Thursday, November 18, 2010
Friday, October 29, 2010
Monday, October 25, 2010
Friday, October 22, 2010
Monday, October 4, 2010
Do you feel that cooler air? Fall is on the way! As fall weather moves into Central Florida, things in the landscape will start to slow down. Grass will grow more slowly and hopefully the weeds will too! As usual, there are some garden chores that need to be tackled at this time of year. These chores will help clean up the landscape you abandoned during the hot summer months (totally understandable) and get everything neat and tidy so that you can relax the rest of the fall and winter months.
Take advantage of the cooler fall temperatures to clean up your landscape, and remember to follow the principles of Florida-Friendly LandscapingÔ while doing so. For more information on fall gardening tasks contact the UF/IFAS Polk County Extension Service.
Friday, October 1, 2010
Thursday, September 23, 2010
Friday, September 17, 2010
Need help identifying an insect?
Visit the Mobile Green Team booth at the Lakeland Downtown Farmers Curb Market this Saturday! The market is located at 200 North Kentucky Avenue in Lakeland and will be open from 8:00 a.m. until 2:00 p.m.
Friday, September 10, 2010
Cigar Plant (Cuphea ignea)
The orange flowers of the Cigar Plant are perfect for a fall flower garden. Cigar Plant will grow to about three feet tall and has dark green leaves. Plant this flowering perennial in a butterfly garden as it attracts nectaring butterflies and hummingbirds.
Look for these plants at your local nursery to add some fall color to your landscape. If you have any questions about the plants listed above, please contact the UF/IFAS Polk County Extension Service.
Friday, September 3, 2010
The month of August brought unexpectedly hot weather and, along with it, the sudden failure of our home’s air-conditioning system. We experienced seven hot days of August without air conditioning. Now, that would stymie even the best of Floridians, because not only was it too hot to move, but around our house, it was even too hot to think.
It’s not that this was an unexpected occurrence. We knew it was coming, just not precisely when. Suffice it to say, we had done all of our “homework” on the topic for the past couple years, so we knew our options.
You know what they say, “When Life Gives You Lemons…”. A wonderful unintended consequence came to bear on this most seasonally uncomfortable event. Around the house, when I have a contractor or whoever working, I always quip to them that I “consider it bad manners not to work when others are,” so I busied myself with what I could do while supervising the installation. After all, sitting in the house and watching TV and eating bonbons was not an option (they’d melt!). It was definitely nicer weather outside.
One feature of the failed A/C system was that the condensate had previously been piped to an inside drain in a bathroom (“go figure” why in the world that was done). The installer said he couldn’t do this again, as it would void my new A/C warranty. Sooo…”Where to route the condensate?” questioned the contractor. Or, more precisely, I thought, “How to capture and use this newly routed source of water? Eureka!” Here was a water source that was free for the taking.” How much it could deliver was a mystery that I was willing to try to solve.
Back in the recesses of my mind, I had stored away memory of an installation of “condensate barrels” that I had seen last April at the Florida Aquarium in Tampa. The aquarium recaptures all of its A/C condensate into outside barrel systems, and then recycles it to the outside landscape plantings. When I first saw the installation, I was impressed with the possibilities.
I had, in my treasure trove of unfinished projects, a spare unpainted rain barrel, spigot attached. As it was taking the installers hours to perform the retrofit of the new A/C system, I had a cushion of spare time. I excused myself and went to get the materials I still needed—leveling sand, gravel, a concrete base, and concrete blocks, the latter for elevating the barrel. (When I returned, they had stepped a hole through the garage drywall ceiling—most folks would view that as a setback, but to me it equaled an advantage—even more time!
After all, there were, at times, up to eight installers working on one retrofitting problem or another, and they all came with tools they knew how to use quickly and effectively. Succinctly put, I realized that I was, unexpectedly but happily, in a place I shall call “Helper Heaven".
The first job was to make room for the new “condensate barrel.” It wasn’t as easy as just plopping it in a waiting spot.
I dug out an azalea bush that I had rejuvenated over the last six years. Bye bye, bush! It wasn’t quite that easy, but that’s life. Then the site was prepped with use of the aforementioned materials, and the placement of the barrel. The installers had never seen this done, and they were willing to do the pipe routing with precision (the piping had to go somewhere, anyhow). It is important to note that when installing a condensate barrel, the piping must include a trap between the source and the outflow. This is for two reasons: first, to block the flow of cool air to the outside, and secondly, to block the flow of critters and insects to the system air handler.
Then…that magic moment, when the flow of water began! What a musical sound to hear—the quiet “ping-pinging” as the condensate followed its route to the bottom of the barrel! Listening through the barrel’s top revealed an amplified version of the water’s song. Over the next few days, the culmination of falling water solved the mystery of what the size of the reclamation reward would be. In seven days, the 55-gallon barrel was completely filled—with a very good water harvest!
In the ensuing days, we have endeavored to maximize the collection process by providing for overflow, and also attempting to schedule use of the water, so that the overflow didn’t end up as just overflow. What a resource! Now, we just have to plan and channel the usage. We have connected the outflow to micro-irrigation heads with fairly good success, which was another big surprise. The micro-irrigation heads work fairly well at low-flow for some distance from the condensate barrel.
An additional storage barrel is in the future. Another task will be to make the barrel(s) aesthetic as well as functional, as they are located on the side of the house, behind a silverthorn bush and are minimally visible from the street. This dictates that they be visually unobtrusive architecturally. Also, the pipes were painted using the same color as the house exterior so they blend in as much as possible. The first step in painting the barrel (after a primer coat) was to match the base color with that of the outdoor A/C unit that sits directly in front of the barrel from the street view.
The fun part, the artwork, was the last step—although it need not have been, if the barrel had been completed before installation. I’m still working on the decorative aspect of that barrel, as shown above. The flowers are a folk art rendition of coreopsis (tickseed), the State Wildflower of Florida.
A final note—of course, my A/C installation required that the Polk County Building Department complete an inspection. The county inspector had never seen a “condensate barrel” as part of an A/C installation. He was quite interested in it, and impressed with the report of the water reclamation.
Wednesday, September 1, 2010
Here are some common problems and their solutions.
My compost pile smells!
If your compost pile has an odor, it could be that the pile is too wet, it needs oxygen, or that there is too much nitrogen in the pile.
My compost pile is not breaking down!
My compost pile is too wet!
My compost pile is too dry!
Insects are always present in the compost pile. They help break down and mix the materials in the pile. But there are some insects that should not be in the pile. Ants, earwigs, pill bugs and sow bugs can be banished from the pile simply by mixing. Although these insects don’t harm the compost pile, they can cause problems later when you add compost to your garden beds.
Remember that it is always possible that multiple things are contributing to the problems in your pile. It is important that you are familiar with your compost pile and you know what you put into it so that it is easy to solve problems. For more information on composting go to http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu and search for composting. You can also contact the UF/IFAS Polk County Extension Service for advice and assistance with your compost pile.
Wednesday, August 25, 2010
Monday, August 23, 2010
Do you want to learn more about gardening in Central Florida?
Do you want to give back to the community?
Then Master Gardener training is for you!
Polk County Master Gardener training starts September 14th and training is held each Tuesday from 9:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m. through December 7th. Training is held at the UF/IFAS Polk County Extension Service (1702 US Highway 17 South in Bartow) and the cost for the classes (plus materials) is $125. To fill out an application click on The Sprouting Kit. For more information contact Dr. Shibles at (863) 519-8677.
Master Gardeners are a group of volunteers trained by the University of Florida Extension Service. Master Gardeners assist with the horticultural programming at the county office, attend gardening events, receive continuing education and share their gardening knowledge with the community.
Friday, August 20, 2010
Wednesday, August 18, 2010
Asiatic Jasmine (Trachelospermum asiaticum) is not actually a jasmine at all. In fact, it is closely related to another non-jasmine, Confederate Jasmine (Trachelospermum jasminoides)! These examples demonstrate how important it is to know the botanical name of a plant!
It seems as though I have been recommending Asiatic Jasmine a lot lately. Why is that? Because it is such a versatile plant! It can be found at most garden centers, has little to no pest problems, and it is easy to grow. Asiatic Jasmine can be grown in full sun to full shade, making it a great choice for under large shade trees or areas of the yard where you want an evergreen groundcover but have trouble growing turf. It is a vining groundcover that can be mowed or edged to to contain it. It can also be planted on slopes to reduce erosion and hold a bank, or in median strips of parking lots or along the road where low-maintenance plantings are important. This versatile Florida-Friendly plant is a great addition to any landscape in Central Florida!
Tuesday, August 17, 2010
Thursday, August 12, 2010
Insects can be a big problem in the lawn. The University of Florida has a great circular for identifying some of the insects that you may find in the grass. There is also a nice video that the Collier County Extension Service produced that may help you diagnose if you have sod webworm in your yard.
Monday, August 2, 2010
9. Protect the waterfront
How do these yards practice the principles?
A large mulched bed is attractive solution in a spot that might be difficult to maintain. If you have a troublesome spot in your yard, consider turning it into a mulched bed with Florida-Friendly plants.
This homeowner has created a large mulched bed filled with drought-tolerant plants that are suited to the site. Always remember to choose plants based on the conditions in your yard! Every yard is different!
This landscape has small, usable turf areas; recycled mulch and Florida-Friendly plants. Remember that it is important to install your landscape following the principles, but it is also important to maintain your landscape following the principles! This means using minimal water, fertilizer and pesticides.
For more information on Florida-Friendly Landscaping™, contact the UF/IFAS Polk County Extension Service and request that a free copy of the Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ Handbook be mailed to you. Contact the Extension Service at (863) 519-8677.