A Robotic Mower Debuts at the Gulf Coast Turfgrass Expo & Field Day

A new research project at the West Florida Research and Education Center in Jay, FL is looking into the quality of turfgrass cut with a robotic mower.  The study is to determine whether the quality of St. Augustinegrass can be improved by continuous mowing with a robotic mower at 2.4″ height instead of the traditional mowing height of 3.5″, removing only a third of leaf blade material per mowing.

Dr. Shaddox discusses the Miimo mower.

Dr. Shaddox talking to participants at the 2018 Gulfcoast Expo & Turfgrass Field Day. Photo Credit: Matt Lollar, University of Florida/IFAS Extension.

The mower being tested is the Miimo manufactured by Honda.  This particular model mows and charges on its own and can mow up to 0.37 acres on one charge.  It can mow in three programmable cutting patterns: directional; random; or mixed.  The study is utilizing the random cutting pattern.

Miimo Mower Docking

A Miimo Mower pulling into its docking station. Photo Credit: American Honda Motor Company, Inc.

The mower’s three, two-sided blades are mounted on a circular head that can rotate both clockwise and counter-clockwise.  The head automatically switches between clockwise and counter-clockwise rotation to reduce wear on the blades.  The blades are basically just two-sided razor blades.  A buried guide wire is installed on the perimeter of the lawn to serve as a boundary.

Mower Blades

A close-up shot of the Miimo mower blades. Photo Credit: Matt Lollar, University of Florida/IFAS Extension.

So far, the plots cared for by the robotic mower look promising!  The blades on the robot are much finer than those found on a common rotary mower.  Because of this, they cut more cleanly and tend to tear the grass blades less often than the rotary mower.  Other robotic mowers on the market include the Worx Landroid, Husqvarna Automower, and Bosch Indego.  Please stay tuned for future robotic mower evaluations on other products, energy consumption, and nutrient evaluation.

April is National Safe Digging Month!

April is National Safe Digging Month!

This month, recognized by the Senate and Florida’s governor, reminds diggers why calling 811 before all outdoor digging projects is important to your safety. Before installing a mailbox, fence, deck, garden or tree make sure to call Sunshine 811 to have underground lines marked. 811 is the free national number designated by the Federal Communications Commission.  It notifies utility companies, who in turn send their professional locators to identify and mark the appropriate location of underground line with paint and flags in colors that identify the utility type.  The following colors represent the seven various utilities: red, orange, blue, green, yellow, purple and white.  To see which colors correspond with each utility go to: http://www.call811.com/faqs/default.aspx.

 

Hitting an underground utility line while digging can cause injuries, utility service outages to an entire neighborhood and damage to the environment. Failure to call before digging results in one unintentional utility hit every eight minutes nationwide.  You could also be financially affected with costly fines and high repair costs.

 

Calling 811 in Florida is the law. At least two full business days before digging, do-it yourselfers and professional excavators must contact 811 by phone to start the process of getting underground utility lines marked.  This is a free service.  Be sure that all utilities have been marked before grabbing the shovel.  Follow up on your one call ticket by contacting 811 again on the third day.  For more information on Florida’s law, visit www.Sunshine811.com.

Landscape Pruning

Properely pruned plants will produce vigroous new growth and ample new flowers. While these roses were pruned in February, it will be time to prune azaleas right after bloom.

Properely pruned plants will produce vigroous new growth and ample new flowers. Even though these roses were pruned in February, soon it will be time to prune azaleas, right after they finish their bloom.

Pruning is something all homeowners and landscapers know is one of the many chores to be completed in the landscape. Everyone recognizes that pruning needs to be done on occasion, but it can be confusing to know how to prune the variety of species that can be in a landscape. There are some simplistic principles that can be followed while pruning.

Reasons for pruning:

  1. Training – to form good structure or good branching.
  2. Maintain plant vigor
  3. Control plant form and size
  4. Influence plant flowering and fruit

When to prune?

Several factors need to be considered when deciding the proper time to prune.  If the plant species has a showy  bloom to then consider the time of year it blooms. Some landscape plants flower on last years growths, therefore must be pruned following bloom time just before the flower buds are set for next year (ex. azaleas, spireas, and dogwoods).  Plants grown with little regard to blooms, such as foliage plants like hollies, can be pruned from January to late Summer.

Learn More:

the following are great extension publications on pruning.  read these to learnt he finer details of pruning so you can become an expert.  Always remember to call your local extension office if you have any questions regarding pruning.

UF/IFAS – Pruning Landscape Shrubs and Trees

Alabama Cooperative Extension – Pruning Ornamental Plants

UF/IFAS Pruning website

Dig Safely: Call 811

This month, recognized by the Senate and Florida’s governor, reminds diggers why calling 811 before all outdoor digging projects is important to your safety. Before installing a mailbox, fence, deck, garden or tree make sure to call Sunshine 811 to have underground lines marked. 811 is the free national number designated by the Federal Communications Commission.  It notifies utility companies, who in turn send their professional locators to identify and mark the appropriate location of underground line with paint and flags in colors that identify the utility type.  The following colors represent the seven various utilities: red – electric, orange – communications (telephone, cable tv), blue – potable water, green – sewer, yellow – gas, purple – reclaimed water, and white – site of intended excavation.  To learn more about color designation and their corresponding  utility go to: http://www.call811.com/faqs/default.aspx.   Locating marks are good for 30 calendar days.  Any work beyond that requires another call to 811.  If the marks are destroyed before your project is done, stop digging and call 811.

 

Hitting an underground utility line while digging can cause injuries.   Utility service outages can also impact an entire neighborhood and damage the environment. The depth of utility lines varies, and there may be multiple utility lines in one common area.  Even if you think you know where an underground line is, time tends to change things.  Erosion or tree roots can shift those utility lines.  Failure to call before digging results in one unintentional utility hit every eight minutes nationwide.  You could also be financially affected with costly fines and high repair costs.

 

The Common Ground Alliance (CGA) Damage Information Reporting Tool (DIRT) provides industry stakeholders with a way to anonymously submit data into a comprehensive database for analysis of the factors that lead to events. An event is defined by the CGA DIRT User’s Guide as “the occurrence of downtime, damages, and near misses.” The number of events submitted to DIRT for 2011 totaled 207,779. However, according to CGA DIRT “when a call is made to the one call center (811) prior to excavation, 99% of the time there will be no damage”.

 

Calling 811 in Florida is the law. At least two full business days before digging, do-it yourselfers and professional excavators must contact 811 by phone to start the process of getting underground utility lines marked.  This is a free service.  Be sure that all utilities have been marked before grabbing the shovel.  If you don’t see locate marks, don’t assume there are no underground utility lines.  Verify with the Sunshine 811 Positive Response system.  Follow up on your one call ticket by contacting 811 again on the third day.  Sunshine State One Call is a not for profit corporation which began with the 1993 adoption of the “Underground Facility Damage Prevention and Safety Act,” Chapter 556, Florida Statutes.  Online you can visit: www.online811.com, or call (800) 852-8057.  If you provide a valid e-mail when requesting your locate ticket, positive response updates will automatically be sent to you when all utilities have responded.  For more information on Florida’s law, visit www.Sunshine811.com.

Choosing a Lawn Maintenance Company

Choosing a Lawn Maintenance Company

UF/IFAS File Photo

Lawns in northwest Florida are really starting to get going early this year. It is early March but feels much later in the year and many feel behind on their lawn maintenance and various other landscape chores. Maybe it is time to think about hiring a lawn maintenance company to do the job for you. Keep in mind a few tips while trying to decide which company you will hire.

  1. Lawn Maintenance and Landscape companies are NOT required to have a “professional license” in order to operate their business. This means anyone can start a lawn maintenance company whether they have experience or not. All it takes is a quick visit to the tax collectors office to get a tax receipt. This fact should make you want to go the extra mile to be sure you receive excellent service.

    Photo Credits: UF/IFAS File Photo

  2. Make sure the company chosen has the proper amount of liability insurance.
  3. There are licenses required for specific services, such as applying fertilizers or pesticides. Check with the company to be sure that the pesticide or fertilizer applicator will be properly licensed to do the job required. Here is a list of licenses to be aware of while choosing a lawn service:
  4. Receive several quotes from different companies to compare pricing structures and rates. Ask for a very detailed quote. Communicate your needs accurately. Some companies will be better suited for a simple “mow and blow” job while others specialize in a full service job.
  5. Interview the company and be sure they follow University of Florida recommended mowing heights, fertilization rates, etc.* Quiz them on the subject to be sure they are familiar with properly maintaining landscapes.

There are a lot of really good Landscape and Lawn Maintenance professionals working in Northwest Florida. If you take some time while searching you will find a really good company who can help with beautifying your lawn and landscape.

 

*Call your local extension office to get the recommended mowing heights, fertilization rates, etc.

So You Want to be a Farmer? Workshop Series

So You Want to be a Farmer? Workshop Series

Are you an avid gardener and looking to step it up a notch? Are your gardening eyes bigger than your dinner plate? If you have ever considered selling your bounty for market, you will certainly need to do your homework! One such step you can take is to attend the UF/IFAS Panhandle Extension Team’s So You Want to be a Farmer? Workshop Series.

There’s a lot to know if you want to get into this business! This series aims to introduce new or potential farmers to innovative and environmentally safe production practices, concepts of soil and water management, integrated pest management, how to grow for a farmers’ market, and farm financial management.

Agricultural professionals are actually in high demand. There is an estimated 60,000 highly skilled jobs in agriculture available annually, but only about half of these positions are being filled by graduates in agricultural fields. Additionally, Florida’s farmers are an aging group, and there was an 8% decrease in the number of farms and 26% decrease in acres of cropland from 2002 to 2012.

Fortunately, demand has greatly increased in recent years for locally produced specialty crops, meats, and dairy. There has also been an increase in the number of direct marketing opportunities and small farmers have been able to adopt new technologies, such as season extension techniques and local online marketing, to generate more revenue on small acreages.

The UF/IFAS Extension Panhandle Agriculture Team is hosting the So You Want to be a Farmer? Workshop Series to assist beginning or novice farmers as they navigate the many challenges of getting started.

If you are interested in attending, please register on the So You Want to be a Farmer? Eventbrite page. The cost is $10 per session, with sessions at multiple locations within the east Florida Panhandle.

Please see workshop dates and further details below: