Thursday, July 30, 2009

Polk Training Center for Handicapped Citizens Nursery

It is a great time to visit the Florida-friendly demonstration garden at the Polk Training Center for Handicapped Citizens Nursery. Flowers are in blooms, ornamental grasses and shrubs are full, and pollinators are buzzing happily around the native plants. This demonstration garden site features Florida-friendly plants, Florida native plants, micro-irrigation, organic mulch, signage, pervious paving materials and wildlife habitat. The nursery grows many of the plants that are on display in the gardens and UF/IFAS educational materials are on display inside.

Gallardia is in full bloom!

Goldenrod attracts busy pollinators.
The path through the garden.

Goldenrod, Oakleaf Hydrangea and Beach Sunflower are thriving!

Ornamental grasses, Bee Balm and Silver-leafed Aster surround the birdbath.

Food Preservation

Food preservation has become increasingly popular due to rising food costs and the resurgence in popularity of the home vegetable garden. But if you have never preserved food before, where do you go to get the information that you need?
The University of Florida/IFAS has EDIS circulars on everything from freezing to canning. If it is more in-depth information that you require, go to the National Center for Home Food Preservation. The Center provides lots of free information including slide shows and a self-paced study in food preservation. Even though vegetable gardens wind down during the hot summer months in Florida, as you plan your fall garden you may want to plan for vegetables to can and freeze. Attend a Vegetable Gardening class for more information on growing vegetables in Florida.

Babson Park Florida-Friendly Demonstration Garden Open to the Public!

The Florida-friendly demonstration garden is now open in Babson Park! The garden is located near Scenic Highway 17 and the Babson Park Community Church on 674 Hillside Drive. Volunteers installed this beautiful garden complete with a lovely dry river bed (a great solution to a stormwater runoff problem). Beach Sunflower and Pineland Heliotrope are blooming profusely and native shrubs can be viewed from one of the many benches under the large Live Oak trees. The plants at the demonstration garden are labeled, and signage features the nine principles of Florida-friendly landscaping. Visit this garden if you want to get some good ideas for what will work in your hot, dry yard, or if you simply would like to see this beautiful garden that was installed by volunteers in the Babson Park community. This is one of the fifteen demonstration gardens that follow the 9 principles of Florida-Friendly landscaping will soon be featured on a touring map of Polk County. The Polk County Builders Association (PCBA) and the Florida Yards and Neighborhoods Program have selected 15 sites to bring Florida- friendly demonstration gardens to a location near you. Primarily funded by a grant from the Southwest Florida Water Management District (SWFMD), the Alafia, Hillsborough and Peace River Basin Boards and with additional funds coming from the Board of County Commissioners, this program promotes greater public awareness of our fragile water resources and gives interested citizens a venue to participate in viable environmental solutions.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Can a Yard Maintenance Service be Florida-Friendly?

Many home and business owners have a yard service or landscape contractor maintain their lawn and landscape. These companies make the lives of those who lack the time, ability or desire to do yard work much easier. When you choose a landscape company make sure they are working to promote Florida-friendly landscaping. Follow the checklist below to make sure that your contractor is using environmentally sound practices in your yard.

1. Ask your maintenance company if they have been trained in the Florida Green Industries: Best Management Practices (BMP) for Protection of Water Resources in Florida. If they have, they should be able to show you a certificate for each employee that completed the training. If they have not, refer them to the county extension service, where they can get an upcoming schedule of training. By the year 2014, it will be mandatory for anyone applying fertilizer to have received certification through the BMP program.
2. Make sure they practice IPM (Integrated Pest Management). This means they monitor your lawn and landscape for pests rather than routinely spraying. They will provide you with evidence of a problem before you allow and pay for the treatment.
3. Ask the company to use environmentally friendly insecticides such as horticultural oil, insecticidal soap or products containing Bacillus thuringiensis.
4. Proper fertilization is key in maintaining a Florida-friendly yard so make sure that the company follows the guidelines recommended by the Florida Green Industries: Best Management Practices for Protection of Water Resources in Florida as well as the Florida Yards and Neighborhoods Handbook.
5. Avoid using weed-and-feed fertilizers or fertilizers containing insecticides.
6. Ask the company to use a mulching lawnmower or collect your grass clippings for use as mulch or compost.
7. Check for licenses: If they spray insecticides or herbicides in your plant beds, they should have a Limited Commercial Landscape Maintenance License. With this license they are not authorized to spray anything on the turf. A Pest Control Operator-Lawn and Ornamental License holder can spray anything authorized for use in a residential landscape (both herbicide and insecticide) on lawn and in landscape beds.

If you have any questions, or would like to obtain a copy of the Florida Green Industries: Best Management Practices for Protection of Water Resources in Florida handbook or the Florida Yards and Neighborhoods Handbook please contact the Polk County Extension Service at (863) 519-8677 or visit us at 1702 Highway 17 South in Bartow.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Plan for Proper Plant Placement

Putting the right plant in the right place is often the most overlooked, yet the most important landscape design concept. By simply choosing the best plant for your site, you can avoid costly mistakes in the future. There are many things to keep in mind before you dig your first hole. Plant selection is then determined by individual site characteristics.
First, contact the UF/IFAS Polk County Extension Service to obtain a complete soil analysis prior to planting. The conditions of your yard will greatly affect the survival of your chosen plant. Is your yard full sun or full shade, sandy soil or do you have low-lying wet areas? Also, think of how you will use certain areas of your yard. Will children or pets be using the area? This will make a big difference in the type of plant you choose.
The plants you select should also be able to survive and thrive on rainfall or very minimal watering. They should also be grouped by their water needs and irrigated accordingly. Do you have irrigation in place or will you need to hand water your plants during establishment? Remember that if you are removing high maintenance plants to make room for drought-tolerant plants you will need to change your irrigation regime.
When you are ready to start choosing the plants for your site, make sure you know as much as you can about the plant. The mature size is often underestimated, especially in Florida. You want to spend as little time pruning and reworking overcrowded landscapes as possible.
Check out for plant recommendations for your yard or go to the Polk County Plant Database for Central Florida plants. There are many helpful books and websites that can help you determine what plants will work in your yard.
Finally, attend one of the many free workshops that the UF/IFAS Polk County Extension Service offers. These workshops will provide you with valuable information and help you make informed decisions when making landscape changes. Go to our workshop calendar for an up-to-date schedule of programs.
More information on Florida-friendly landscaping for Polk County can be found at

What's Blooming at the Polk County Extension Service?

There are so many flowers and butterflies in the gardens at the Polk County Extension Service-it is a great time to visit! Porterweed, Salvia, Tickseed, Gaura, Blanket Flower, Pentas, Skullcap and Beach Sunflower are growing vigorously and blooming profusely. The rain has helped the plants fill in and spill onto each other, creating a beautiful and colorful garden. The garden is open every day and the plants are labeled for easy identification. We are continuing to add to the garden every month, so if you haven't visited in a while you may want to come and check out new additions.
Swamp Hibiscus

Chickasaw Plum fruit

Pentas and Blanket Flower

Sky Vine


Beach Sunflower

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Florida-Friendly State Statutes

Governor Crist signed the SB2080 relating to Water Resources. The new bill deletes references to “xeriscape”; requires water management districts provide model Florida-Friendly Landscaping ordinances to local governments; each district shall use the materials developed by the FDEP, UF/IFAS and Center for Landscape Conservation & Ecology/ Florida Friendly Landscaping Program; a deed restriction or covenant may not prohibit or be enforce to prohibit any property owner from implementing Florida-friendly landscaping on his or her land; a local government ordinance may not prohibit or be enforced so as to prohibit any property owner from implementing Florida-friendly landscaping on his or her land; local governments shall use the standards and guidelines when developing landscape irrigation and Florida-Friendly Landscaping ordinances. More information on the bill can be found here.

In addition, another important bill was passed. SB494 which relates to water conservation. This bill requires that all commercial fertilizer applicators will be required by law to have a FDACS license by January 1, 2014. The FDEP, in cooperation with UF/IFAS shall provide training and testing programs in urban landscape management practices and may issue certificates demonstrating satisfactory completion of the training; after receiving a certificate of completion a person may apply to the FDACS to receive a limited certification for urban landscape commercial fertilizer application under S. 482.1562. A person possessing such certification is not subject to additional local testing. Beginning January 2014, any person applying fertilizer to an urban landscape must be certified under S 482.1562, Florida Statues. A limited certification expires 4 years after the date of issuance. Before applying for recertification, the applicant must complete 4 classroom hours of acceptable continuing education, of which at least 2 hours of fertilizer best management practices. Read more about SB494 here.

Rain Barrels Are Now Legal In Colorado

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Have a Green Fourth of July!

As you make your plans for the Fourth of July holiday, make them enviornmentally-friendly. If you don't want to wash dishes, choose compostable cups, plates and flatware, such as those made by Solo. Visit your local Farmer's Market for some local produce to use in your picnics and barbeques. And of course to keep our pesky critters away...bug spray...look for a product with Neem in it, for a safe alternative to chemical pesticides. Happy 4th of July!