Consider Landscape Fabric Carefully

Homeowners and horticulture professionals spend time to develop an attractive ornamental bed only to have weeds take over months or a few years later. One common method in the attempt to prevent weeds is to apply a landscape fabric around plants in beds and place a layer of mulch on top to dress it up.  The thought is that this barrier on top of the soil will prevent a large number of weeds from emerging. The fabric physically prevents the growth of weeds from the soil below and blocks sunlight from reaching weed seeds.  Available fabrics are labeled as porous to allow air and water to move through them and reach ornamental plant roots.

On paper, landscape fabric sounds like a good idea and it may work for a little while. Over time, soil particles and decomposing mulch fill up the porous spaces in the fabric which prevent air and water from reaching plant roots. Even with irrigation or routine rainfall, plant roots often do not receive the needed water and air for healthy growth.  Plants may respond by trying to send roots through fabric seams which breaks down the intended weed barrier.  Other plants slowly decline or may die quickly due to water stress or lack of sufficient air movement into the soil.

Fabric may initially prevent some weeds but it can also prevent air and water movement. Photo by Beth Bolles, UF Extension Escambia County

Fabric may initially prevent some weeds but it can also prevent air and water movement. Photo by Beth Bolles, UF Extension Escambia County

 

Weed seeds also find their way into the mulch that is on top of the fabric from nearby lawns and landscapes. The next thing you know, you have an entire weed crop growing in the mulch on top of your landscape fabric.  Perennial weeds such as torpedograss and purple nutsedge eventually grow through fabrics.

Seeds from annuals like Chamberbitter easily get into mulch from surrounding areas and grow on top of fabrics. Photo by Beth Bolles, UF Extension Escambia County

Seeds from annuals like Chamberbitter easily get into mulch from surrounding areas and grow on top of fabrics. Photo by Beth Bolles, UF Extension Escambia County

The best place to consider fabric if you want to install it in the landscape is under mulched paths or other areas without ornamental plantings where a synthetic groundcover is needed. In order to have a healthy root environment for your ornamental bed plants, it is best to keep landscape fabric out of these areas.

Permanent link to this article: http://escambia.ifas.ufl.edu/lng/2016/08/17/consider-landscape-fabric-carefully/

Encore® azaleas

Normally azaleas are just a forgotten green shrub in summer but the Encore® azaleas offer color even during the hottest times of the growing season. These selections may tolerate more sun but prefer to have some shade when temperatures are hot. Provide with supplemental water if rain is lacking but make sure that soil is well drained. Remember that these are acid loving plants so if soil pH is high, plants will struggle. Since these are repeat bloomers, the best time to prune is immediately after spring bloom but you may lightly prune in the summer to manage wayward growth.

Bright color in a little summer shade. Photo by Beth Bolles

Bright color in a little summer shade. Photo by Beth Bolles

There are many colors and sizes available at nurseries.

There are many colors and sizes available at nurseries.

Permanent link to this article: http://escambia.ifas.ufl.edu/lng/2016/07/22/encore-azaleas/

Care for New Zoysiagrass lawn

Newer zoysiagrass cultivars are becoming very popular for home lawns but there are a few care techniques that will help your zoysiagrass lawn keep it’s healthy appearance after establishment.

Empire zoysiagrass lawns are more common along the Gulf Coast

Empire zoysiagrass lawns are more common along the Gulf Coast

In general, zoysiagrass leaf blades have a high silica content which keeps the blades stiffer. This is desirable for the appearance of the lawn but it can result in mower blades becoming dull over the season. The result of a dull mower blade is a ragged turf appearance and a grass that can become more susceptible to stresses.  If you use a rotary mower, be sure to check mower blades frequently during the growing season and sharpen as needed.  You can easily look at the lawn after mowing to tell if the blades need sharpening.

Make sure you consistently mow the zoysiagrass to a height of about 1.5 inches. Keeping the grass too high can be as much of a problem as mowing too low.  It may be necessary to occasionally raise the mowing height if we experience drought but under normal rainfall, a uniform mowing height of about 1.5 inches keeps the lawn neat and healthy.

Zoysiagrass is a drought tolerant grass but in order to maintain an attractive lawn, water is required. In order to prevent excessive thatch buildup, make sure to only water when the lawn begins to show signs of drought stress.  Watering on a routine often leads to overwatering.  Learn how to water by visiting the UF Publication on When to Water.

Permanent link to this article: http://escambia.ifas.ufl.edu/lng/2016/06/28/964/

Know Your Patented Plants

Gardeners love to share plants. My yard, like many of my gardener friends, is filled with plant gifts that were started from a cutting or division of a favorite plant.  These two methods of growing new plants is fairly easy once you learn the techniques and allows gardeners a way to save a little money and grow more plants for their yard, special community projects, or even some fundraising events.

In our enthusiasm over a favorite plant, gardeners must be aware that we are not allowed to propagate certain plants from cuttings or division. Many of our ornamental plants, especially newer introductions are patented plants.  These are seen as ‘premium’ plants that will hopefully be in demand by the public.  The plant developer or nursery invests in the patent in hopes that the plant will become the next must have ornamental.  Only businesses or individuals with authorization from the patent holder are able to asexual propagate these plants.

So if you bought a beautiful Limelight hydrangea (Hydrangea paniculata ‘Limelight’ Plant patent #12,874) for your yard, you may not take a cutting to start a new plant, even if it is only for yourself.

 you must purchase it.

If you want more than one Limelight hydrangea for your yard, you must purchase it. Photo by Beth Bolles

When you visit the nursery, look on the plant label which will often indicate if the plant is patented. You may also look online to see if plant has a patent.

Permanent link to this article: http://escambia.ifas.ufl.edu/lng/2016/06/02/know-your-patented-plants/

Plant Tags

While purchasing some fruits for our gardens at Extension, I found some interesting varieties that would be fun for kids. On the tag it also stated that plants were GMO free. Since genetically engineered crops are such a hot topic, I thought it important to clarify this GMO free tag for homeowners.

All plants available to homeowners are GMO free.

All plants and seeds available for homeowner purchase are GMO free.

There are no genetically engineered fruits, vegetables, ornamentals, or seeds that are available to homeowners in any of the retail stores. Homeowners can not purchase genetically engineered food and feed crops . These are only available to commercial farmers who have specific contracts with the company producing these seeds.
Our role in Extension is to make available the current science of issues. If you have decided that genetically engineered food is an issue for you, please feel comfortable knowing that you will not be purchasing any genetically engineered transplants or seeds at any retail nursery markets.

Permanent link to this article: http://escambia.ifas.ufl.edu/lng/2016/05/03/plant-tags/

Beneficial Pyramid Ants

Believe it or not, there is a beneficial ant that is found in many landscapes.  If you see an interesting mound shaped like a small volcano, you likely have the pyramid ants.  These ants form small nests in sandy soils and the shape of the mound is pyramidal with a small opening in the very center.

Pyramid ant mound. Photo by Beth Bolles

Pyramid ant mound. Photo by Beth Bolles

Pyramid ants are not aggressive and do not sting.  They are fast moving over the ground building the mound and searching for food.  Ants will collect honeydew from other insects and the beneficial part is that ants hunt live insects including winged fire ants.  By allowing the pyramid ants to remain in parts of your landscape, you may reduce the numbers of fire ants that can establish in that area.

When you see the distinctive pyramid ant mounds, remember the beneficial role they play in keeping pest species in check.  Keep any baits away from these areas to protect the pyramid ants.

Small pyramid ant mounds. Photo by Beth Bolles

Small pyramid ant mounds. Photo by Beth Bolles

Permanent link to this article: http://escambia.ifas.ufl.edu/lng/2016/04/14/beneficial-pyramid-ants/

Solitary Bees are Back

The mining bees or adrenids are often seen in areas of landscapes that have little ground vegetation and loose soil. After mating, the female bee will excavate a very small tunnel in the ground that has several small cells attached to it.

Photo: Beth Bolles

Photo: Beth Bolles

The bee collects pollen and nectar to add to the cell and then lays a single egg in each cell. The emerging larvae feed on the nectar and pollen until it changes to an adult bee in the fall. There is only one generation a year. Although these solitary bees individually produce small nests, sometimes many will nest in close proximity to each other.

Photo: Beth Bolles

Photo: Beth Bolles

Solitary bees are not aggressive and stings are quite mild. Most solitary bees can be closely observed and will elicit no defensive behaviors. Perhaps the most common stings that occur are when the sweat bee, which is attracted to moisture, stings when swatted. Males of some solitary bees, which can not sting, will sometimes make aggressive-looking bluffing flights when defending a territory.

Like the most famous honey bee, solitary bees play a beneficial role in the pollination of plants. Their activity in the spring is short-lived and no management is necessary.

Permanent link to this article: http://escambia.ifas.ufl.edu/lng/2016/03/09/900/

Summer Weed Management

If summer annual weeds have been a problem for you in the past, now is the time to think about applying a pre emergent herbicide to the lawn.  You may choose a product with the active ingredient dithiopyr, pendamethalin, or prodiamine.  For best results apply a half rate now and the other half in six weeks.  Be sure not to over irrigate or you will wash the herbicide past the zone of the germinating weed seeds.  You really should not be watering the lawn now anyway.  Always read your label for safety precautions.

Crabgrass is a common summer annual weed.

Crabgrass is a common summer annual weed.

Permanent link to this article: http://escambia.ifas.ufl.edu/lng/2016/02/19/summer-weed-management/

Save the Crape Myrtles

Topping crape myrtles seems like a winter tradition but it does not have to be. Crape myrtles are trees that come in many forms and offer a variety of bloom colors. These generally carefree plants should be low maintenance and not generate debris for disposal. Before you decide to hard prune your crape myrtles, determine why you are pruning in this manner. Crape myrtles that are only selectively pruned have generally more flowers and less suckers than those that are severely pruned. Crape myrtles also provide nice shade in the summer and attractive bark and structure in the winter that is destroyed by hard pruning. Visit the Extension office Demonstration Garden to view selective pruning of our many crape myrtle varieties.

crape myrtle large

Crape myrtle can be an accent tree if left to develop without severe pruning.

Selectively pruned crape myrtles have attractive structure in the winter and provide shade in the summer.

Selectively pruned crape myrtles have attractive structure in the winter and provide shade in the summer.

Permanent link to this article: http://escambia.ifas.ufl.edu/lng/2016/02/02/save-the-crape-myrtles/

Garden Awareness

The up and down weather along the Gulf Coast means that gardeners need to consider more carefully some common pest management practices. When temps warm, bees are actively visiting flowers such as this Snow Drift camellia flower. If you have a pest problem on evergreen plants that you normally treat during the winter, choose a safe product that does not impact bees. Always be aware of our beneficial organisms and read labels carefully so we protect the environment.

Photo: Beth Bolles

Photo: Beth Bolles

Permanent link to this article: http://escambia.ifas.ufl.edu/lng/2016/01/27/garden-awareness/

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