Most likely, we all have them-garden pots. These typically are made of plastic, clay or wood. Garden pots should be sanitized if they were previously used or if they exhibit signs of mold or fungal growth. Whether they are used as garden boxes, planters, or hanging baskets, the surfaces of garden pots can harbor disease organisms, along with unsightly stains and mineral salts deposits. Salts from hard water and fertilizers can leach though clay pots leaving a white film on the pot’s outer surface. Salts accumulation can become flaky and encrusted around the rim and drainage holes of plastic and clay containers.
Mold or fungal growth on an unglazed terra-cotta (clay) pot Photo Credits: Alex Bolques, FAMU Research
To clean clay or plastic containers, use a brush or fine steel wool to remove dirt and debris and wash with a liquid soap detergent. If stains persist, consider using a 50:50 solution of water and vinegar. To sterilize clay or plastic pots, soak them in a mild solution of bleach, 1:10 bleach to water, for about 30 minutes. Then, immerse them in clean water and allow them to dry completely. Containers made of wood are different. If the timber that they are made of is not treated properly, they tend to rot and can harbor disease spores or bacteria. It is best to replace these as they show signs of wear or deterioration. Sanitizing your garden pots will help you avoid unwanted disease problems and unsightly garden container pots.
Late summer brings hot, humid temperatures, and many Floridians are retreating from the heat into their air-conditioned homes. Unfortunately, those comforts of home also come with a price tag. When people think about energy efficiency, practices like turning off lights, purchasing energy-efficient appliances, good insulation and windows, and managing A/C temperature settings are the first things that come to mind. These are very important steps to take, not only to save money but also to conserve energy. The US Department of Energy has an excellent publication that can take you step-by-step through a home evaluation, and many energy companies offer a similar walk-through energy audit for free.
However, there are many best management practices that can be done outdoors to offset expensive home power bills. Planting trees is one example. Department of Energy studies have shown that when compared to a home in full sun, a shaded home may experience up to a 25% decrease in energy for cooling.
This home uses passive cooling from a front porch and numerous shade trees. Photo credit: Carrie Stevenson
Trees planted to shade eastern and western facing walls of your home can be the most effective, as these areas receive direct sun in the morning and afternoon. By preventing heat from entering your home, you prevent straining an air conditioning system that would otherwise have to counteract that heat. It is also helpful to provide shade over an air conditioning unit. Deciduous trees are ideal, as they have leaves to provide shade in the summer but drop them by winter, when you might want sunlight to passively heat your home.
In addition to shade, transpiration—the process of plants emitting moisture as they release water from leaf pores—creates cool spaces around vegetation. Grasses and shrubs along the edges of a home, or vines on nearby trellises, can cool walls and windows in this manner.
Finally, consider sprinkler systems. A home irrigation system can use a significant amount of energy to pump water throughout your yard. Calibrating your system and even reducing run time or frequency can also conserve water and reduce water bills.
For more information on energy-efficient landscaping, please visit www.myfloridahomeenergy.com or contact your local Extension office.
Deer are known to eat daylilies in the landscape. To prevent browsing, choose other plants or create a barrier with deer fencing.
Any seasoned gardener knows that even a well maintained garden will eventually face a pest issue. Pests come in all shapes and sizes and may include weeds, disease, insects, moles, rabbits, birds, and deer. Although some gardeners may invite wildlife into their gardens when that adorable deer eats your prized hydrangea it tends to lose the cuteness factor.
Regardless of what type of pest issue you are facing, the only way to establish a successful control program is to correctly identify and understand some basic things about the pest. Incorrect assumptions or misidentification can lead to taking the wrong action and may even cause more harm to plants.
Some things to know about your pest (after identification):
- Preferred host or target plant – diversify landscapes to minimize susceptibility to each pest.
- Feeding/damage caused – is it just aesthetic or will it cause long-term harm?
- For rapidly reproducing pests such as insects or fungi, what is the timing of new generations? For example, if you eliminate adult insects expect that eggs are waiting to hatch – you need to know when to retreat.
- What natural enemies might help reduce populations and how can they be preserved?
- Be sure to match control methods with pest behavior and activity. For example, if you want to use an insecticidal soap on azalea lace but you need to know that they feed from the underside of the leaf in order to properly coat them with the product.
Take the time to get to know the pest in your backyard and management efforts will be much more effective. For help with identification and control, contact your local extension office.
Native plants can more readily be found in local nurseries to enhance landscape plantings. Not all natives are suited to every habit so it is still important to match the plant’s requirements with a suitable area in the landscape.
One low maintenance native that is more suited to a specific area is the landscape is the Gamma or Fakahatchee grass (Tripsacum dactyloides and T. floridana). This clumping perennial grass grows best in moist or even boggy soils. It has attractive green foliage and upright flower stems that appear in mid summer. Although the flowers are not very significant, they do have a red color when viewed up close.
The Eastern gamma grass can grow five feet in height so many gardeners prefer the dwarf version that reaches about 2-3 feet in height. Plant in areas of full sun or partial shade as a specimen plant or use in a mass of three or five.
In areas that receive colder temperatures, gamma grass can add fall interest to the garden. Leaves will change to a shade of red with first frost and plants can die back to the ground during freezing winters. New growth returns in the spring. Basic maintenance includes pruning back in the spring.
July always brings the blessing of abundant figs on my trees. A new crop waits to be picked and enjoyed every day for nearly a month. The tender sweet fruit can be enjoyed fresh, prepared into jams or used in a myriad of recipes.
Ripe figs ready to pick. Photo credit: Mary Derrick, UF/IFAS Extension.
The fig (Ficus carica) is native to Asia Minor and the Mediterranean regions of the world and has been cultivated for an estimated 7,000 years. Spanish explorers brought the fig with them to Florida in 1575 and it has had a presence here ever since. Since the fig is adapted to a dry climate in its native regions, the humidity it encountered in Florida can cause fruit to split; but new cultivars have been developed to minimize this problem.
Fig trees usually grow to a maximum of 25 feet and have large bright green leaves that fall in the autumn. Fruit develops from June to August, depending on the chosen cultivar.
The large fig leaves are quite ornamental. Photo credit: Mary Derrick, UF/IFAS Extension.
Choose a spot for planting a fig tree that receives full sun and good drainage. Once established, figs are drought tolerant and only need supplemental irrigation if we have an extended drought. No structural pruning is required but you can prune to keep the tree from growing so tall that you cannot pick the delicious fruit. Be sure to do your pruning just after the fruit is gone as the fruit develops on the terminal ends of the branches from last year’s growth.
Many figs grow and fruit sufficiently without applied fertilizer, however, a light fertilization with a 10-10-10 with micronutrients can be helpful for small trees getting established and those with reduced fruiting. Young trees can benefit from a ½ pound three to five times from February to August while large trees could use up to 4 pounds per application on the same schedule.
There are a few pests that do damage figs; the most common, though, are the birds and squirrels that get the fruit before you do. Seldom do figs need to be sprayed when grown in the home garden.
For more information:
Fig nutrition facts and recipes