Friday, February 28, 2014

Water Conservation for Part-Time Residents

If you are a part-time Polk County resident you may want to consider the following guidelines for maintaining your lawn and landscape in your absence.  You want to preserve the beauty and health of your lawn and landscape but also to conserve water and prevent wasted water.  Potential wasted water could lead to hefty water bills or potential fines upon your return.

  • If leaving before Daylight Savings Time, when we “spring forward” make sure irrigation timers are set to reflect the time change and replace the battery in any electronic devices. Lightning can disrupt timers without adequate battery backup and cause your system to water at the wrong time. Remember local governments are issuing citations for watering at the wrong time of day or on the wrong day.
  • Do it yourself or have a professional irrigation contractor install an operational automatic rain shut-off device to ensure your irrigation system doesn’t come on during summer rains. Set the system to override your controller at one-half inch of rainfall. Be sure to clean debris from any existing rain shut-off device. It is the law to have an operating rain shut-off device on ALL irrigation systems!
  • Ask a neighbor or have your lawn and landscape contractor check your irrigation system at least once a month for broken or misdirected heads that waste water and have them fixed to eliminate water waste.
  • Ask your lawn and landscape contractor to monitor the current water restrictions and reset your irrigation timer if needed.
  • Turn off water inside the house in case of an unanticipated leak in your absence. You should also turn off your water heater and other water-using appliances to prevent potential problems. If it is a gas water heater, be sure to contact your gas supplier to have the pilot light re-lit upon your return.
  • Turn off water conditioners to avoid unnecessary regeneration cycles.
  • Add mulch to beds to avoid evaporation and keep water in soil. This will also help keep weeds down while you are away.
  • Ask your lawn service to mow lawn higher during the summer season to encourage a deep, drought-tolerant root system and reduce pest outbreaks.
  • Request to have your potable water account placed on “vacation status” by your utility. 
By following these guidelines you will feel more secure about your lawn and landscape while you are gone.  Remember that by maintaining a Florida-Friendly Landscape will reduce the need for routine irrigation and your landscape plants will be adapted to Florida’s extreme weather conditions.  For more information on how to prepare your landscape for your extended absence or how to conserve water in the home landscape, contact the Polk County Florida-Friendly Landscaping program.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Domain change

Attention users! has changed to! As usual, you can still get to the website by accessing it through the University at

Friday, February 14, 2014

Flowers for the Valentine-Themed Garden

Are you looking for a Valentine gift for a loved one?  Consider a pink or red flowering plant instead of the standard bouquet of flowers.  There are many colorful bloomers that would be beautifully presented as a gift that could then planted in the landscape for continued enjoyment.  These plants bloom at different times of the year, but follow our Valentine color theme of pink and red.  Choose the plant based on the site conditions of the yard it will be planted in and follow the Florida-Friendly Landscaping installation and maintenance recommendations to ensure your thoughtful gift will be enjoyed for many years to come.  

Many species and varieties available in a range of colors.

Bee Balm
Enjoy the native and non-native varieties of this summer-flowering perennial.

 There are many varieties of Begonias available.

These tough, drought-tolerant plants display colorful foliage as well as flowers.  

Spring blooming shrubs in a variety of flower types and colors. 

Coral Bean
This native shrub displays large red flowers in the fall.

Annual flowers put on a showy display of red and pink.

Dwarf Powderpuff
This small to medium sized shrub will flower year-round.

Tropical flowers in a range of colors depending on variety.

For the butterfly lover!  Red flowers all summer.

This shade plant produces large plumes of pink flowers.

Butterflies love Pentas.  Grow in the ground or in a container.

Pentas come in pink and red and will flower spring-fall.

Swamp Hibiscus
Grow this beautiful native in wet soils or in a water garden.

Low growing annuals in a range of vibrant colors.

Friday, February 7, 2014

February Gardening Tasks

What to Plant

Bedding plants: Plants that perform better in the cooler months include petunia, pansy, verbena, dianthus, strawflower, and lobelia. Protect from frosts and freezing temperatures. 
See: Gardening with Annuals in Florida (

Bulbs: Many bulbs can be planted now. Provide adequate water for establishment and protect from cold weather with mulch. Some to try include Amazon lily, crinum, and agapanthus. 
See: Bulbs for Florida (

Azaleas: With azaleas in full bloom this month, now is a great time to select varieties to add to the landscape. 
See: Azaleas at a Glance(

Vegetables: Begin planting warm-season crops this month. Bean, pepper, cucumber, tomato, and squash can be started while temperatures are cool. 
See: Florida Vegetable Gardening Guide (

What to Do

Palms: Give cold-damaged palms proper care to encourage their recovery.
See: Cold Damage on Palms (

Citrus: Check citrus trees for scab disease. Apply a copper fungicide when new leaves appear and again when two-thirds of the flower blossoms have fallen. 
See: Citrus Problems in the Home Landscape (

Roses: Prune roses this month to remove damaged canes and improve the overall form. After pruning, fertilize and apply a fresh layer of mulch. Blooming will begin 8–9 weeks after pruning. 
See: Growing Roses in Florida (

Figure 2.  
UF/IFAS Photo by Eric Zamora

Shrubs: Fertilize shrubs by spreading fertilizer evenly over the soil surface and watering it in. Follow with a fresh layer of mulch to conserve moisture and reduce weeds. 
See: Fertilization and Irrigation Needs for Florida Lawns and Landscapes ( andPlanting Shrubs in the Florida Landscape (

Lawn: Apply a preemergent weed killer (not a "weed and feed") to lawns this month to prevent germination of warm-season weed seeds. Apply when temperatures rise to 65°F for 4–5 days. Timing is important for good control. 
See: Weed Management in Home Lawns(

Citrus and other fruit trees: Fertilize now if not done in January. Frequency and amount of fertilization depend on the age of the tree. 
See: Citrus Culture in the Home Landscape ( and Deciduous Fruit for the Home Garden in Central Florida(

From the Central Florida Gardening Calendar.  Go to the calendar for more monthly gardening tips for Central Florida.