Neighborhoods website for more information.

Stormwater Runoff Solutions

With all of the recent rains, you may have noticed the stormwater rushing down driveways, sidewalks and streets. Although you may not think twice about that water, there are many harmful ingredients that are traveling into our waterways via stormwater. Pollutants such as pesticides, fertilizers, pet waste, grass clippings and automotive fluids can all travel in our stormwater. There are many easy habits you can adopt in your yard to do your part against non-point source pollution.

1. Wash you car on the lawn or other unpaved
surface to minimize runoff.
2. Check any vehicles for oil leaks and clean
with kitty litter or sand.
3. Don’t rinse waste into stormwater drains!
Please properly dispose of the material.
4. Use pesticides and fertilizers sparingly. If
the forecast calls for rain, wait and apply
at a later date.
5. Sweep yard debris such as grass clippings,
fertilizer and soil back into the yard.
6. Remove trash from street gutters.
7. Direct downspouts and gutters onto your
lawn or plant beds.
8. Use porous paving materials such as brick,
flagstone, gravel or mulch.
9. Pick up after your pets.
10.Collect and reuse stormwater in a rain barrel
or cistern. Your plants will thank you!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Go Green Polk!

Do you want FREE Florida-friendly gardening information?
Visit us at the Magnify Credit Union Grand Opening
Saturday, August 29, 9:00 am-5:00 pm
Magnify Credit Union (corner of Carter Road and 540 A in Lakeland)

The UF/IFAS Polk County Extension Service's Florida Yards and Neighborhoods Program and the Polk County Master Gardeners will have a booth at the Magnify Credit Union Grand Opening on August 29th. Magnify Credit Union is the first net-zero energy commercial building in Florida. Visit the booth to obtain water conservation and Florida-friendly landscaping literature, ask gardening questions and get the latest and greatest information from your local UF/IFAS Polk County Extension Service!

In addition, the City of Lakeland Water Utilities and the Polk County Builders Association Green Building Council will have information on ways to conserve water in and around the home, and highlight the features of the Green Home that will be part of the Fall Parade of Homes. See you there!