Friday, June 26, 2009

Window Boxes

Window boxes are a great way to add some color to the front of your home. Use Florida-friendly plants to attract butterflies and minimize maintenance and water use. Marigolds, Blanket Flower, Lantana, Salvia, and Coleus are easy plants for window boxes. Make sure that you use a good potting soil and compost mix and irrigate thoroughly when you are planting.
When it comes to irrigating your window boxes, use your rain barrel or install a micro-irrigation kit such as this one from Mister Landscaper. Happy Gardening!

Container Gardens

Succulents are drought-tolerant, and the many varieties look beautiful planted together.

Caladiums come in a variety of shapes and sizes, but this simple planting is quite attractive.

The smoky haze of the Bronze Leaf Fennel looks beautiful in a container, and is a great way to attract butterflies to your yard.

The colorful leaves of the yellow bromeliad are accented by the tropical plants surrounding the container.

Polk County Builders Association Green Home

The Polk County Builders Association (PCBA) is in the process of building a green home for the 2009 Fall Parade of Homes. The home will feature some interesting products, such as soy insulation, photovoltaics, indoor and outdoor water conserving devices and recycled cinder blocks. I will feature periodic updates on my blog, specifically concentrating on water conserving features. I am excited that a cistern, Florida-friendly landscape, and micro-irrigation will be highlights of the green home! The proceeds of the green home will benefit the youth of Polk County via the PCBA Foundation.
The City of Lakeland will feature segments from construction to completion on their government television station so you can check in on the home's progress from the comfort of your own living room. Will will also post photographs and videos of of unique green building techniques that you may want to incorporate into your next home or renovation project.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Landscaping Tips

1. Design so that future maintenance costs are low.

2. Use Florida-friendly plants.

3. Choose plants and products that will conserve water and reduce fertilizer and pesticide use.

4. Group plants with similar requirements together.

5. Design landscape features to minimize runoff pollution.

6. Use organic, by-product and recycled mulches.

7. Use plants that thrive in Central Florida's hardiness zone (9a).

8. Use plants that are both attractive and functional.

9. Choose trees that are wind-tolerant, and prune them appropriately.

10. Design your landscape around existing native habitat. Preserve what you can.

11. If you install irrigation, make sure that turf areas and mulched areas are on separate zones.

12. If you have small children or curious pets avoid toxic plants.

13. Avoid invasive plants.

14. Design for energy conservation. Shade the air conditioner.

15. Follow all county codes and guidelines as you make landscaping changes.

Do You Need Help With Your Lawn?

Diagnosing Lawn Problems Workshop

Saturday, July 11, 9:30-11:00 am. Polk Outpost 27, 101 Adventure Ct., Davenport, FL 33837. This free program is being offered by David Shibles, Urban Horticulturist, Polk County Extension Service. For Further Information: Call David Shibles at (863) 519-8677, Ext 109 or go to the Polk County Web Site –

Friday, June 12, 2009

What's Bugging Your Plants

Beneficial Insect: Adult Ladybug

Beneficial Insect: Ladybug Larvae

Beneficial Insect: Parasitic Wasp

Beneficial Insect: Lacewing

Beneficial Insect: Big-Eyed Bug
We swat them, we spray them, we even stomp them. Bugs are a common problem in the garden and pesticides can be expensive and toxic, and hurt the good guys in the garden. What can you do to effectively manage insect pests in your garden? Here are a few tips:

1. Choose plants that have minimal pest problems
Florida-friendly plants and pest-resistant cultivars of vegetables and fruits will have less maintenance issues.

2. Plant a garden for beneficial insects
Choose a place in your yard and plant it with plants that will attract beneficial insects such as pollinators, parasitic wasps, ladybugs, and beneficial flies. Choose plants that bloom continuously, plants that provide shelter, and plants that provide nectar or pollen.

3. Practice Integrated Pest Management
Follow these steps for successful insect management:

Step 1: Identify the insect
Use the University of Florida guides to help you identify what insect is bugging your plants. Since less than 1% of all insects are harmful, is it really a bad guy? If the publications listed below don’t help, bring the bug to the Extension Service and we will identify it for you.

Step 2: Determine what the insect is doing to your plant a) AestheticIf the problem is just a cosmetic problem that will not result in the death of your plant—good news—take no action..

b) Reduction in fruit or flowers
Is the insect damaging vegetables, fruit or flowers? If this is the case, you will need to move to step 3.

c) Death of the plant
If the insect is causing detrimental damage to your plant that will ultimately result in the death of your plant, you will need to take action. Start with step 3 and go from there.

Step 3: Does the insect have a natural enemy
There are many insects that have natural enemies. Did you know that earwigs, big-eyed bugs, ladybugs, praying mantis, assassin bugs, and many wasps and flies are GOOD? Use the guide below to determine if there is a natural enemy for your pest. If there is not, move on to step 4.

Step 4: As a last resort, apply an environmentally-friendly pesticide
Pesticides should always be the last resort, even when they are environmentally-friendly. And remember, not only will they kill your pests, but they will kill beneficial insects as well. Remember to read the label of any pesticide that you purchase, follow the instructions carefully, and wear any recommended protection. This list is a list of natural pest products recommended by the University of Florida:

Photos: Courtesy of the University of Florida (

The High Line: A New Urban Garden Concept

The ultimate example of reduce, reuse, recycle! The High Line is a park built on an old elevated train track in Lower Manhattan. What a great example of how a community can transform an unused space into a park!
Video on the High Line project:
NY Times article on the opening of the High Line:

Monday, June 8, 2009

Get OUT!

Are you read for National Get Outdoors Day on June 13th? Make your plans this week for a fun outdoor adventure on Saturday. There are plenty of great outdoor adventures nearby. Here is a short list of fun (and free) things that you can do to get outside this weekend!
1. Visit Circle B Bar Reserve and Polk's Nature Discovery Center on Winter Lake Road in Lakeland. Take a walk and observe the beautifully restored wetlands and all of the native birds.
2. Bike Loyce Harpe (formerly Carter Road Park) on Carter Road (Lakeland/Mulberry area). Seven miles of bike paths through mined land will thrill an adventurous biker!
3. Visit a local garden. There are four Florida-friendly demonstration gardens to visit in Polk County, as well as Bok Tower Gardens in Lake Wales and Hollis Garden in Lakeland. Stroll through the gardens and get some ideas for your own yard!
4. Trek Ten Trails. Pick 10 of the 15 local trails to hike and geocache along the way. A fun adventure for the whole family..and you have until October to complete the trek!
5. Play in a park. Find a park and picnic, hike and play for the day.
6. Do some yardwork! Get the family into the yard and plant a tree, a butterfly garden or start some herbs and vegetables. You don't even have to leave home!
7. Walk the dog around the block, around the lake, down the street....whatever is closest! Get Fido outside with the family and get some exercise too!
8. Install a rain barrel or start a compost pile. What a great time to get outdoors and start one of those projects you have been meaning to get too. Installing a rain barrel will help to conserve water. A compost pile will help reduce waste and benefit your landscape plants.

Timely Topic: More Info on Rain Gardens

A gardener shows us how she puts in some small rain gardens:

Tour (with before and after photos!) of rain gardens in Tallahassee:

UF Extension "Gardening in a Minute"

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Polk is Nominated for Sustainable Florida Award

The Polk County Builders Association (PCBA) is a finalist for the Council for Sustainable Florida Best Management Practices award! The project, Polk IS Florida-Friendly, is a Cooperative Funding Grant that the PCBA was awarded through the Southwest Florida Water Management District. The cooperative project has enlisted cities throughout Polk County to plant Florida-friendly demonstration gardens. Volunteers, local governments, the Polk County Florida Yards and Neighborhoods program at the UF/IFAS Polk County Extension Service and the PCBA are working to create a county-wide Florida-friendly extravaganza! The project has assisted with the installation of 16 gardens throughout Polk. In addition to the gardens, a DVD, map to the gardens, plant list and educational signage has been created. This is an amazing project and more information can be found here:
Press release and in the Council for Sustainable Florida Newsletter.