Friday, October 31, 2014

Proper Planting

When you install a plant in your yard, you may not even think about your technique.  How do you install plants?  Do you install them the way you always have?  Did a friend or family member teach you? Did you learn to install a plant in another part of the country?  Well, it may be time to brush up on your technique! IFAS has some new planting recommendations and guidelines for installing plants.  

It is important to start the nursery. Choose a plant with a healthy, full canopy that is free of injury and pests.  Examine the roots of the plant you are going to purchase. Remove the container to determine if the plant is well-rooted.  Refrain from purchasing plants that are root-bound (mass of roots circling the root ball), recently repotted (root ball doesn't hold together and crumbles when removed from the container), contain mushy black roots or circling roots at the base of the plant.  You want to give your plant the best start by choosing a healthy plant.   

When you are ready to install your plant, follow the general tips outlined below.  Remember that all plants need water during their establishment period, which will vary depending on the size of the plant at installation.  If you do not have access to supplemental water, you may want to install your plants during the rainy season. If you have access to supplemental water, you can install plants year-round in Florida.  
General Tips for installing trees and shrubs in well-drained soil

     * Dig hole as deep as height of root ball, at least 2 times wider

* Keep bottom of hole flat, leave soil at bottom undisturbed
     * Inspect root ball.  Do not score, cut or pull apart roots if the root ball is intact and        healthy.  New research indicates that instead of scoring the sides of a pot-bound plant,        you should shave off an outer inch or so of the root ball.  Do this with a knife or shears.         Any remaining circling roots should be pulled away from the root ball prior to planting.      

     * Install and backfill appropriately, gently tamping backfill soil in
     * Keep top of root ball slightly above soil line, trunk flare should show

     * For trees, install 3” tree ring of soil or mulch, if desired
     * Mulch and irrigate appropriately; stake if desired

     * Fertilize appropriately

General tips for installing perennials and annuals in well-drained soil
     * Dig hole so plant is at ground level, or slightly higher
     * Dig hole slightly wider than potted plant
     * Keep bottom of hole flat
     * Amend sandy soils, if needed, best to amend entire area

     * Inspect root ball
     * Install plant, fill hole completely with soil, gently press soil in around root ball
     * Mulch, irrigate and fertilize appropriately
Stomping on the plant will compact the soil.

Piling soil on top of the root ball is one of the leading causes of plant decline.  

Monday, October 27, 2014

The Versatility of Asiatic Jasmine

Asiatic Jasmine (Trachelospermum asiaticum) continues to be a favorite groundcover because of its versatility.  Grown in sun or shade, Asiatic Jasmine is often the right plant for the right place!

Monday, October 20, 2014

Would you consider a rain garden?

Do you have a rain garden in your yard? This woman has created a rain garden in her yard that is peaking the interest of her neighbors.  
If you have a rain garden, have you had neighbors seek advice from you?  If you don't have a rain garden and are interested, contact the FFL program and we will provide you with the information you need to create a rain garden in your yard!  

Friday, October 17, 2014

Using Rock in the Florida Landscape

There are many ways to use rock in the landscape.  From edging a pond or planting bed, to helping control drainage, rock can be a vital part of the landscape.  It adds ornamental quality and has features that you won't find in organic mulches.  Remember, it is best to use an organic mulch in your planting beds so that your plants benefit from the organic material, but some landscape situations (as seen in the photographs below) require rock.  Do you have any of the similar situations we have pictured below? How do you use rock in your landscape?

Rocks are used to line a bog.  The rocks separate the bog plants from the mulched pathway.  Rocks can be used to define a bed and hold in (or out) plants and/or mulch.

This business has used rock to control runoff in their landscape.  The grade of the building is lower than that of the parking lot.  When it rained, water flooded the area by the door and was washing mulch and soil into the storm drain.  They installed a dry river bed to filter the water and control runoff.  The weight of the rock is beneficial to this landscape situation since it will not wash away.

This homeowner was seeing mulch and soil wash onto the front walkway and into the grass during heavy rainfall events.  They have controlled the situation by installing a dry river bed that allows the water to soak into the ground and not create a mess on the walkway.

This business experienced mulch washing from the sloped planting bed onto the sidewalk with nearly every rainfall event.  They replaced the mulch with large rock.  This will help control runoff and will help stabilize the slope.

The water from the roof of this building was creating a mess with soil and mulch washing away and dirt splashing onto the building during rainfall events.  They installed river rock around the perimeter of the building to prevent the mess and reduce maintenance.  The result is a clean and orderly planting bed with less clean-up after rainfall events.

The library in Lake Alfred had a small planting bed that sloped from the building down to the sidewalk and street.  The result was soil and mulch washing onto the cement.  They solved the problem by adding rock to the affected areas.

 This homeowner wanted to define the planting bed from the Asiatic Jasmine groundcover.  They used rock to separate the plants and make maintenance easier. 

 You can do some really beautiful landscaping with rocks.  Even in Florida!  Here, a homeowner has used a variety of rocks and flagstone to create a bench set into a hillside.  

Rock is very useful in the landscape, particularly if you have issues with runoff during rainfall events.  Remember that preventing stormwater runoff is a FFL principle, and with rock you can solve a landscape problem, protect the environment, AND create a beautiful (and hopefully much more low maintenance) landscape.  What more could you want? 

Thursday, October 16, 2014

October Programs

Florida-Friendly Landscaping™
Master Gardeners at Mackay, Monthly Lecture Series
Thursday, October 2, 10:00 am-11:00 am
Mackay Gardens & Lakeside Preserve, 900 Mackay Blvd., Lake Alfred
Master Gardener Debra Howell will refresh your knowledge of Florida-Friendly Landscaping. Learn how to use the nine principles to save money, reduce water use, and become a successful Florida gardener.  No registration is required.

Florida-Friendly Demonstration Garden Tours
Saturday, October 11, 9:00 a.m.
UF/IFAS Extension, 1702 US Hwy 17/98 South, Bartow
(meet on the south side of the Extension building in the Paul Anderson Gazebo)
Master Gardeners will lead you in a free tour around the Florida-Friendly Demonstration Gardens.  Get ideas for your own yard by seeing the nine principles up close.  This is a great event for clubs, groups or kids.  Sign up here.  The tour will be offered on the second Saturday of each month.

Living at the Lake Workshop, Session 1
Thursday, October 16, 6:00-8:00 p.m.
Rotary Park Clubhouse, Rotary Park, 350 6th Street NE, Winter Haven
Know the Flow! An Introduction to Water in Central Florida, presented by MJ Carnevale, City of Winter Haven
Why is my Lake Green? An Introduction to Water Quality Issues, presented by Curtis Porterfield, City of Lakeland

To register for the workshop (first in a series of three), go here.

Ask a Master Gardener at the Lakeland Downtown Farmer's Curb Market Saturday, October 18, 8:00 a.m.-2:00 p.m. (every 3rd Saturday)
East Pine and N. Kentucky Ave in Downtown Lakeland
Gardening and landscaping questions?  Ask a Master Gardener!  Bring us plants and insects to identify, ask us about Florida-Friendly Landscaping and learn about the free programs that we offer.  Look for the blue UF/IFAS tablecloth to find us each month. 

Fall Plant Sale
Saturday, October 18, 9:00 a.m.-1:00 p.m.
Polk Training Center for Handicapped Citizens Nursery, 111 Creek Rd., Lake Alfred
Enjoy 10% off plants at our fall sale!  For more information contact the nursery at (863) 956-1620.

Living at the Lake Workshop, Session 2
Thursday, October 23, 6:00-8:00 p.m.
Rotary Park Clubhouse, Rotary Park, 350 6th Street NE, Winter Haven
How can I Help Improve Local Water Quality? (Florida-Friendly Landscaping), presented by Anne Yasalonis, UF/IFAS Extension Polk County
How Raingardens Help with Water Quality, presented by Mike Britt, City of Winter Haven
To register for the workshop (second in a series of three), go here.

National Food Day
Friday, October 24, 9:30-11:00 a.m.
UF/IFAS Extension, Polk County, 1702 US Hwy 17/98 South, Bartow

Ask a Master Gardener at the Winter Haven 4th Saturday Market Downtown Saturday, October 25, 9:00 a.m.-2:00 p.m. (every 4th Saturday)
Avenue A NW & 5th Street NW, Winter Haven
Gardening and landscaping questions?  Ask a Master Gardener!  Bring us plants and insects to identify, ask us about Florida-Friendly Landscaping and learn about the free programs that we offer.  Look for the blue UF/IFAS tablecloth to find us each month. 

Munn Park Garden Extravaganza
Saturday, October 25, 9:00 a.m.-3:00 p.m.
Munn Park, 201 E. Main Street, Lakeland
Enjoy a free family day of activities while exploring the many plants and flowers for sale at the 30th Annual Munn Park Garden Extravaganza featuring over 50 vendors who will be selling a large variety of plants & flowers for yards and patios, as well as beautiful and unusual garden art.  Attend garden presentations by Bill Koen and browse garden-related crafts.  Master Gardeners will be answering gardening questions and soil testing will be done for $3.00.  Food & drinks will also be available.  Cost: FREE

Living at the Lake Workshop, Session 3
Thursday, October 30, 6:00-8:00 p.m.
Rotary Park Clubhouse, Rotary Park, 350 6th Street NE, Winter Haven
The Importance of Lakefront Vegetation, presented by Shannon Carnevale, UF/IFAS Extension Polk County
Wildlife Found In and Around Our Lakes, presented by Reinier Munguia, Lake Region Audubon Society
Invasive Exotic Plants (tentative), presented by Charles Thompson, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission
To register for the workshop (third in a series of three), go here.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Florida-Friendly Landscapes: When less (irrigation) is definitely more (water conservation)

Wow!  Check out the stats in the article below.  We hope that your Florida-Friendly yard reveals similar results and that you have noticed a reduction in water use after implementing FFL in your yard. Share your stories in the comments section, we would love to hear them! 


Usually, the conclusions follow the research, but not so for the water conservation benefit of Florida Friendly Landscaping (FFL). The FFL program  has been touted as a method for conserving water (Florida statutes agree), but before our recently published study, no peer-reviewed published research existed documenting the actual water conservation of FFLs.

The FFL program promotes environmentally sustainable landscape practices. Recognized FFLs usually have more ornamental plants and less turfgrass, although there is no restriction on the amount of grass allowed. There are nine principles to  a recognized FFL, and the second principle “water efficiently” is the focus of our research. The FFL recommended practices for water conservation include:

     • Irrigating turfgrass and ornamental plants separately,
     • Grouping plants with similar water needs,
     • Reducing irrigation in the rainy summers and mild winters, and
     • Having a rain shutoff device for a sprinkler system.

Xeriscaping, a somewhat similar landscape approach, has been shown in research studies to reduce irrigation in the arid southwest. Although both FFL and Xeriscape have the same goal of conserving resources, they are designed for very different environments (both in terms of growing conditions and aesthetics). Additionally, FFL encourages wildlife habitat creation and protection whereas Xeriscape focuses primarily on water conservation.

L to R: Comparing perennial peanut to cacti - Florida-Friendly and xeriscape examples

For our study, we visited FFLs in Hillsborough, Pasco, and Pinellas counties in southwest Florida, evaluating 125 FFLs and identifying 736 comparison (well-maintained, turf-dominated) landscapes. All landscapes were part of single-family residential homes and used potable water for irrigation. We used up to twelve years of monthly water billing records for each home and property appraiser data to estimate each home’s monthly irrigation use, and we used daily weather data to estimate the monthly irrigation required (how much each home should have been watering). Once we began our site visits, we realized that just because a landscape was recognized as a FFL doesn’t mean that it’s still maintained as a FFL, or is a landscape that we would want to replicate. FFLs were classified as either good (well-maintained, diverse plantings) or not-so-good (well-maintained but not exhibiting FFL characteristics, or poorly maintained).

Recognized FFLs: The Goods

Recognized FFLs: The Not-So Goods

For the comparison landscapes, we rated the turf on a scale of 1 to 9, with minimally acceptable turf for our study being 6. The landscape quality of the comparison homes varied, from slightly patchy and yellow-green to beautiful green carpets of high-quality turfgrass you could take a nap on.

Comparison homes: Not all turfgrass is created equal

Our analysis of estimated irrigation use indicated that FFL homes used 50% less irrigation than comparison homes, and irrigation savings were seen in every month (shown in figure below). At least half of all monthly irrigation values were zero, meaning that a large portion of both FFLs and comparisons did not use in-ground irrigation systems or water regularly. Both landscapes were irrigated less than what was required for well-watered turfgrass.

When considering only “Good” FFLs and their comparison landscapes with high-quality turfgrass, irrigation savings increased to 76%. Comparison homes’ irrigation exceeded the irrigation required for well-watered turfgrass in the winter months.

Before becoming FFL-recognized, the FFL homes already used less irrigation than the comparison homes did, meaning that those most concerned with water use were more likely to choose a Florida-Friendly Landscape. Even though they tended to already be low water users, FFL homes reduced their irrigation use 28% after their landscapes became recognized.

The results of this study demonstrate the ability of FFLs to conserve potable water used for irrigation. A follow-up study will survey FFL and comparison homeowners so we can better understand how the irrigation savings are being achieved.

Thanks to Southwest Florida Water Management District and Tampa Bay Water for funding this project and to Michael Gutierrez and Sara Wynn for their assistance. This study was co-authored by Michael Dukes, Linda Young, and Shu Wang.

About the author
Mackenzie Boyer is a Ph.D. candidate in Agricultural and Biological Engineering at the University of Florida. She studies residential irrigation using utility water billing data. Her two dogs undermine all her efforts to keep her own lawn looking presentable.    

Friday, October 3, 2014

The October Issue of Extension Spotlight is LIVE!

The October issue of Extension Spotlight is now online.  Click on the link below to get up-to-date information from your County Extension Service.

Extension Spotlight