Friday, December 20, 2013

Winter Water Conservation

With holidays in full swing, Florida winter is upon us.  The first day of winter is tomorrow, December 21.  Take some time to review our winter water conservation tips as cool weather approaches.  




A Poinsettia in the landscape.


If you are a part-time resident who has returned for the perfect Florida winter, here are some tips that may help refresh your landscape. 

  • Check your irrigation time clock.  Make sure that the current time and start times are accurate.  You will want to adjust your station run times to reflect the winter irrigation recommendations.  After calibrating your sprinkler system,  set the zones to water once every other week while the weather is cool.  Your plants (and lawn) grow more slowly in the winter months and don't need as much irrigation.  If you look for signs from your plants (wilting, folded leaf blades on grass) before you water.
  • Mulch.  Are there bare areas in your landscape?   It's a good time to replenish the mulch in your landscape beds.  It will help freshen-up your landscape and keep weeds down.  Look for by-product or recycled mulches such as pine bark, pine straw, eucalyptus, melaleuca or oak leaves.
  • If we do get a cold snap that causes some freeze damage to your plants, resist the urge to prune! The risk of freezing temperatures could be with us through February and the best time to prune freeze damaged plants is in March.
  • If you are going to be doing any landscaping while you are in town, refer to the information that UF/IFAS Extension has to offer.  Visit our demonstration gardens, read helpful literature, contact a Master Gardener or visit our website

Friday, December 6, 2013

Mulches for Central Florida Landscapes


Mulch is an essential part of every landscape and a principle of the Florida-Friendly Landscaping (FFL)program.  FFL recommends using organic mulches that will break down and add nutrients to the soil, unlike stone or gravel.  The benefits of mulch are numerous and maintaining a two-three inch layer of mulch will buffer soil temperatures and keep the soil cool.  Mulch will slow evaporation and decrease a plant's water needs.  It will inhibit weed growth, reduce erosion and improve the soil as it decomposes.  Don't forget the added bonus of the beauty that mulch will provide!  A properly mulched bed will make the landscape look neat and uniform as well as complement the plants.  

Here are the mulches recommended by the FFL program. 

Pine bark mulch

  • By-product of the timer/lumber industry
  • Good color retention

Pine straw mulch

  • Pine needles collected from the floor of pine plantations
  • Light brown color
  • Settles more quickly than other mulches
  • Needles tend to knit together making it a good mulch for sloped areas or areas that tend to wash

Eucalyptus mulch

  • Produced from trees grown for mulch in Florida plantations
  • Light red/brown color
  • Minimal settling over time

Melaleuca mulch

  • Produced from trees as a means of removing invasive exotic species
  • Mulch is heated to kill seeds
  • Good retention of brown color
  • Almost no settling over time
  • Most termite resistant mulch

Utility Mulch (from tree trimming services/utility companies)

  • Mixed species mulch
  • Varied colors
  • Minimal settling over time

Fallen Leaves
  • Free!
  • High in nutrients
  • Decomposes quickly 
Mixed Hardwood Mulch

  • Made from scrap lumber, pallets, etc.  
If you have any questions about mulching or where to purchase the recommended mulches contact us!

For more information:  http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/pdffiles/FR/FR07900.pdf
                                     http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/pdffiles/FR/FR05100.pdf


Friday, November 29, 2013

Updates to the Polk County Florida-Friendly Landscaping Website

There have been some changes on the Polk County Florida-Friendly Landscaping website. We hope they help serve you better!


On the homepage, center column, you will find a list of our clientele.  Here is what you will find if you click on the links.  


  • Listing of the services that we offer and links to other helpful resources.
  • List of services that we offer to realtors, developers, builders, property managers, community managers, HOA boards and landscape contractors.  We provide links to any ordinances and regulations that may affect the landscapes under your care.  We also have provided helpful tools to educate your employees, change community by-laws and more.  
  • We have an extensive list of publications available at UF/IFAS Extension.  We have selected a variety of publications that will help new residents to Polk County (and to Florida) get used to gardening and landscaping in the area.  You can download the publications or request a cd or hardcopy of the New Resident Packet.  If you are a realtor we would be happy to provide you with a supply of cds or packets--just let us know!

  • Do you have questions about the Florida-Friendly Landscaping program?  What exactly is the program and how can you maintain a Florida-Friendly yard?  Are there any local restrictions or ordinances that may impact you?  We answer these questions and more! 
As usual, don't forget to check our calendar of events for upcoming programs, our online workshops for continued education, demonstration gardens for a list of gardens and links to their plant lists, the plant guide for a list of plants that work well in Polk County, and our fact sheets to offer you more assistance on specific topics.  The links to our social media sites on on the top right of our homepage and will provide you with up-to-date information, plant photographs and videos.  Enjoy!


Friday, November 15, 2013

Rain Gardens

Are you looking for a fall landscaping project for your yard?  Consider creating a rain garden. A rain garden can be located anywhere in your yard where water runs off the roof, where downspouts end or where water naturally collects after a rain event.   



Information on how to create your own rain garden:
TAPP (Think About Personal Pollution) Rain Garden Manual

Rain Gardens: A Manual for Central Florida Residents
How-To Guide: Creating a Rain Garden
City of Winter Haven Rain Garden Installation

Friday, November 8, 2013

Plant List for HOA and Community Associations

Are you on the board of your homeowners association?
Do you need plant recommendations that will work in a deed-restricted community? 

Here is a plant list  for your community members.  The plants on this list grow in Central Florida and if installed following the Right Plant, Right Place principle will thrive as well as keep with the look of your neighborhood.

The Polk County FFL program can work with your association to create a specific plant list and design guidelines for your community. Contact us!
         

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Visit the Florida-Friendly Demonstration Gardens in Polk County





Have you visited a Florida-Friendly Demonstration Garden recently?  This is a great time of year to see what's blooming and  get some fall planting ideas.

Here are where the gardens are located:
UF/IFAS Extension Polk County, 1702 US Hwy 17/98 South in Bartow
SPCA of Polk County, 5850 Brannen Road, Lakeland
Polk Training Center Nursery, 111 Creek Road, Lake Alfred
Mackay Gardens & Lakeside Preserve, 900 Mackay Blvd., Lake Alfred


Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Extension Natural Resources Program Offering Guided Hikes

Take a hike at a local park or preserve with Extension!  Each month the Natural Resources Program with  UF/IFAS Extension will offer a free guided hike.  Sign up now

Monday, November 4, 2013

What's Blooming Now? Florida Paintbrush

The Florida Paintbrush (Carphephorus corymbosus) is blooming at the Polk Training Center for Handicapped Citizens Nursery in the Florida-Friendly Demonstration Garden (111 Creek Road, Lake Alfred). Paintbrush is a perennial that will grow to three feet tall and bloom September through December.  It likes sandy soils and will grow in full sun to partial shade. This is a great native wildflower for gardeners looking for a delicate, purple, fall-blooming plant.  

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Bats!

Learn more about bats from Dr. Mark Hostetler.  Happy Halloween!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Polk County Fertilizer Management Ordinance

For more information on Polk County's Fertilizer Management Ordinance check out this brochure.  If you have a landscape contractor fertilize and mow your yard, download and print them a copy or contact the Extension Service and we will mail a copy of the brochure to you.  

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

What's Blooming Now? Muhly Grass

Muhly grass (Muhlenbergia capillaris) is revealing itself in the landscape!  For most of the year muhly grass is a small, nondescript ornamental grass growing 2-3 feet tall and wide. This native grass puts on a show in the fall revealing it's pink/purple blooms to the world!  The very showy blooms will last through November.  This is a low-maintenance plant and works well in sunny, dry landscapes.  Have you seen muhly grass blooming around your neighborhood?  Send us your muhly grass photos and we will add them to the post!  










Tuesday, October 15, 2013

What's Blooming at the UF/IFAS Extension FFL Demonstration Garden in Bartow

Erigeron karavinskianus 'Profusion'   Midsummer Aster                                        
Pentas lanceolata    Pentas

 
Turnera subulata     White Alder



Thursday, October 3, 2013

Selecting Small Shrubs-How to Properly Plan and Select Shrubs for Your Landscape

Selecting shrubs for your landscape can be a difficult task.  Particularly around the foundation of your home or anywhere a small variety is needed.   You want to make sure you are installing shrubs that will require minimal maintenance but also provide a lush backdrop to your other landscape plants.  With proper planning you can avoid some of the landscape problems that many homeowners face after years of dealing with shrubs that were not properly planned for (too big), installed (too close to the house) and maintained (hedged for years).  Issues of frequent pruning and decline in the health of the shrubs can be avoided if proper planning is done.

How do you plan and select the proper shrubs for your yard?  You need to match the shrub’s characteristics to the characteristics of your yard.  Do a quick survey of the area where you want to add shrubs.  Figure out the soil type, light requirements, available irrigation and how much space (horizontal and vertical) you have for the shrubs. You can then begin to look through our lists of shrubs to determine which one will be the right plant for the right place. 

Many landscapes call for shrubs that will be less than five feet tall and wide, and luckily there are many options.  Take a look at the following shrubs and consider using them in your landscape.

 Zamia pumila
Coontie Cycad
 Hamelia patens 'Calusa'
Dwarf Firebush
 Ilex vomitoria 'Schellings Dwarf'
Dwarf Holly
 Rhaphiolepis indica 
Indian Hawthorn
Viburnum obovatum 'Mrs. Schiller's Delight'
Dwarf Viburnum

Remember to space the shrubs according to their mature size.  Shrubs that are planted too closely together can be difficult to maintain.  Plant in large groupings to provide a backdrop to the other plants in your landscape.  Groupings of odd numbers work well, and try to repeat the type of shrub a few other places so that continuity is felt throughout the landscape.  Your specimen plants and colorful flowers will pop against a nice foundation planting of shrubs. 

Removing problematic shrubs and replacing them with small varieties better suited to a home landscape is a great way to rejuvenate your landscape and reduce the amount of time you spend on maintenance.  Remember to use small varieties around your home’s foundation, under windows and around porches.  For a more small shrub suggestions contact the Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ Program (
http://polkfyn.com) or download these helpful plant lists: 

The Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ Guide to Plant Selection and Landscape Design


Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ Plant List for Polk County

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Fall Gardening in Central Florida

Fall is here in Central Florida... at least according  to the calendar.  Check out the past blog posts for a reminder of what to plant, what garden tasks to get started on, and what colorful plants are about to put on a show.  Happy Fall Gardening!








Fall Gardening Tasks:
http://polkfyn.blogspot.com/2011/09/fall-gardening-tasks.html

Fall Color for the Landscape:
http://polkfyn.blogspot.com/2011/09/fall-color-for-landscape.html


Muhly Grass-A Fall Showstopper
http://polkfyn.blogspot.com/2011/11/muhly-grass-fall-showstopper.html

Monday, September 9, 2013

Register NOW for Irrigation School

Are you a homeowner interested in learning more about your irrigation system and how you can increase efficiency?

Are you an irrigation contractor or landscaper interested in maximizing your business by learning how to offer new services to your clientele?



Join us for a free Irrigation School, dinner will be provided.  Click here to register. Tuesday, September 17, 6:00 p.m.-8:00 p.m.
Circle Bar B Reserve, 4399 Winter Lake Road, Lakeland
Topics presented will include:
Irrigation system maintenance--how to repair broken heads, clogged sprinkler heads, adjust sprinkler overspray and how to address design issues
Micro-irrigation--how to install the different types of micro-irrigation, how to retrofit an existing irrigation system with micro-irrigation
How much should you water?--Learn how to calibrate your sprinkler system
Time clocks--how to use your time clock, create seasonal programs and maintain your rain sensor

This program is presented by:
Florida-Friendly Landscaping Program, UF/IFAS Polk County Extension Service
Florida Automated Weather Network
City of Lakeland Water Utilities
Polk County Utilities

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Do you have Mexican petunia in your yard?


Mexican petunia is a common landscape plant and is sold in may retail garden centers. But did you know that it is invasive?  This means that it is spreading to our natural areas, most likely by seed.  Watch this video by the UF/IFAS Extension Center for Aquatic and Invasive Plants to learn more.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

What's Blooming at the Polk County Extension Service?


Bee Balm
Monarda punctata

Bee Balm is a native perennial that blooms late summer through fall.  It grows two-three feet tall and will spread at least twice as wide.  Bee Balm grows in zone 8-10A in well-drained soil.  It prefers sun to partial shade.  The flowers are very small, the colorful and attractive part of the flowers are actually bracts.  Bracts are actually modified leaves, but many are colorful, a good example being the Poinsettia.  The bracts vary in color from light pink, yellow, and white to purple.  Bee Balm is an attractive plant to pollinators and is an interesting and low maintenance addition to any garden. If you want to see Bee Balm growing, visit the Florida-Friendly Landscaping Demonstration Gardens at the UF/IFAS Polk County Extension Service in Bartow. 



Irrigation School, September 17




A 2-hour irrigation school will be held at Circle B Bar Reserve, 4399 Winter Lake Road, Lakeland on Tuesday, September 17 from 6:00-8:00 pm.
The class will focus on reducing water consumption by increasing irrigation efficiency, using rain sensors, and retrofitting existing irrigation systems.  Local guest speakers will de-mystify time clock controllers and discuss smart irrigation technology and Florida Friendly landscaping.
Refreshments will be provided, displays and hands-on demonstrations on-site.  Future classes will be held throughout Polk County.  Class is a cooperative effort by Florida-Friendly Landscaping Program, UF/IFAS Polk County Extension Service; City of Lakeland Water Utilities; and Polk County Utilities.
For more information and to reserve a space, please go to https://fflirrigation.eventbrite.com/

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Polk County Master Gardener Training Starts September 10


Do you love to garden?  Enjoying helping others? Have a desire to learn? Have a personal committment to volunteer service?

The Polk County Master Gardener Program may be for you! 
 
Training starts September 10th at the UF/IFAS Polk County Extension Service (  1702 US HWY 17/98 South in Bartow). 

Master Gardener Training is offered once a year at the Polk County Extension Service in Bartow. In 2013, the program will start on September 10th and meet every Tuesday (except Thanksgiving week) for 5 hours until December 3rd. Classes hours are 9 a.m. to noon and 1 to 3 p.m. There is a fee of $140 to cover the cost of materials. If you are interested, click on
The Sprouting Kit (88.32KB pdf), which will give you all the details about the program, along with an application and short quiz. Or, you can call the Extension Office at (863) 519-8677 Ext. 109 and request a Sprouting Kit.

Gardening Workshops

Register now for these Florida-Friendly Landscaping workshops!
 
 
 
Right Plant, Right Place: Shrub Selection
Wednesday, August 21, 12:00 noon-1:00 p.m.
Lakeland Electric Building, 501 East Lemon St., Lakeland
Are you looking for low-maintenance shrubs for your landscape? This workshop will teach you how to choose plants that will work for your yard. This workshop is a lunch and learn class. Lunch is provided. You must have a photo I.D. to enter the building. Workshop and lunch provided by the Florida-Friendly Landscaping Program and the City of Lakeland Water Utilities. Click
here to register for the workshop.
 
Irrigation School
Tuesday, September 17, 6:00 p.m.-8:00 p.m.
Circle Bar B Reserve
4399 Winter Lake Road, Lakeland
Are you a homeowner interested in learning more about your irrigation system and how you can increase efficiency?
Are you an irrigation contractor or landscaper interested in maximizing your business by learning how to offer new services to your clientele?
Join us for a free Irrigation School, dinner will be provided.
Click here to register.

Topics presented will include:
Irrigation system maintenance--how to repair broken heads, clogged sprinkler heads, adjust sprinkler overspray and how to address design issues
Micro-irrigation--how to install the different types of micro-irrigation, how to retrofit an existing irrigation system with micro-irrigation
How much should you water?--Learn how to calibrate your sprinkler system
Time clocks--how to use your time clock, create seasonal programs and maintain your rain sensor
This program is presented by:
Florida-Friendly Landscaping Program, UF/IFAS Polk County Extension Service
Florida Automated Weather Network
City of Lakeland Water Utilities
Polk County Utilities

Composting Workshop
Saturday, September 28, 9:00 a.m.-11:00 a.m.
St. Paul Lutheran School, 4550 Harden Blvd. LakelandIn this workshop you will learn the basic methods of composting and how to choose a method that will work for you. Composting is easy and fun. It is a great way to learn about recycling and the end product can be used in your garden. This workshop is open to the public. Children and families are encouraged to attend.
After the workshop, the Polk County Master Gardeners will present a hands-on demonstration of worm composting and provide each attendee with a mini worm farm. In addition, you will be able to purchase compost bins for $60 (Earth Machine compost bins) and rain barrels for $30. You must pre-register for both the compost bins and rain barrels so we can make sure there are plenty available.
Click here to register.

Friday, July 19, 2013

How to Establish a Low Maintenance Landscape

Most homeowners want an attractive landscape that fits the aesthetic of the home and the neighborhood.  By following the Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ principles it is possible to have both a beautiful landscape and a low maintenance landscape.  Planning and proper maintenance are the key to your landscape success. 
Here are a few tips to establishing your low maintenance landscape.
1.  Keep it small. 
Small gardens and yards are much easier to maintain than large yards.  Minimize the areas that will need the most maintenance and focus on replacing any large areas with low maintenance groundcovers and planting beds. 
 

2.  Keep it simple.
Avoid over planting and let each plant serve a function.  Variety in the landscape is good, but if there is too much, maintenance costs may increase.


3.  Grass or groundcover?
What kind of soil do you have? How much light does your yard receive?  Choose groundcovers in areas that are shady, too dry, too wet or too steep to maintain.  If you feel that you spend a lot of time and money maintaining your grass you may want to look for an alternative.
4.  Mulch it.
Mulch helps refresh and revitalize a landscape.  Landscapes look finished and neat when a fresh coat of mulch is applied.  Mulch also helps keep down the weeds and conserves moisture—a great asset to any garden bed.

5.  To fertilize or not to fertilize?
Avoid over fertilization.  Too much fertilizer can cause weed growth and potential pest problems.  With the excess growth caused by fertilization, you will also have to prune and mow even more often.
 
6.  Create tree beds.
Planting a groundcover or maintaining mulch beds around trees can eliminate trimming and mowing. 
 
  
7.  Establish edges.
Installing metal or brick edging around stone or gravel paths, between turf and planting beds will eliminate the grass creeping into the area and eliminate trimming.
 
 

8.  Use a fence or hedge for privacy.
A wood or PVC fence is a very low maintenance way to create privacy.  It will also give you more space if you have a small yard.  If a hedge is desired, choose a low maintenance plant that will require minimal to no pruning.
 
9.  Plant flower beds for impact.
Plant and maintain narrow annual flower beds with large masses of just a few varieties.  This will provide maximum impact with less maintenance.
 
10.  Choose native plants.
Native plants matched to a site’s conditions can be low maintenance.  Natives are adapted to our climate and less susceptible to native pests.
 



11.  Purchase quality plants.
Healthy plants will grow and establish much easier and more quickly than sickly plants.  Thoroughly inspect plants at the nursery and choose plants with a nice form, healthy root ball and no insects or disease.


 

12.  Plant it properly.
Locate the right place for you plant; dig the hole twice as wide and just as deep as the root ball, thoroughly water in and mulch.  Never let the mulch touch the plant.  Proper planting practices get your plant started out right. 

 

These twelve steps to creating a low maintenance landscape are just a few to consider when planning your landscape  In my next post I’ll discuss a three-year plan to create a low maintenance Florida-Friendly yard.  Just remember, no landscape is maintenance free.  Weeding, watering, pruning, mulching and general landscape care is necessary when maintaining an attractive landscape.  Reducing the time and money spent on maintenance is possible when proper planning is done.  For more information, contact the Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ Program at the UF/IFAS Polk County Extension Service.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

It's Lakes Appreciation Month! Sign up for these workshops to do your part in protecting our lakes.

July is Lakes Appreciation month!  Take the time to volunteer to clean up a local lake or attend one of the following workshops.  Both the rain barrel workshop and the rain gardens workshop emphasis the importance of reducing stormwater runoff, something that adversely affects our lakes.  Sign up to learn more!


Rain Barrel Workshop
Saturday, July 20, 9:00 a.m.-10:30 a.m.
UF/IFAS Polk County Extension Service
1702 US HWY 17 S, Bartow

Would you like to reduce stormwater runoff, reduce water use and collect rainwater for irrigation? Attend the rain barrel workshop offered by the Florida-Friendly Landscaping program. Attending the workshop is free, but if you would like to purchase a rain barrel, they are $30 each. Please indicate on your registration how many you will purchase. Payment of cash or check at the door. To register for the workshop go here.

Rain Gardens, Lunch & Learn Workshop
Wednesday, July 24, 12:00 noon-1:00 p.m.
Lakeland Electric Building, 501 East Lemon St., Lakeland
Learn how to plan, install and maintain a rain garden. This workshop is a lunch and learn class. Lunch is provided. You must have a photo I.D. to enter the building. Workshop and lunch provided by the Florida-Friendly Landscaping Program and the City of Lakeland Water Utilities. Click here to register for the workshop.

Monday, July 1, 2013

July Issue of Extension Spotlight

The July issue of Extension Spotlight is now live!  Keep up-to-date with your Polk County Extension Service each month with the Extension Spotlight.

Welcome to July in the Garden

What to Plant

Bedding plants: Summer annuals to plant now include celosia, coleus, torenia, and ornamental pepper. See: Gardening with Annuals in Florida (http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/mg319)
Bulbs: Butterfly lily and gladiolus can be planted during the middle of summer. See: Bulbs for Florida (http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/mg029)
Herbs: While summer is too hot to start herbs from seeds, many do well if started from small plants. See: Herbs in the Florida Garden (http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/vh020)
Palms: Continue planting palms while the rainy season is in full swing. Support large palms with braces for 6–8 months after planting. Nails should not be driven directly into a palm trunk. See: Transplanting Palms in the Landscape (http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/ep001)

What to Do

Trees: Prepare for hurricane season by checking trees for damaged or weak branches and pruning if needed. Hire an ISA-certified arborist. See: International Society of Arboriculture (http://isa-arbor.com/), Developing a Preventative Pruning Program: Young Trees (http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/ep315), and Developing a Preventative Pruning Program: Mature Trees (http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/ep316)
Lawns: Determine the cause of any lawn problems before taking action. If an insect is the culprit, treat only the affected area. Rule out disease or sprinkler malfunction. See: Insect Management in Your Florida Lawn (http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/lh034)
Vegetable garden: Use summer heat to solarize the vegetable garden for fall planting. It takes 4–6 weeks to kill weeds, disease, and nematodes, so start now. See: Introduction to Soil Solarization (http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/in856) and Managing Nematodes for the Non-Commercial Vegetable Garden (http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/ng005)
Azaleas: Prune no later than mid-July to protect developing buds for next spring's bloom. See: Azaleas at a Glance (http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/mg019)

Figure 7. Azaleas
Credit: UF/IFAS
[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]

Irrigation: Install an inexpensive rain shutoff device to save money by overriding an irrigation system when it rains. If one is already installed, check that it is operating properly. See: Residential Irrigation System Rainfall Irrigation Shutoff Devices (http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/ae221)
Pests on ornamental plants: Inspect the leaves of azaleas and ornamental plants for small white dots that may indicate lace bugs at work. Spray forcefully with water to help control this pest. See: Lace Bugs on Ornamental Plants (http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/mg326)
Citrus: Check citrus trees for damage to fruit or leaves and take action to minimize the effect of insects and/or disease on developing fruit and the overall health of the tree. See: Citrus Problems in the Home Landscape (http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/hs141)

Monday, June 24, 2013

Irrigation System Maintenance

How to save money, use water efficiently and maintain a healthy landscape.

Do you have an automated irrigation system? When is the last time you turned it on and visually inspected the system?  If you haven’t done routine irrigation system maintenance in a while, now is the time to do it.  Many people run their systems so early in the morning that they never see them run.  But it is a good idea to visually inspect the system every few months by running it during the day. 
Correcting problems with you irrigation system will directly affect the health of your landscape.  A broken head may not be watering part of your lawn, resulting in a dry patch.   Too much coverage in another area may result in a weed issue.  Take the time to walk through each zone identifying problems.  Many fixes are simple but some may require you to contact a contractor.  Some of the problems you want to look for are:
ü  Clogged sprinkler heads
ü  Leaking sprinklers and valves
ü  Obstructed sprinklers
ü  Overspray onto sidewalks, driveways and streets
ü  Design problems
ü  Missing nozzles
ü  Pipe leaks or breaks
1.   Clogged sprinkler heads
Dirt and debris trapped in the filter or nozzle of the sprinkler head can clog any type of head.  Look for sprinklers with little to no water exiting the sprayer.  Cleaning a sprayer can be done by pulling up and securing the riser (pop-up) and removing the top part of the spray head.  You can then remove the filter and clean it with water.  With a rotor head, you will need to unscrew the top part of the rotor and remove the filter.  Before replacing the filter, flush your irrigation line to ensure that no debris entered the system while you were preforming maintenance.  Replace the parts and turn the system on to check that it is working.  If you have a clogged micro-sprayer, you will need to remove the part of the sprayer where the filter is found and follow the steps above.  You may also need to check the small emitter at the top of the micro-spray head as they can clog as well.
2.  Leaking sprinklers and valves
Lawnmowers and cars are the main causes of leaking sprinkler heads.  Leaking heads can cause problems as a result from the reduced water pressure the leak has caused.  So you may visually see problems (such as all the pop-up sprinklers in the zone failing to pop-up) over the entire zone before you find the leaking head.  Obviously, one leaking sprinkler head can cause widespread problems throughout your landscape.  To correct this problem, you may be able to replace the seal inside the sprinkler, but many times you will need to replace the entire sprinkler head.  Make sure you replace the leaking head with the same brand as the new sprinkler head.  If it the sprinkler head is buried underground you will have to dig it out to replace it.  Then you will be able to unscrew the old head and replace it.  Make sure that no debris gets into the line while you do this. 
You may also find leaks inside the irrigation control box.  These leaks may simply have developed due to the age of the system.  Depending on what type of valve you have, irrigation suppliers will be able to suggest replacement parts.  Many times the entire valve will need to be replaced. 
3.  Obstructed sprinklers
As your landscape plants grow; they may block some of your sprinklers.  Grass can grow over sprinkler heads and over time sprinkler heads may settle into the ground and not pop up far enough to be effective.  If you have obstructed sprinkler heads consider pruning plants to keep sprinkler patterns clear.  You may need to raise heads and possibly replace pop-up spray heads with longer pop-up extensions.  You may also want to consider capping ineffective sprinklers in shrub areas where they are no longer watering efficiently.  This is a great time to retrofit the area with micro-irrigation.
4.  Overspray
If you find that your driveway, front walkway, sidewalk or even your house is wet after an irrigation event, you will need to correct overspray problems.  Check each sprinkler head to determine why overspray is occurring.  You may have a tilted sprinkler head.  If you do, you will need to dig out some of the soil around the head and straighten the head.  If the length of the spray is too long, you may need to make an adjustment to the rotor or spray head.  You may need a special tool to make this adjustment.  If you do not have the tool, contact an irrigation supply company and they can locate the tool that you need.  It also may be possible that you will need to replace some of the sprinkler heads with different heads that provide more appropriate coverage.  Both the nozzles on rotor sprinkler heads and sprayer heads can be changed out to provide desired coverage and spray pattern.  Again, this is something an irrigation supply company can help you identify.  Sprayers may also be easily adjusted by simply twisting the screw on the top of the sprayer.  This will adjust the direction and the radius of the spray.
5.  Missing nozzles
Replacing broken or missing nozzles can be easy.  If you don’t know what type of replacement nozzle to purchase ask your local irrigation supply company.  Missing nozzles will affect your water pressure and can result in poor coverage and possible dry areas in the landscape.  This is important to correct as soon as possible.  Follow manufacturer’s instructions to replace the nozzles.
6.  Pipe leaks or breaks
Many underground pipe leaks and breaks are best left to the professionals, but it is important that the homeowner be able to identify the problem should it occur.  Look for large wet spots in the landscape, grass that is significantly greener than other spots, and low water pressure.  If you decide to fix these on your own, make sure you keep the area clean while you make repairs.  You do not want debris to get into the system. 
For above ground pipe leaks and breaks you will be able to visually see the leak.  You will need to take the same precautions and keep the area free of debris as you work.  Make sure you purchase the same size PVC pipe that you are replacing, clean the pipe before applying PVC primer and pipe cement and let the cement dry before you turn on the irrigation system to check your repair.
There are a lot of potential maintenance problems with irrigation systems, but if you frequently check your system and make small repairs and changes as needed, landscape loss and issues associated with inefficient irrigation can be avoided.  Many times you will encounter design problems that occur as a landscape changes and matures.  If you make landscape changes, don’t forget that you need to make changes to your irrigation system as well.  Small projects such as installing micro-irrigation in landscape beds are easy for a homeowner to tackle, but large changes may need to be dealt with by a professional landscape contractor.  For a list of contractors go to the Florida Irrigation Society website (http://fisstate.org) and click on the homeowners tab.  Information and literature on irrigation repair and maintenance can be obtained by contacting your UF/IFAS Polk County Extension Service.  Always remember to call Sunshine 811 (http://www.sunshine811.com) to have your utilities marked before you dig.  For more information contact the Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ program at http://polkfyn.com. 

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Summer Gardening Workshops

Irrigation School
Thursday, June 27, 6:00-8:00 p.m.
Peggy Brown Building, 215 South Lake Avenue, Lakeland
Are you a homeowner interested in learning more about your irrigation system and how you can increase efficiency?
Are you an irrigation contractor or landscaper interested in maximizing your business by learning how to offer new services to your clientele?
Join us for a free Irrigation School to learn more! Dinner will be provided.
Irrigation School Schedule of Speakers:
6:00-6:30 How can I make sure my irrigation system is working properly?
Irrigation system maintenance--how to maintain efficiency and maximize landscape benefits
6:30-7:00 How can I conserve water?
Hands-on demonstration of micro-irrigation and how the City of Lakeland is retrofitting existing irrigation systems
7:00-7:30 How much water should you apply?
Sprinkler calibration and using FAWN's weather tools to schedule irrigation
7:30-8:00 How do I use my timeclock?
How-to use your timeclock, create seasonal programs, and maintain a rain sensor
This program is presented by:
Florida-Friendly Landscaping Program, UF/IFAS Polk County Extension Service
Florida Automated Weather Network
City of Lakeland Water Utilities
Polk County Utilities
To register for this program, click here. 

Rain Barrel Workshop
Saturday, July 20, 9:00 a.m.-10:30 a.m.
UF/IFAS Polk County Extension Service
1702 US HWY 17 S, Bartow
Would you like to reduce stormwater runoff, reduce water use and collect rainwater for irrigation? Attend the rain barrel workshop offered by the Florida-Friendly Landscaping program.
Attending the workshop is free, but if you would like to purchase a rain barrel, they are $30 each. Please indicate on your registration how many you will purchase. Payment of cash or check at the door. To register for the workshop go here.

Rain Gardens, Lunch & Learn Workshop
Wednesday, July 24, 12:00 noon-1:00 p.m.
Lakeland Electric Building, 501 East Lemon St., Lakeland
Learn how to plan, install and maintain a rain garden. This workshop is a lunch and learn class. Lunch is provided. You must have a photo I.D. to enter the building. Workshop and lunch provided by the Florida-Friendly Landscaping Program and the City of Lakeland Water Utilities. Click here to register for the workshop.

Right Plant, Right Place: Shrub Selection
Wednesday, August 21, 12:00 noon-1:00 p.m.
Lakeland Electric Building, 501 East Lemon St., Lakeland
Are you looking for low-maintenance shrubs for your landscape? This workshop will teach you how to choose plants that will work for your yard. This workshop is a lunch and learn class. Lunch is provided. You must have a photo I.D. to enter the building. Workshop and lunch provided by the Florida-Friendly Landscaping Program and the City of Lakeland Water Utilities. Click here to register for the workshop.