Call 811 before you dig. No one wants a weekend project to be the cause of Internet, phone and cable outages. Worse yet, what if someone gets hurt from contact with natural gas or electrical lines? That’s why it is so important to have buried utilities in the yard located and marked before digging. Sunshine 811 coordinates each individual company to clearly mark where the service lines are located. Homeowners are required by law to contact 811 three days before any soil removal is done. The service is free.
Have information prepared before making the request. Describe the work to be performed (e.g. fence install, landscaping, irrigation install), including the type of equipment that will be used. Specify the exact location on the property and how long the work will continue. Finally, provide all the contact information (e.g. name, phone number, e-mail), should there be any additional questions.
Call 811 or request a single address ticket online. Receive a ticket number and wait two full business days, not counting weekends or holidays. Then contact 811 again. Make sure that all the utilities have responded in the Positive Response System (PRS). Sometimes that may mean that the company doesn’t have anything to make in the area.
If there are utility lines running through the yard, they will be marked with specifically colored paints or flags. Red is used for electrical lines, orange indicates communication lines, yellow means gas, blue is used for potable water, purple is reclaimed water, and green indicates sewer lines. White lines may be used to outline digging areas and pink are temporary survey marks. This is the APWA Uniform Color Code.
Every effort is made to locate the lines as accurately as possible. But, the safest thing to do is hand dig to expose the utility line before using any mechanized equipment. Lines can vary up to 24” from the marked line and depths can be less than 5”. Remember there may be access lines running through the property even if that service isn’t utilized at that address.
Keep safe this spring. Call 811 before digging.
Partly uprooted tree from hurricane. Photo credit: Larry Williams
Hurricane damaged plants should be cared for as soon as possible. Partially uprooted small trees and shrubs should be securely staked in their original positions. Until plants are reset, protect exposed roots and prevent drying. Soil, moist burlap sacks or moist sphagnum moss can be put on exposed roots. Remove damaged roots so the tree can be reset at ground level.
Once reset, trees should be secured. Two or three, four-foot long, 2 x 2 inch wood stakes can usually anchor trees with trunk diameters less than two inches. Stakes should be placed about a foot outside root ball and inserted eighteen inches into soil. Secure stakes to trunk with ties made from wide, smooth material or hose-covered wire. Trees two inches or larger in diameter should be guyed with three or four wires or cables. Guy wires are secured to deeply driven short stakes evenly spaced outside the root ball. Guy wires should be run through rubber hose and secured to trunk at only one level. Mark support wires with bright materials to prevent accidents.
Guy wires should be adjusted several times during growing season to minimize trunk injury. Support stakes and wires should stay in place for one year.
Soil should be filled around root area once the tree is staked into position. Firm around roots to eliminate air pockets and provide support. Excess soil over the normal root area can be damaging. Only replace soil that has been washed or worked away from roots.
In cases where all branches were destroyed, remove the tree. This is especially important for trees such as pine that do not normally regain their natural form. You may be able to keep other trees such as oaks, where strong bottom limbs still exist. However, emerging sprouts from ends of large, cut limbs will be poorly secured to the tree and are likely to fall from the tree during a storm. In addition, decay organisms usually enter these large wounds. Trees and shrubs that lost their leaves from high winds can usually be saved and should resume growth.
Any tree work, including tree removal should be done by a professional arborist, preferably a certified arborist. To find a certified arborist in your area contact the International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) at 217 355-9411 or at http://www.isa-arbor.com/. You also may contact the Florida Chapter of ISA at 941-342-0153 or at http://www.floridaisa.org/.
Reset plants should be watered twice a week and fertilizer should not be applied. Until re-established, fertilizer will be of no benefit and may injure new roots.
Plants exposed to saltwater, including lawns, should be irrigated with fresh water as soon as possible. Apply water more frequently than under normal conditions.
For additional information, visit http://sfyl.ifas.ufl.edu/disaster-prep-and-recovery or contact the UF/IFAS Extension Office in your county.
Although it has been very hot this summer throughout the Florida Panhandle, many areas have been blessed with afternoon showers several day in a row. Historically, this has been the typical Northwest Florida weather pattern known as the ‘Dog Days’.
Yet, many landscape sprinkler systems were still running. One has to ask, “Where are all the rain shut-off devices?”. Florida is one of just a few states with a rain sensor statute. Since May 1991, new installations of irrigation systems have been required to include a rain shut-off device. However, no wording was included to cover installation or maintenance. The 2010 statute change now states the following: “Any person who operates an automatic landscape system shall properly install, maintain and operate technology that inhibits or interrupts operation of the system during periods of sufficient moisture.” (Florida Statute 373.62).
Thus, ALL automatic landscape irrigation systems require rain sensors, or other shut-off devices such as soil moisture sensor irrigation controllers. No “grandfather clause” was included for existing systems. Regardless of when it was installed, every sprinkler system must have an operational rain shut-off device. Irrigation contractors can be fined for working on a system without checking out and/or connecting a device.
Moisture sensing technology conserves water, saves money, reduces wear on irrigation system components, reduces disease and helps protect water resources from runoff. Previous research has shown that homeowners using in-ground, automatic irrigation systems, typically in Florida, apply 47% more water for landscape irrigation than homeowners without automatic irrigation systems. This over-irrigation is largely due to a “set it and forget it” mentality despite seasonal fluctuations in plant water needs. If the water costs and the amount of water applied per watering cycle are known, it is easy to calculate how much money is being saved each time the sensor interrupts the program. For example, if a system irrigates ½ acre of turf and is set to deliver ½ inch of water to each zone, approximately 13,576 gallons of water will be used during each watering event. If the cost of the water is $2.00 per thousand gallons, every time the sprinkler system comes on the water bill will be $27.15. A significant amount of money and water can be saved by maintaining a rain shut-off device.
Irrigation is common in Florida landscapes because of sporadic rainfall and the low water holding capacity of sandy soils. Water conservation is a growing issue due to increased demands from a growing population. The least expensive and most common rain sensor device is the expansion disk rain shut-off. Expanding cork disks trigger a pressure switch. The expansion space can be easily adjusted by rotation of the disk cover to a predetermined amount of rain required to trigger the switch. The amount of rain that will interrupt the irrigation system is marked on the adjustment cap. A rain sensor must be mounted where it will be exposed to unobstructed rainfall, typically installed near the roofline on the side of a building.
Irrigation control technology that improves water application efficiency is now available. Soil moisture sensors (SMS) can reduce the number of unnecessary irrigation events. Most soil moisture sensors are designed to estimate soil volumetric water content based on the soil’s ability to transmit electricity, which increases as the water content of the soil increases. Bypass type soil moisture irrigation controllers use water content information from the sensor to either allow or bypass scheduled irrigation cycles on the irrigation timer. Another type of control technique with SMS devices is “on-demand” where the controller initiates irrigation at a low threshold and terminates irrigation at a high threshold. A single sensor can be used to control the irrigation for many zones or multiple sensors can be used to irrigate individual zones. In the case of one sensor for several zones, the zone that is normally the driest, or most in need of irrigation, is selected for placement of the sensor in order to ensure adequate irrigation in all zones. Sensors should be buried in the root zone of the plants to be irrigated. For turfgrass, the sensor should typically be buried at about three inches deep. The placement of SMS should be at least 5 feet from hard surfaces and sprinkler heads. The sensor needs to be calibrated and/or the soil water content threshold needs to be selected.
The amount of water that can be saved using rain shut-off devices is substantial since water use increases substantially during summer months. Remember that every drop that hits the ground will be picking up pollutants as it flows to our groundwater. Nonpoint source pollution is the leading cause of water quality problems. These pollutants have harmful effects on drinking water supplies, recreation, fisheries and wildlife. By only irrigating when the soil needs it, you are also preventing contamination of drinking water.
This article is being reissued as part of our ‘Best Of” series, from August 2013 .
Each time I travel to central and south Florida and observe the wonderfully flamboyant tropical flora, I am reminded of the unique and frustrating climatic characteristics of Northwest Florida. Our weather is tropical enough through the summer to sustain virtually everything our friends to the south grow, but winters north of the Big Bend are just cold enough to prevent long-term success with most tropical species. However, the genus that is maybe most synonymous with tropical color, the Hibiscus (it even has its own texting emoji!), contains several species that are hardy through our winters. The best landscape plant of these hardy Hibiscus species is creatively (sarcasm) called Hardy Hibiscus or Giant Rose Mallow (Hibiscus moscheutos) and is an absolute star in the Panhandle, bringing the beauty of the tropics to your yard!
Hibiscus ‘Starry Starry Night’ – Photo courtesy Daniel Leonard
Rose Mallow is a native perennial species that occurs in sunny wetlands across the eastern U.S. This species can grow 7-8’ in height in its natural, unimproved state and possesses the largest flowers of any hardy perennial, some varieties easily eclipse 12” in diameter. Rose Mallows bloom through the heat of our long summers and return reliably each winter unfazed by frost. The flowers also happen to be a favorite of butterflies and hummingbirds and bring beneficial wildlife to the landscape. These characteristics and the trend towards the use of pollinator friendly, low-maintenance native perennials in landscapes quickly made Rose Mallow a jewel for plant breeders and now virtually all major horticultural brands have a line of Hardy Hibiscus available at garden centers, in varying sizes, flower color and leaf color/form. Recent breeding efforts have focused on introducing plants with enormous, richly colored flowers held on compact plants with attractive foliage. The results have yielded two series and three individual cultivars that I consider superior selections and are more than worthy of inclusion in your garden:
- Summerific® Series by Proven Winners. This series is comprised of four robust (up to 5’ in height) cultivars, ‘Cherry Cheesecake’ (bicolor magenta and white flowers), ‘Berry Awesome’ (purplish lavender flowers), ‘Cranberry Crush’ (a red you really have to see to believe), and ‘Perfect Storm’ (notable for its deep purple foliage).
- Luna Series by Monrovia. This series is notable for its ultra-compact (3’ in height or less) size and characteristically large flowers. It is also composed of four cultivars, ‘Luna Red’ (deep red), ‘Luna Blush’ (white, fading to pink near flower margins), ‘Luna Pink Swirl’ (pictured and my favorite, bicolor swirly flowers), and ‘Luna White’ (white with a red center).
Hibiscus ‘Luna Pink Swirl’ – Photo courtesy Daniel Leonard
- ‘Starry Starry Night’ by Walter’s Gardens. (Pictured) This cultivar combines dark purple to black leaves with swirled pale and dark pink flowers. It has performed very well in my landscape and if I could only grow one, this might be it.
- ‘Lord Baltimore.’ The classic, large growing cultivar with bright red flowers that is widely available and easily found. An oldie (introduced in 1955) but a goodie.
- ‘Midnight Marvel’ by Walter’s Gardens. A “hot off the press” new cultivar that is currently difficult to find due to popularity, though some online outlets have them available in small sizes. This one is worth your patience. Sporting deep red blooms on near black foliage, there’s nothing else like it in the landscape.
In addition to being gorgeous plants, Rose Mallows are extremely versatile in the landscape and could not be easier to grow. Because the size varies so greatly (from the diminutive 30” tall ‘Luna’ series to the 8’ tall unimproved species), there really is a place for one in every garden. I like to use the smaller cultivars in large containers to facilitate moving them around where their floral display has the greatest impact or to create a tropical effect where in ground plantings are not an option (pool decks, patios, etc). The larger cultivars make spectacular specimen plantings in perennial and shrub beds and even make a really dense, striking hedge (just know they disappear in the winter). Be sure to give them as much sun as possible, as this will enhance the number of flowers on each plant and darken the foliage on the cultivars with purplish/black leaves. Too little sun will result in fewer flowers and lighter green foliage. As wetland plants, Rose Mallows enjoy regular water, either from rainfall or irrigation; they will let you know when they need it – their large leaves readily wilt under drought stress, somewhat like Hydrangea.
For low-maintenance, native, pollinator friendly, cold-hardy tropical color, you need look no further than Rose Mallow. These perennial shrubs come in all sizes and colors and fit any landscape! Look for the above listed series and cultivars at better garden centers and online retailers and enjoy the oohs and ahhs elicited when people first get a glimpse of Hardy Hibiscus in your landscape! Happy Gardening!
Are you interested in growing squash in your garden? Do you know the difference between summer squash and winter squash? Check out this very informative instructional video on growing squash in your home garden by Walton County Agriculture Agent Evan Anderson.
Camellias are a Panhandle favorite, as the flowers can highlight a landscape with bright, vibrant colors in fall and winter. However, spring time can bring about these colors in a negative way, in the form of leaf gall.
The camellia is native to Asia and brought to America in the late 1700’s. These plants have proven to be a dependable addition to the southern landscape with minimal care. When camellias are correctly planted and cared for, minimal disease problems arise. However, camellias can contract leaf spot, dieback, root rot and bud and leaf gall.
Camellia Gall Credit: Patty Dunlap, Gulf County Master Gardener.
Leaf and bud galls are caused by the fungus Exobasidium vaccinia. The gall appears as thickened, waxy and enlarged leaves or buds during the cool spring months. One or several leaves on a single shoot may be affected. Once you’ve found infected leaves, no chemical control will be effective. Actually, no fungicide has been found very effective in combatting this condition. However, control can be accomplished in the home garden by simply pinching off and destroying infected leaves. Disease activity usually stops with warmer weather. A best management practice to curb infection is to reduce overhead watering during cool, wet weather periods of spring. Great news, this condition does not cause any long-term issues with the plant.
For more information regarding fungal issues in landscape plants, contact your local county extension office.
Fun camellia fact: The young leaves of the species, Camellia sinensis, are processed for tea, one of the world’s most popular drinks. Please see UF/IFAS EDIS publication, “Tea Growing in the Florida Landscape” by Jonathan H. Crane and Carlos F. Balerdi: http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/pdffiles/HS/HS30800.pdf
Supporting information for this article can be found in the UF/IFAS EDIS publication, “Camellias at a Glance” by Sydney Park Brown: http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/pdffiles/EP/EP00200.pdf
UF/IFAS Extension is an Equal Opportunity Institution.