Storm debris turned into holiday cheer in Bayou George. Photo: J_McConnell, UF/IFAS
By the time this article publishes, we will be more than 70 days since Hurricane Michael toppled or damaged an incredible number of trees in the Panhandle. Enormous piles of once stately shade trees line the streets in neighborhoods and business districts in. The cleanup efforts have been phenomenal, over 4 million cubic yards of storm debris picked up in Bay County to date, but there is still a long way to go in the recovery process.
So, as gardeners, how can you help our community get back on track amidst your own struggles to recover? A few Florida Friendly Landscaping™ Principles come to mind.
- #1 Right Plant, Right Place – as you rebuild your landscapes, make sure to choose the appropriate plant for the location. Consider mature size and give those plants space to thrive!
- #4 Mulch – do you have bare ground that will eventually become landscape beds or turf but no resources or time to replant yet? Consider mulching the area to keep soil from eroding and to help improve soil though decomposition of natural products. Hint – see Recycling for free sources!
- Mulch tips https://sfyl.ifas.ufl.edu/media/MulchBrochure.pdf
- keep mulch 12 inches from tree trunks
- recommended depth in beds or under dripline of tree canopy (excluding within 12” of trunk) is 2-3 inches
- leave an 18-24 inch buffer around building foundations mulch free to reduce conducive termite conditions
Dress up stumps with plants and whimsical designs. Photo: D_VanderMeer, UF/IFAS Master Gardener
#7 Recycle – driving around town I have seen some really creative uses for stumps, trunks, and branches that homeowners have constructed and messages of hope that bring a smile to my face. Another method of recycling is to use the chipped vegetative debris as mulch, either available as “utility mulch” by cities and counties or you may have some in your own yard right now.
- Utility mulch does come with some words of caution because there is an increased risk of introducing weeds to your landscape with untreated storm debris. However, if you need mulch for pathways or planting beds you will be helping your community’s cleanup effort by reducing waste accumulation. Just watch for “volunteer” plants and manage as needed.
In Bay County, there are 4 locations where you can load and haul off your own utility mulch from storm debris
- Under the Oaks Park – 5843 E. U.S. 98, Panama City, FL 32404
- G. Harder’s Park – 8110 John Pitts Rd., Panama City, FL 32401
- Chapman Park – 2526 Rollins Ave., Bayou George, FL 32404
- Laird Park – 6310 Laird Park Rd., Panama City, FL 3240
For sources in your county, check with your Solid Waste Department for utility mulch availability.
Finding professional landscape services for your home or business can be difficult. Unlike many skilled trades in Florida, landscapers/groundskeepers are mostly unregulated. No state exams exist to determine mastery of the basic skills required to perform lawn or landscape maintenance. Ultimately, consumers are left on their own to determine who to hire.
As UF/IFAS Extension Agents, we cannot endorse or provide referrals to companies; however, we can offer some guidance to help you with your search for qualified professionals.
- Be an informed consumer. You don’t have to be an expert in landscapes. Instead you should have an idea of what you envision for your landscape. Familiarize yourself with the type of turf grass and plants you want and learn what the basic maintenance is for their upkeep.
The Florida Friendly Landscaping™ program is a great place to start. Most Extension offices have free books on how to care for Florida landscapes. Or you can find online resources at www.floridayards.org
- Fertilizer and pesticide applications DO require state certifications.
Commercial landscape fertilizer applicators must obtain state certification.
- Fertilizer applicators for hire must maintain the Limited Urban Fertilizer Applicator Certification (Chapter 482.1562, Florida Statutes). Each applicator must have an individual certification. No one can “work under” another applicator’s certificate.
- Pesticide applicators (any substance applied with the intent to kill or inhibit growth of weeds, insects, nematodes, fungi, bacteria, etc.) have two options depending on application site and qualifications.
- Residential or commercial building turf pesticide applicators must hold the Commercial Lawn & Ornamental Pest Control License or be a current Employee Cardholder of the Certified Pest Control Operator
- Residential or commercial ornamental beds (trees, shrubs, flowers) pesticide applicators can hold either Commercial Lawn & Ornamental, as above, or Limited Commercial Landscape Maintenance Certification
- You can check to see if the applicator has a current certification by visiting http://aessearch.freshfromflorida.com/PersonSearch.asp You must enter the applicator’s legal name (name listed on his driver’s license, no nicknames) or their certification number (this will start with two letters)
- Ask about affiliations with professional organizations. Although landscapers are not required to obtain state certifications (excluding fertilizer and pesticide applicators), many take the extra steps to increase knowledge and keep up with industry standards and trends. Voluntary participation in organizations such as Florida Pest Management Association (FPMA), Florida Nursery, Growers and Landscape Association (FNGLA), Florida Turfgrass Association (FTGA), Tree Care Industry Association (TCIA), International Association of Arboriculture (ISA), etc. Some of these groups offer certification programs for professionals to help them increase knowledge.
- Word of mouth/observation. If you see a landscape that looks good, ask who they use and if they are pleased with their service. Talk to friends and colleagues for recommendations.
- Check references. Always ask for references and contact them. Yes, they may only give you the names of happy clients, but you can still ask questions to get a feel for the type of service offered and assess the longevity of the company.
Landscape professionals looking for certification classes should visit Green Industries in the Panhandle Upcoming Events page.
In 2016, I wrote an article for Gardening in the Panhandle called “Attract Pollinators with Dotted Horsemint” introducing readers to this tough native plant that supports native pollinators. If you have flowers in your garden, you probably have pollinators and a whole lot of other insects but if you want a plant that lets you observe a really diverse palate of bugs dotted horsemint Monarda punctata.
When I find I have some downtime at home I have a habit of wandering the yard looking for interesting insects. Admittedly, I usually have my phone in hand hoping to get a great photo or video of my arthropod visitors, but it is a productive task, too. As strange as it may sound, I can count this hobby as part of my integrated pest management landscape maintenance strategy – scouting!
My favorite plant to visit on my scouting run is normally not afflicted with pests, but it hosts so many different insects it always gets a stop on my rounds. When dotted horsemint is in full flower it is visited by a lot more than pollinators. I’ve recorded daily visits from assassin bugs, ants, beetles, flies, dragonflies, spiders, thread-waisted wasps, honey bees, butterflies, and moths.
Here’s a photo album of frequent visitors to my dotted horsemint from this summer – enjoy!
On June 6th, we held an Invasive Species Workshop: Air Potato Challenge and Species Awareness day at the UF/IFAS Extension Office in Panama City. Over 700 air potato leaf beetles were distributed to more than 30 sites in Northwest Florida by citizen scientists to help manage the invasive air potato vine!
We were joined by University of Florida Wildlife Ecology Professor, Dr. Steve Johnson, and representatives from Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), and Science and Discovery Center (SDC) of Northwest Florida. If you would like to learn more about topics covered at the workshop, please click on the videos below. We hope you enjoy and share!
Steve Johnson, UF/IFAS Extension, shares Exotic Invaders: Reptiles and Amphibians of Concern in Northwest Florida. (Updated June 7 2018 – 10AM CDT) http://www.eddmaps.org and http://ufwildlife.ifas.ufl.edu/steve_johnson.shtml
Rick O’Connor, UF/IFAS Extension, tells us about the ball python, a potential invasive species. Rick also provides an overview of keeping pythons and other snakes as pets. http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/pdffiles/UW/UW34100.pdf
Holli Nichols, FWC, tells us about the Wildlife Assistance program for homeowners and property owners. Holli helps out find solutions for negative encounters with Wildlife. Most problems are easily solved and she provides a few tips. Holli also tells us about the FWC Pet Amnesty Program for Exotic Pets. Watch to learn more. http://myfwc.com/conse…/you-conserve/assistnuisance-wildlife
Kira Burdeshaw, SCN of NW FL, shows off the tokay gecko we found at the Extension office on the front porch earlier in May. The Gecko moved in with Kira and her other reptiles at the Science and Discovery Center.
Kira Burdeshaw, SCN of NW FL, introduces us to Jewel the iguana and Eva, a boa contrictor. She also tells us more about the Science and Discovery Center in Northwest Florida. http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/pdffiles/IN/IN52800.pdf and http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/pdffiles/UW/UW34200.pdf
Mike Kennison, FWC, shares resources and efforts to manage lionfish in Florida waters. Learn more about this Summer’s Lionfish Challenge at http://myfwc.com/…/saltwater/recreational/lionfish/challenge
Derek Fussell with FWC Invasive Aquatic Plant Management talks about Giant Salvinia, a species of concern for Deer Point Lake in Bay County, Florida. Here’s a link to a story about the discovery of giant salvinia in Bay County from 2016 http://nwdistrict.ifas.ufl.edu/…/nisaw-2016-working…
Derek Fussell shares a behind the scene’s view of their new boat for controling aquatic plants in Bay County and Northwest Florida. We will visit with Derek and Jamie later and show some of the aquatic invasives they work to control everyday!
Scott Jackson and Julie McConnell, UF/IFAS, show Air Potato Beetles and discuss vine look-alikes. Schedule for the June 6, 2018 is briefly discussed. https://t.co/8c9KdV9Ezm More at https://t.co/gVh28N714E#airpotatochallenge #invasivespecies
Dr. Steve Johnson, UF/IFAS Associate Professor of Wildlife Ecology will be the featured speaker on June 6th
June 6th is a great day to learn about all types of invasive species that threaten natural areas in Northwest Florida!
The UF/IFAS Extension Bay County office will have multiple educational exhibits with living samples of species of concern from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. on Wednesday, June 6th. This is a multi-agency effort to inform citizens about the impact of invasive plants and animals and how they can help reduce introduction and spread. For full details see the Bay_Invasive Workshop Flyer
We are pleased to announce our partners Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and Science and Discovery Center of Northwest Florida will be on hand to share information about caring for exotic pets and current management plans for invasive species such as Lionfish, Aquatic Weeds, and how to surrender an animal on designated Pet Amnesty Days.
At noon there will be a special guest speaker for a bring your own lunch & learn “Exotic Invaders: Reptiles and Amphibians of Concern in NW FL.” Dr. Steven Johnson, UF/IFAS Associate Professor of Wildlife Ecology, will talk about exotic reptiles and amphibians we should be aware of that may occur in our area.
In the morning, we will be focusing on the invasive air potato vine with the distribution of air potato leaf beetles for biological control. Need air potato leaf beetles to manage the air potato vine on your property? Please register here http://bit.ly/bayairpotato to receive beetles – they will be distributed from 9 a.m. – noon on June 6th.
Learn more about the success of the Air Potato Biological Control program at http://bcrcl.ifas.ufl.edu/airpotatobiologicalcontrol.shtml