Thursday, March 25, 2010

April Events

Sun N Fun Fly-In
Tuesday, April 13-Sunday, April 18, 9:00 am-6:00 pm
Lakeland Linder Regional Airport
Lakeland, Florida
Visit the Sun N Fun GreenSpace to receive information about water conservation, Florida-Friendly Landscaping™, and other environmentally-friendly tips.

The Mobile Green Team
Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ and Water Conservation Tips for Your Yard!

Saturday, April 17, 8:00 am-12:00 pm
South Lakeland Home Depot
6335 South Florida Avenue, Lakeland
The Mobile Green Team will present timely topics on the third Saturday of each month in a different location around Lakeland. The educational help desk will be staffed by professionals from the UF/IFAS Polk County Extension Service, Master Gardeners, Florida Yards and Neighborhoods Program, City of Lakeland Water Utilities and Lakes and Stormwater Divisions. Visit the Green Team each month to receive free information on landscaping, water conservation, turfgrass, lakes and ponds, fertilizer use and much more!

For a list of more workshops and events go to:

Friday, March 19, 2010

More Spring Blooms!

Spiderwort (Tradescantia spp.)

Dogwood (Cornus florida)

White Coneflower (Echinacea spp.)

Doghobble (Leucothoe fontanesiana)

Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea)

Dwarf Simpson's Stopper
(Myrcianthes fragrans 'Compacta')

Poppies, Dianthus, Snapdragons

Time to Plant: Right Plant, Right Place

Tough winter weather may have left your landscape bare in some places. Start your springtime planting on the right foot by following the Florida-Friendly principle of Right Plant, Right Place. Right Plant, Right Place is all about choosing plants that match the site conditions found in your landscape. Proper planning can ensure that your plants will thrive once they are established and require minimal maintenance.
Once you have evaluated your landscape and determined what areas need plant replacement there are some simple guidelines you should follow.
What type of soil will you be planting your new plants in? Determine if it is well-drained, sandy soil or soil that will hold more water and drain slowly. Most landscapes will have well-drained soil and drought-tolerant plants tend to thrive in these situations. If you have a low, wet area in your yard, choose plants appropriate for that location.
Plants that grow in sun are very different than plants that grow in the shade. Determine how much sun the plants will receive each day. Plants that grow in the full sun all afternoon will need to be tough!
All plants need water to grow, but do you have irrigation in your landscape? If you do, make sure that the plants will not block any irrigation heads, and determine if you can cap a sprinkler head in the new planting area if you instal drought-tolerant plants. If you are growing plants in an area with no irrigation, remember that you will need to provide some supplemental water during the establishment period. If you chose a tough, Florida-Friendly plant, it may be able to survive on its own after that!
After you determine the site conditions your new plants will be living in, get out your measuring tape and figure out how much room you have for the new plants. For example, if you have an area that is six feet wide by six feet long, you may be able to plant one of the following scenarios: one-six foot tall and wide specimen plant, two-three feet wide small shrubs, or four to six small flowering perennials. You will need to make sure that you know the mature size of the plant that you are purchasing in order to make sure it will fit into the space without crowding your existing plant material. There are many books and websites available that can help you determine how big the plant will grow.
Finally, you can purchase your plant material. Once you have determined your site conditions, what attributes a plant needs to survive in those conditions, and how much room you have for the plants, you can head to the nursery! There are so many choices at the nursery so do some research before you go. Utilize websites such as,/,/ and You can also call or email the UF/IFAS Polk County Extension Service for plant recommendations. Happy planning and planting!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

What's Blooming Now: Chickasaw Plum

There is nothing quite as showy as the Chickasaw Plum right now! I snapped some photographs at the UF/IFAS Polk County Extension Service in Bartow this morning, but if you want to see it for yourself visit the demonstration gardens soon as the blooms don't last forever and they are at their peak now!
The Chickasaw Plum (Prunus angustifolia) is a small Florida native tree. It only grows to about 20 feet tall, so it is perfect for an urban/suburban yard. It can grow in full sun to partial shade, and the attractive blooms are followed by small glossy green leaves and red/yellow edible fruit. This tree is wonderful for pollinators and birds. It grows in zones 5-9, which is quite a diverse range, and does really well in Central Florida. The Chickasaw Plum at the UF/IFAS Polk County Extension Service has been growing in full sun, without irrigation, for about 5 years. This small tree can produce suckers at the base, but they are easy to prune. It is beautiful planted with native ornamental grasses and evergreen shrubs. It makes a very attractive specimen plant, but would also be very striking in a mass planting. The Chickasaw Plum can be purchased at native plant nurseries. I would recommend planting one this weekend!

For more information on native trees, contact the UF/IFAS Polk County Extension Service. Visit the Demonstration Gardens at 1702 US Highway 17 South in Bartow to see the Chickasaw Plum in bloom now. The gardens are open to the public.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Your Lawn: What to do Now

Most lawns around Central Florida are still brown from all of the cold winter weather. We are all anxious for them to turn lush and green again, but it is important that we maintain them properly to ensure they are healthy throughout the rest of the year. In fact, your yearly lawn maintenance routine will directly affect how your turf handled the cold temperatures.
Remember that all lawns in Florida go dormant. Some will turn brown, some will just slow down their growth. Just because the lawn is brown doesn't mean the whole lawn is dead. It may take a while for you to see new growth appearing.
So what should you do now, other than wait? Do not fertilize yet. Fertilization should occur later in the month, and you never want to fertilize until the danger of frost/freeze is over. Make sure you are following the irrigation requirements for your grass. See this circular for information on watering appropriately. Your lawn might not be quite ready for a mowing, but when it is, make sure you mow it high (that's 3 1/2 - 4 inches for St. Augustinegrass). As small bits of green grass begin to poke through the brown stuff, if you are worried you have lost a large area due to freeze damage, there is a way to do a test. You can dig up a small plug, plant it in a pot, and grow it indoors in a sunny location. If it greens up, your grass in that area should recover. If not, you may have just lost a small patch of grass but not the whole lawn (let's be optimistic). Wait until April to see if you need to replace any areas of sod.
The lawns that were most susceptible to frost/freeze damage are the ones that were/are over watered, over fertilized, mowed too short, and under stress. Make sure that you, or your lawn maintenance service, follow the Turf BMPs for healthy turf year-round. For more information on turf management contact the UF/IFAS Polk County Extension Service at (863) 519-8677 or visit

Monday, March 15, 2010

Spring Obsession

Spring Obsession has me ready for spring! I hope you were able to attend the gardening event on Saturday in Munn Park as it was a beautiful (but windy) day to buy some plants and garden decor! I took a few photographs around the park when I could get away from my booth. The rain barrels sold out so quickly that by 11:00 am we had none left! There were wonderful and educational speakers throughout the day, gorgeous plants, great music and lots to look at (and buy). Put it on your calendar for next year! It's always the second Saturday in March!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Spring Flowering Plants

It looks like the weather is going to start warming up in Central Florida, and the people aren't the only ones that are happy about that! There are plants waking up and putting on a beautiful show right now! These spring flowering plants are easy to notice in this mostly-brown landscape.
I have noticed the beautiful pink blooms on the Redbud (Cercis canadensis) about a week ago. This small native tree produces flowers before the leaves emerge in the spring. The Redbud grows to about 30 feet tall and grows in full sun to light shade. This tree has wide range, growing from zones 4-9. Our location is on the extreme end, so the summer heat may be a little much for the tree in some situations.

Coral Honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens) is a native evergreen vine that is blooming now. It will continue to bloom through the summer. Coral Honeysuckle has thick, leathery leaves and red/orange flowers that attract hummingbirds and butterflies. This vine also has an extensive growing range, zones 4-10, but will thrive in the full sun in the summer months. This is a very easy-to-grow vine. It is great on a fence or arbor.

Carolina Yellow Jasmine (Gelsemium sempervirens) is a yellow-flowering vine that is profusely blooming right now. This native vine is easy to grow and will grow in full sun to partial shade. Carolina Yellow Jasmine grows from zones 7-9 and can quickly cover a fence or arbor. Give it plenty of room to grow!

As the plants start waking up around Central Florida, I will add more photographs and posts. Keep an eye out for these plants and think about purchasing them for your own yard. If you would like more information on these plants (and other spring flowering plants) go to,, or

Friday, March 5, 2010

Resources for Landscape Professionals

The University has so many wonderful lawn and landscape publications for both homeowners and landscape professionals. I have compiled this list for landscape professionals. Forward it to your lawn maintenance company and make sure they are practicing the Green Industries-Best Management Practices in your yard.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Water Use In Your Home

Have you ever wondered how many gallons of water you use each day? Think of all the showers, toilet flushes, and loads of laundry that use water every day. All of these daily activities are what contribute to the average 113 gallons of water used by each person in our region each day.
The Southwest Florida Water Management District has created an online Water Use Calculator, that will help you determine just how much your household uses in one day. This easy-to-use calculator will also help you better realize where you need to conserve. Did you know that outdoor lawn irrigation accounts for up to 50% of water consumed by household?
So where can you conserve? Indoors, take a look at your faucets. Make sure that there are no leaks, and if there are, fix them! A dripping faucet can waste more than 3,000 gallons of water each year! You should also check your toilets for leaks. Many water utilities departments will provide their customers with leak detector tablets free of charge. Replacing old faucets, toilets, shower heads and appliances with new low-flow and water conserving models will also help you see a reduction in home water use.
Outdoors, the easiest way to reduce water use is to reduce high-volume irrigation. Replace high-volume irrigation with micro-irrigation in your mulched beds. Micro-irrigation kits are usually inexpensive and easy to install. By replacing high water use plants with Florida-Friendly plants, you may be able to reduce your outdoor water use even more! By maintaining your lawn and landscape plants properly, outdoor water use can be further reduced.
If you have questions about other ways to conserve water indoors or outdoors, contact the Polk County Florida Yards and Neighborhoods Program.