Landscape Fabric: A Good Option for Controlling Weeds?

Landscape Fabric: A Good Option for Controlling Weeds?

Gardeners are always fighting the endless weeds that pop up in landscape and flower beds. When homeowners put in a new landscape bed and want to prevent future weed invasions, many think that putting down landscape fabric is a great way to keep the weeds from emerging and protect the newly planted trees, shrubs or perennials.

An example of failure of landscape fabric to control weeds less than 2 years after planting. Note the peeking through at the edges. Photo credit: Mary Salinas, UF/IFAS Extension.

Is Landscape fabric a good choice? Why or why not?

If landscape fabric is not covered up, sunlight will degrade the fabric. When mulch is placed on top of the fabric (and we all do want to cover it up – the fabric is not very attractive) the mulch breaks down into soil. Inevitably, weed seeds blow in and settle and germinate and grow on top of landscape fabric. And here you are with a weed problem. Weeds also find their way into the openings cut for desirable plants and along the edge of the fabric.

Landscape fabric is porous when put in place to allow water to pass through, but as time passes, the pores can get clogged and water penetration is restricted – rain and irrigation runs off and the plants you meant to protect are not getting the water they need.

Maybe the worst effect is that the landscape fabric creates unfavorable soil conditions. A healthy soil is key to good plant health. One thing soil needs to have is an exchange of carbon dioxide and oxygen between the soil and the atmosphere. Recent studies from Washington State University demonstrated that gas movement between the soil and the atmosphere is restricted about 1,000 times more when landscape fabric is present than when areas have only wood mulch.

So, if landscape fabric is not a good choice, what is?

Mulch made from wood, bark, fallen leaves and pine needles. See Gardening Solutions: Mulch for sustainable ideas.

 

For more information:

Improving Weed Control in Landscape Planting Beds

2019 Panhandle Fruit and Vegetable Conference: Seeking to Bridge the Agricultural Gap

2019 Panhandle Fruit and Vegetable Conference: Seeking to Bridge the Agricultural Gap

Join UF/IFAS Extension on October 2 and 3 for the 2019 Panhandle Fruit and Vegetable Conference. Not only will participants get the opportunity to learn about some of the most current innovations in fruit, nut, and vegetable production; marketing and business; and alternative enterprises in the southeast; they will also have the pleasure of hearing the keynote address from Dr. Cary Rivard, an Associate Professor, Extension Specialist, and Director of the Kansas State Research and Extension Center.

The 2019 Panhandle Fruit and Vegetable Conference keynote speaker is Dr. Cary Rivard, an Associate Professor, Extension Specialist, and Director of the Kansas State Research and Extension Center.

The 2019 Panhandle Fruit and Vegetable Conference keynote speaker is Dr. Cary Rivard, an Associate Professor, Extension Specialist, and Director of the Kansas State Research and Extension Center.

Dr. Cary Rivard knows the horticultural and agricultural industries well, as he grew up helping his parents operate a greenhouse business in Kansas City, Missouri. Embracing his family roots, he received his Bachelor of Science degree in agricultural science and biology from Truman State University and his Master of Science and doctorate degrees in plant pathology from North Carolina State University.

But Dr. Rivard knows not everyone gets to grow up witnessing the importance of the agricultural industry firsthand, nor does everyone study agricultural sciences in pursuit of educational degrees. Therefore, throughout Dr. Rivard’s career, he has sought projects that work to connect urban communities with agriculture. As we all know, technological innovations in the 21st century have connected communities in more ways than we could have ever imagined. Yet, it seems a disconnect has arisen among the people in these communities and the food they eat and the farmers who grow that food. But Dr. Rivard sees this disconnect as opportunity. He knows it is agricultural and horticultural leaders – both university specialists and farmers – who can bridge the gap between urban communities and the agricultural products on which they, knowingly or unknowingly, truly rely.

At the Panhandle Fruit and Vegetable Conference, Dr. Rivard will discuss his mission to connect urban communities and agriculture, including his work coordinating the Growing Growers Kansas City program, which provides education to new and experienced growers through farm apprenticeships and an annual workshop series. In addition to speaking as the 2019 Panhandle Fruit and Vegetable Conference keynote speaker, Dr. Rivard will also present one of the conference sessions, where he will discuss his effort to integrate crop diversity and crop rotations into high tunnel production systems.

Register to attend the UF/IFAS Extension 2019 Panhandle Fruit and Vegetable Conference and Post-Conference Tour on Eventbrite (https://panhandlefv2019.eventbrite.com). The main conference will be held on October 2 at the Emerald Coast Convention Center in Fort Walton Beach, Florida. The post-conference tour on October 3 will be a great chance to chat with farmers, and it kicks-off with breakfast at the Emerald Coast Convention Center. Participants will then ride together by bus to tour local farms, enjoy lunch, and be returned to the Convention Center by 3 p.m.

What are those scales on my palm tree?

What are those scales on my palm tree?

A couple weeks ago, I was on a site visit to check out some issues on Canary Island Date Palms.  The account manager on the property requested a site visit because he thought the palms were infested with scale insects.  He noticed the issue on a number of the properties he manages and he was concerned it was an epidemic.  From a distance, lower fronds were yellowing from the outside in and the tips were necrotic.  These are signs of potassium deficiency with possible magnesium deficiency mixed in.

Potassium and magnesium deficiencies in a canary island date palm.

Transitional leaf showing potassium deficiency (tip) and magnesium deficiency (base) symptoms. Photo Credit: T.K. Broschat, University of Florida/IFAS Extension

Nutrient deficiencies are slow to correct in palm trees.  It’s much easier to prevent deficiencies from occurring by using a palm fertilizer that has the analysis 8N-2P2O5-12K2O+4Mg with micronutrients.  Even if the palms are part of a landscape which includes turf and other plants that require additional nitrogen, it is best to use a palm fertilizer with the analysis previously listed over a radius at least 25 feet out from the palms.  However, poor nutrition wasn’t the only problem with these palms.

Upon closer look, the leaflets were speckled with little bumps.  Each bump had a little white tail.  These are the fruiting structures of graphiola leaf spot also known as false smut.

Graphiola leaf spot (false smut) on a Canary Island Date Palm

Graphiola leaf spot (false smut) on a Canary Island Date Palm. Photo Credit: Matt Lollar, University of Florida/IFAS Extension – Santa Rosa County

Graphiola leaf spot is a fungal leaf disease caused by Graphiola phoenicis.  Canary Island Date Palms are especially susceptible to this disease.  Graphiola leaf spot is primarily an aesthetic issue and doesn’t cause much harm to the palms infected.  In fact, the nutrient deficiencies observed in these palms are much more detrimental to their health.

Graphiola leaf spot affects the lower fronds first.  If the diseased, lower fronds are not showing signs of nutrient deficiencies then they can be pruned off and removed from the site.  All naturally fallen fronds should be removed from the site to reduce the likelihood of fungal spores being splashed onto the healthy, living fronds.  A fungicide containing copper can be applied to help prevent the spread of the disease, but it will not cure the infected fronds.  Palms can be a beautiful addition to the landscape and most diseases and abiotic disorders can be managed and prevented with proper pruning, correct fertilizer rates, and precise irrigation.

Large Patch: Not the Only Rhizoctonia in Town

Large Patch: Not the Only Rhizoctonia in Town

Large patch Rhizoctonia solani (known as brown patch in cool season grasses) is a common disease of many turfgrass species.  It usually occurs during the cooler months from October through May when temperatures are below 80 degrees Fahrenheit.  However, signs and symptoms of large patch and other Rhizoctonia diseases can be observed throughout the summer.  Less common Rhizoctonia species that occur during the summer months are Rhizoctoni zeae and Rhizoctonia oryzae.  Extended periods of turf wetness from excessive rainfall or overwatering provide ideal conditions for the disease to develop and spread.

Rhizoctonia in zoysiagrass

Rhizoctonia in a zoysiagrass lawn. Photo Credit: Matt Lollar, University of Florida/IFAS Extension – Santa Rosa County

This summer in Santa Rosa County, Rhizoctonia has been positively diagnosed in both St. Augustinegrass and zoysiagrass lawns and suspected in a number of centipedegrass lawns.  The disease usually starts as small, yellow patches (about a foot in diameter) that turn reddish brown, brown, or straw colored as the leaves start to die. Patches often expand to several feet in diameter.  It is common to see rings of yellow or brown turf with otherwise healthy turf in the center.  The fungus infects portions of the blades closest to the soil, eventually killing the entire leaf.  Grass blades can easily be pulled off their stems, but roots are not affected by the disease.

Rhizoctonia in a St. Augustinegrass lawn

Rhizoctonia in a St. Augustinegrass lawn. Photo Credit: John Atkins, University of Florida/IFAS Extension – Santa Rosa County

Overwatering and excessive fertilization can both contribute to the development of Rhizoctonia disease.  Improper timing of fertilizer application can also promote disease development.  In the Florida Panhandle, turfgrass is actively growing from April to October.  Slow-release fertilizers are recommended to allow for a more even distribution of nutrients over the course of multiple months.  Recommended fertilizer rates are based on turfgrass species, geographical location, and fertilizer analysis.  Please refer to the UF/IFAS Publication: “Urban Turf Fertilizer Rule for Home Lawn Fertilization” for rate recommendations.

fertilizer chart

Chart excerpted from Florida-Friendly Landscaping publication.

If large patch or another Rhizoctonia disease is confirmed in your lawn, then chemical controls are necessary to keep the disease from spreading.  Fungicide products containing the active ingredients azoxystrobin, chlorothalonil, fludioxonil, flutolanil, iprodione, mancozeb, metconazole, myclobutanil, polyoxin D, propiconazole, thiophanate-methyl, thiram, triadimefon, trifloxystrobin, or triticonazole are viable options for keeping the disease from spreading.  For best results, follow the fungicide label for application instructions.  It’s important to not only treat the affected areas, but also the healthy turf surrounding these areas in order to keep the diseased spots from growing in size.

Unfortunately, turf diseases are often not noticed until large patches of declining and dead turf are noticed.  In these cases when large dead patches exist in the lawn, it is usually necessary to resod these areas.  As with most problems that arise in the landscape, good cultural practices are the most proactive way to mitigate the chances with turfgrass diseases.  The UF/IFAS Florida Friendly Website provides up-to-date solutions and recommendations for caring for Florida landscapes.

July Is Smart Irrigation Month

July Is Smart Irrigation Month

The Irrigation Association (IA) kicks off the official start of this year’s campaign on Tuesday, July 9, 2019. The initiative promotes the social, economic and environmental benefits of efficient irrigation technologies, products and services in landscape, turf and agricultural irrigation.

Irrigation (agricultural and turf/landscape) accounts for 65-70% of total freshwater use in the United States. According to the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) WaterSense program, the average American family household uses more than 300 gallons of water per day; roughly 30% of this occurs outdoors. Efficient landscape irrigation systems and practices dramatically reduce water being lost or wasted.

The starting point for improving the efficiency of a home landscape sprinkler system is to calibrate each zone (http://ufdc.ufl.edu/IR00003389/00001) and make adjustments and repairs. That includes the rain shut-off device.

Florida is one of the few states with a rain sensor law. The most recent version of the statute (2010) states the following: “Any person who operates an automatic landscape irrigation 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). Regardless of the water source or age of the system, all in-ground irrigation systems must be connected to a functioning rain sensor of some kind.

Rain collecting device with expanding cork disks inside.

Expanding disk Rain Sensor

Expanded disk devices are the most popular rain sensor due to their low cost, ease of installation, and low maintenance. Traditionally, they are wired into the controller, but a wireless version allows for quicker installation and mounting up to 300 feet from the controller. These “mini-click” sensors contain disks made of cork that absorb rainfall and expand, triggering a pressure switch. The disk cover is rotated to adjust for the predetermined amount of rainfall required to trigger the switch. It should be set on ½ – ¾ inch, depending on soil type and rooting depth of irrigated plants. The switch continues to interrupt the scheduled controller as long as the disks are swollen. When the rain stops, the disks begin to dry out. Once they have contracted, the switch closes and the regularly scheduled irrigation cycle begins where it left off before the interruption. These small cork disks wear out in Florida’s heat and need to be replaced. By checking and repairing the sensor parts, the sprinkler system will operate much more efficiently. We have all seen irrigation systems running in pouring rain.  Keep yours maintained to avoid this needless waste of water.

So, join the kids this summer. Go outside and play in the water. Turn on the sprinkler system and check it out. July is Smart Irrigation Month. Let’s see how efficient you can make your system and reduce the water waste in Florida.

Weed Control in the Landscape – Alternatives to Glyphosate Workshop – May 23

Weed Control in the Landscape – Alternatives to Glyphosate Workshop – May 23

Are you looking for more selective herbicide options for annual beds and around shrubs and trees? The Santa Rosa County Extension Office will be hosting guest speaker Dr. Chris Marble from the UF/IFAS Mid-Florida Research & Education Center on Thursday, May 23. Dr. Marble is a Nationally Renowned Weed Scientist who has published numerous research and extension publications. 2 CEUs available in LCLM, Limited Lawn & Ornamental, Commercial L&O, O&T, Natural Areas, ROW, and Private Ag.  Pre-registration fee is $15, or $20 registration at the door the day of the event (includes lunch and resources). Pre-register online at Eventbrite Ticket or bring cash, check, or money order to the Santa Rosa County Extension Office, 6263 Dogwood Dr., Milton, FL before May 23. For additional questions, please contact Matt Lollar at mlollar@ufl.edu or 850-623-3868.

SCHEDULE

9:30  Registration & Welcome
9:45  Presentation Begins
11:30  Question & Answer w/Dr. Marble
11:45  Evaluation & CEUs
12:00  Lunch & Discussion on Glyphosate Registration
12:30  Adjourn