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 (
Bulbs: Butterfly lily and gladiolus can be planted during the middle of summer. See: Bulbs for Florida (
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 (
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 (

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 (, Developing a Preventative Pruning Program: Young Trees (, and Developing a Preventative Pruning Program: Mature Trees (
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 (
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 ( and Managing Nematodes for the Non-Commercial Vegetable Garden (
Azaleas: Prune no later than mid-July to protect developing buds for next spring's bloom. See: Azaleas at a Glance (

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 (
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 (
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 (