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 firstname.lastname@example.org or 850-623-3868.
Walking around my yard I’m always on the lookout for changes – both good and bad. I look to see which plants are leafing out or flowering. I scout for plant disease symptoms, insect damage, and weeds. I’ve learned over the years that when I spot a plant out-of-place before condemning it as a weed, I need to make sure it isn’t really a bonus plant!
This spring my yard has really changed. After losing numerous mature trees the sun is shining in new spots. Last fall I also had a bit of unexpected seed and vegetation dispersal to say the least, so I’m getting lots of surprises in the landscape. A few bonus plants I’m seeing and leaving alone are oak seedlings, black-eyed Susan, sunflowers, Angelina sedum, dotted horsemint, and verbena.
These plants might not be exactly where I would have placed them, but if they are not located somewhere that will be a maintenance problem, they can stay where they landed. Many of these plants are taking advantage of dry, non-irrigated sites and providing welcome vegetative groundcover that will help prevent erosion. The bonus is that they all provide food or shelter for birds and/or bugs!
How do you tell the difference between a weed and a plant you would like to keep? The key is to pay attention to plant features other than flowers. Start looking at foliage shape, texture, color, growth habit, and how leaves are arranged on the plant. Other characteristics are stem color and shape – some plants have square stems, others have ridges we refer to as “wings” in horticulture terms, tendrils on vines, all of these can be distinctive and recognizable before the obvious flowers form. Keep notes with pictures of plants at different life stages until you commit them to memory. Eventually you’ll be able to walk through your landscape and quickly note the differences which will help conserve those bonus plants and get weeds under control before they get too prolific.
Below are links to sites that might be outside your regular bookmarks. These resources show more than just the pretty flowers and have detailed information on life cycle and growing conditions.
- http://florida4h.org/programsandevents_/horticulture/ Scroll down to Study Materials and select slides from the category of interest
Just when you think your battle against weeds is over for the summer, cooler nighttime temperatures and shorter days spark the beginning of a new crop of your least favorite plants. The question of many homeowners is how did all the weeds get to my landscape?
There are many ways that weeds make it to the landscape. They can be brought in with new soil, mulch, container plants, dropped by birds, delivered on the fur of animals, carried by wind, or on the deck of a lawn mower. If that is not enough to depress you than also realize that regardless of outside sources of weeds, your landscape already has plenty onsite that you don’t even know about.
In the soil, there is a large number of weed seeds ready to germinate when the conditions are just right. Understanding how your common landscape practices can encourage or discourage the germination of these seeds, can help you begin to manage some weed infestations.
Many of the seeds of common annual weeds are very small. They require exposure to sunlight in addition to the proper temperatures and moisture to germinate. Sunlight is critical though and seeds will not germinate without adequate sunlight. If the small seeds are deep in the soil, you will probably never know they are there. When you turn soil or disturb soil such as when installing plants, you bring the small seeds close to the surface and closer to light. They can then be stimulated to germinate. The next thing you know is that you have an area covered in weed seedlings.
What does this mean for your gardening practices? Try your best to block sunlight from hitting exposed soil. You can do this by keeping a healthy turf, free of thinning spaces. A 2-3 inch layer of mulch in plant beds and vegetable gardens will reduce weed seed germination. Finally when you are installing plants in an established bed, try not to mix soil with surrounding mulch. Seeds will easily germinate within the mulch if it becomes mixed with soil.
It is inevitable that your landscape will have some weeds but a few easy gardening practices can reduce some of your weed frustrations.
If you look closely at your yard, there is a good chance that you will find a plant that, depending on who you ask, is considered either a native wildflower or a weed and there are more than a few species that fit this description. If, upon even closer inspection, you find a plant with root tubers that resemble egg casings or even a rattlesnake’s rattle, you’ve stumbled upon Florida Betony.
Stachys floridana is a perennial broadleaf commonly referred to as rattlesnake weed due to it’s fleshy, white, segmented underground tubers. The plant has an erect stem with leaves that are opposite, shovel-shaped and coarsely serrated. The plant structure is very similar to mint. Flowers, emerging in late spring, are pinkish-purple in color. These inflorescences will also produce fruit, consisting of four nutlets. However, reproduction of the plant and it’s propensity to spread through lawns and gardens primarily occurs through dense root tuber development. Florida Betony’s growing range was originally confined to the state of Florida, but the commercial nursery trade played a major hand in dispersing the plant across the Southeast in the mid-1900’s. It can now be found as far west as Texas and as far north as North Carolina.
This time of year is when Florida Betony thrives. The moderate temperatures of fall and spring are the prime growing periods for Betony. In the heat of the summer, the above-ground structure of the plant will struggle and often disappear completely, only to reemerge in the fall. As a lawn weed, managing tuber development is key to controlling this plant. Applying herbicide to the leaves and stalk may seem at first to have conquered the weed. However, in most cases the tuber will simply regenerate. Glyphosate (Roundup) can be used effectively for control in ornamental plant beds where no turf is present. Be careful when spraying herbicides around trees, shrubs and other desirable plants as any foliar contact will cause phytotoxicity. If you have an infestation of Florida Betony in your turfed areas, there are a few options for control. Regular applications of three way broadleaf herbicides, such as mixtures of 2-4D, Dicamba and Mecoprop, are effective at suppressing this pesky plant. For more information and options, please contact your local county extension office or see the supporting information links below. Always refer to the product label for specific uses, precautions and application rates when using any herbicide.
Supporting information for this article can be found in the following the UF/IFAS EDIS publication, “Florida Betony Biology and Management in Turf” by J. Bryan Unruh, Ramon G. Leon, and Darcy E. P. Telenko: http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/pdffiles/EP/EP38800.pdf
Most of you plant a spring vegetable garden with a number of different vegetable types. However, you may not realize that you are improving the health of your soil and your crops by planting a diverse garden. Intercropping is a gardening practice of growing different crops in the same field. When planting a mixture of crops in the same field year after year, it is important to rotate the location of each type of vegetable. This is a practice known as crop rotation. Intercropping and crop rotation will help reduce insect pest populations, increase beneficial insect populations, and reduce weed populations.
Growing plants in your garden that pest insects don’t like to eat makes the pests work harder to find what they do like to eat. Studies have found reduced whitefly numbers on squash plantings mixed with a crop of buckwheat when compared to squash planted alone. Another crop mixture that may be unintentional, but may work in your favor is a row of crapemyrtles along the edge of your garden. Crapemyrtles will attract the crapemyrtle aphid which will attract predatory insects. When the predatory insects run out of crapemyrtle aphids to eat, they will move to your garden and begin to hunt pest insects on your vegetable crop.
A trap crop is a plant that attracts a pest insect away from your food crops. Trap crops work best when planted at the edge of your garden, along a fence row, or in movable containers. A bare space, let’s say 5 feet or so, should be kept between your trap crop and your garden. This will help keep the pests from moving on to your vegetables. When you find a good population of pests on your trap crop then it is time to spray them with insecticide or cut the crop down and remove the debris to a location far from your garden. If your trap crops are planted in containers, then it makes them that much easier to remove from near the garden area.
Cover Crops and Green Manure
Soil organic matter can be increased by the use of green manure and cover crops. Cover crops are generally planted during the off-season, but they can be planted in between vegetable rows and tilled in at a designated time as a green manure. Both cover crops and green manure improve the production of your garden by:
- Suppressing weeds by competing for water, light, and nutrients;
- Holding the soil in place and preventing erosion;
- Scavenging for nutrients that can be utilized in future crops;
- Reducing nematode populations;
- Providing a habitat for beneficial insects.
A number of different crops can serve as cover crops or green manure crops. Most are legumes (bean family) or grasses. A few that you might like to give a try are:
- Sunn hemp
- Winter rye
More detailed information on cover crops and green manure can be found at this link: http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/aa217.