Yellow is Not a Normal Sago Color

Yellow is Not a Normal Sago Color

Photo by: Sheila Dunning

The first sign that something is going wrong in a plant is often a loss of the color green.  When a sago is forming all new yellow leaves it is a matter of concern.  Typically, this a common nutritional deficiency – manganese.  Sandy soils of the Panhandle have a hard time retaining nutrients.  Manganese and other micronutrient availability is highly influenced by soil pH.  Being an essential plant nutrient, manganese is critical to growth.  More specifically, it is the base of the metalloenzyme cluster of the oxygen evolving complex (OEC) in photosystem II (PSII).  I hope that means more to you than it does me.  Basically, manganese is part of the photosynthetic activity and since it isn’t very mobile in the plant, the new growth of sagos turns yellow.

If the nutrient deficiency isn’t corrected, the newly-formed leaves will become deformed and turn brown.  In a sago this is referred to as “frizzle-top”.  Many people believe the plant has a disease when they see the symptoms and may apply fungicides to no avail.  Keep in mind the discoloration of the affected leaves cannot be reversed.  However, manganese replacement in the soil will enable the sago to form normal leaves with the next growth phase. Damaged fronds can be removed later to improve the appearance of the sago over time.

Begin this process by determining the soil pH through a soil test.  Your local Extension office can help you obtain lab submission forms and explain the collection procedure.  Manganese is most available for uptake by sagos when the soil pH is between 5.5 and 6.5.  If the pH is above 6.5, larger amounts of manganese will have to be present before the plant can utilize it.  When the soil pH is below 5.5 the nutrient is quickly leached out of the soil during rain events.

To correct a manganese deficiency the sago plant will need to receive manganese sulfate.  The product is readily available at local nurseries, garden centers and building supply stores. The amount needed for each plant will vary with the size of the sago and the existing soil pH.  Sagos growing in sandy, acidic soil will require less manganese sulfate than those in high pH soils.  Refer to the package label for application rates.

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

Dirt is Good for You

Dirt is Good for You

Photo courtesy of Gabriel Jimenez at

Gardeners have always known, down to their bones, that getting down and dirty in the soil is good for you. My grandmother was a staunch believer in the beneficial, calming effect of pulling weeds and digging in the garden when she was angry or frustrated with life.

Pulling weeds, digging up plants, planting new plants and seeds, mixing in good compost to a new landscape bed – these are joys that bring gardeners into intimate contact with soil and all the abundant life within. Gardeners love that smell of good fertile soil. As do nature lovers of all sorts. Hikers love the earthy smell as they tromp through the woods – especially after a nice rain when the fragrance is especially fresh and sweet.

What causes the aroma that we are experiencing? Much of it is bacteria. Good bacteria. Healthy soil is a complex ecosystem containing a great biodiversity of species of plants, fungi, animals and bacteria. And much research is being done to identify and learn about the thousands of species living under our feet.

Scientists are now suggesting that a fatty acid found in the soil-based bacterium Mycobacterium vaccae may alleviate stress and stress related disorders in humans. Gardeners have always known there was something about the soil that was good and healthy for us. Now, we have the science to back it up!

Happy Gardening!

Beware Vaseygrass, an Aggressive Exotic Weed

Beware Vaseygrass, an Aggressive Exotic Weed

Vaseygrass produces prolific seed heads, and once introduced, can be spread easily by farming equipment. Photo by Herman Holley.

Vaseygrass produces prolific seed heads, and once introduced, can be spread easily by farming equipment. Photo by Herman Holley.

Beware Vaseygrass, an Aggressive Exotic Weed

A couple months ago I got a concerning call from a local small farmer. Rich Pouncey, of Bumpy Road Farm in northern Leon County, was very troubled by an unwelcome visitor he found growing on his farm.

Rich, who grows multiple crops, including heirloom corn varieties to create his delicious cornmeal and grits, noticed something amok in a portion of his rows. With closer inspection – and a visit from Extension Agent Les Harrison – it was identified as vaseygrass (Paspalum urvillei). Vaseygrass, an aggressive exotic species from South America, was starting to take complete control of a large section of Rich’s small growing space he had reserved for upcoming collard production.

With its abundant seed heads and our consistent summer rainstorms, vaseygrass quickly took over a section of Rich's field. Photo by Molly Jameson.

With its abundant seed heads and our consistent summer rainstorms, vaseygrass quickly took over a section of Rich’s field. Photo by Molly Jameson.

Rich, who prides himself on supporting biological diversity, soil health, and native pollinators, uses strictly organic growing methods in raising his crops. Therefore, the presence of such an aggressive exotic was truly of grave concern.

Rich is not sure exactly how this weed was introduced to his fields. He suspects it may have been hidden in a soil amendment he purchased, but he cannot be certain of the source. It is certainly a reminder to be careful when bringing in outside equipment, mulch, and any new agricultural products.

When mature, vaseygrass can grow to six-feet tall with plentiful seed heads, and it flourishes in warm, wet conditions. It spreads by seeds and has very high rates of germination during times of abundant rainfall. The grass is low in nutrition – making it a poor choice for grazing cattle – but in a hay field, it will spread like wildfire if not controlled.

Vaseygrass is a true perennial bunch grass, with a small root system and, fortunately, few rhizomes. Rich began pulling and black bagging as much of the grass as he could each day, but struggled to keep up, and it quickly spread through more than a tenth of an acre of his field.

When hand pulling wasn't enough, Rich switched to solarization, hoping to kill emerged vaseygrass seedlings and seeds with heat. Photo by Herman Holley.

When hand pulling wasn’t enough, Rich switched to solarization, hoping to kill emerged vaseygrass seedlings and seeds with heat. Photo by Herman Holley.

About six weeks ago, Rich changed strategies and began solarizing the area with clear plastic sheeting. Tightly covering soil with clear plastic sheeting in the warmest summer months can trap heat and increase temperatures, potentially killing weeds, pests, and diseases within the top foot of the soil surface. He will find out soon if this control strategy has been successful, as he’ll be pulling up the plastic in September. He knows that if the solarization is not successful, he may have no choice but to use chemical control methods, which will mean he will have to wait years to grow any crops in this area he wishes to market as organically grown.

If hand pulling isn’t enough, small infestations of vaseygrass can be controlled by spot spraying a one percent glyphosate solution at 1.2 ounces/gallon. Be aware, mowing and tilling can make the problem worse, as the scattering and burying of seeds can exacerbate the infestation.

For more details about identifying and controlling vaseygrass, read the UF/IFAS EDIS publication, Identification and Control of Johnsongrass, Vaseygrass, and Guinea Grass in Pastures (

If you suspect vaseygrass is growing on your property, contact your local county extension agent to get the grass properly identified and help spread the word about its presence.

Nematode Management with Marigolds Video

Nematode Management with Marigolds Video

Homeowners are always looking for methods to manage one of our most difficult pests in the vegetable garden.  Learn about the science of how to properly use marigolds to deter nematodes against one our our favorite summer fruits In the Garden with UF IFAS Extension Escambia County.