Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Rain Barrels

Creating a rain barrel to harvest rain water is a great way to conserve water in and around your home. The savings can be substantial over a period of time, so now is a great time to get started!

Harvested water can be used to water your plants, wash your garden tools, keep your compost moist, make compost tea, and wash you car. Rain barrel water is much more beneficial to plants than potable water. The additional minerals help keep your plants healthy and green.

There are many different ways to create a water harvesting system. You may obtain free information on making a rain barrel at the Polk County Extension Service. The Florida Yards and Neighborhoods Program will be selling painted rain barrels at Spring Obsession in Lakeland's Munn Park on Saturday, March 14.

Lakeland Downtown Farmer's Curb Market

We will be at the Farmer's Curb Market in Downtown Lakeland the third Saturday of each month to provide you with information on timely topics. Here is the 2009 schedule:

Lakeland Farmers' Curb Market
Appropriate Fertilizer and Pesticides
Saturday, February 21, 8:00 am-2:00 pm

Lakeland Farmers' Curb Market
Home Composting
Saturday, March, 21, 8:00 am-2:00 pm

Lakeland Farmers' Curb Market
Water Conservation and Micro-Irrigation
Saturday, April 18, 8:00 am-2:00 pm

Lakeland Farmers' Curb Market
Florida-Friendly Plants--HANDS ON!
Saturday, May 16, 8:00 am-2:00 pm

Lakeland Farmers' Curb Market
Rain Barrels and Live Rain Barrel Auction!
Saturday, June 20, 8:00 am-2:00 pm

Lakeland Farmers' Curb Market
Organic Gardening
Saturday, July 18, 8:00 am-2:00 pm

Lakeland Farmers' Curb Market
Water Conservation for Kids
Saturday, September 19, 8:00 am-2:00 pm

Lakeland Farmers' Curb Market
Good Bugs and Bad Bugs: What's Bugging Your Plants?Ladybug Release and BUG ID Clinic Saturday, October 17, 8:00 am-2:00 pm

Lakeland Farmers' Curb Market
Know Where it Flows: Watershed Awareness Month
Saturday, November 21, 8:00 am-2:00 pm

Monday, January 12, 2009

Setting Your Irrigation Controller

When water restrictions are in place, it’s best to shut off your automatic landscape irrigation controller and run the system manually. Only turn on the system when the grass shows at least one of the three wilt signs. But if you choose to use the automatic setting, follow the simple tips below to conserve water.

Days of the Week to Run
You can set your controller to irrigate every day, every other day, every three days, and so on. Most controllers offer a "custom" option that allows you to select certain days of the week to water, which is the option that should be used during watering restrictions.

Run Time
You can set your controller to water each irrigation zone for a specific amount of time, depending on your system application rate. This information can be found in "Operation of Residential Irrigation Controllers."

Amount of Water
Many factors determine how much water you should apply. You should adjust your controller at least seasonally. For example, irrigation can be cut back during the rainy summer and colder winter months, particularly in North and Central Florida, where lawns and landscape plants go dormant. You should never water to the point of run-off (excess water that your grass’s roots can’t absorb), as this wastes water, may cause disease, and can contribute to pollution. However, no less than a 1/2 inch of water should be applied at any one time. Deeper, less frequent watering promotes deep root growth, which contributes to a healthy lawn and landscape capable of surviving dry spells. Read "Watering Your Florida Lawn" for more information. For specific information on run times for your irrigation system, see this urban irrigation tool.

Programming Your Controller
Controllers typically have the capacity to run multiple programs. This means that your irrigation controller can be set to water different parts (zones) of your home landscape at different rates. For example, program "A" might have the controller set to water six rotor zones for sixty minutes twice each week. If new plants are planted in a landscape bed, they may need more frequent watering until they are established. In such a case, a second program, program "B," can be used to water that zone every day of the week (water restrictions permitting).

Setting Microirrigation Zones
Microirrigation systems (sometimes called "drip" or low-volume irrigation systems) are becoming popular for landscape plants because they are easy to use and can conserve a lot of water. There are several types of microirrigation systems; all deliver water directly to a plant’s roots, so that less water is lost to evaporation. Microirrigation systems can be easy to install and can save a homeowner money while keeping landscape plants healthy. For more information on microirrigation of your beds and ornamentals, read "Fertilization and Irrigation Needs for Florida Lawns and Landscapes."

From: Conserving Water: Solutions for your Florida-Friendly Landscape

Friday, January 2, 2009


Instead of making the usual resolution (lose weight, eat better) why not make an eco-lution? Here are ten ideas for a great new year:

1. Start recycling (or if you currently recycle-recycle MORE)
2. Reduce waste (buy items with less packaging, say no to plastic bags)
3. Grow your own veggies and herbs
4. Start composting
5. Plant some native plants
6. Reduce the amount of water you use for irrigation
7. Start collecting water in a rain barrel or cistern
8. Start a new hobby: birdwatching, butterfly gardening, container gardening, hiking some of
the great local parks (Circle Bar B Reserve, Green Swamp).
9. Join a local environmental or gardening club (Native Plant Society, Sierra Club, Master
Gardeners, Audubon)
10. Attend more workshops at the Polk County Extension Service


Treecycling=Recycling or Reusing your Christmas Tree

Treecycling is a new buzz word in the eco-world. Basically, just another way to reduce waste and recyle something into another useable product.

Here in Florida, a great way to treecycle is to use a wood chipper to create mulch out of your old tree. Mulch is a great soil amendment, and every yard needs it. If a neighbor or friend has a wood chipper you could even get a bunch of trees to make a community mulch pile.

Another idea is to place your tree in the yard and create a habitat for birds. String popcorn garland, hang birdseed ornamements or small feeders on the tree to make a lovely bird hang-out.

Breaking down your tree (cutting the limbs to create smaller pieces) and making a brush pile is another choice. Again a great wildlife habitat and a way to let the branches break down into smaller pieces before they are ready to go in the compost bin.

Polk County Solid Waste will pick up your Christmas tree with your yard waste (on the designated day) and will mulch it along with the other yard scraps. This mulch is available for FREE at the landfill-bring your pickup and load up!

Please feel free to comment on any other creative treecycling ideas you have!