No previous experience or accreditation it required to be a landscaper in the state of Florida. So when homeowners are searching for service providers, it is important that they question potential companies about their skills. One good measure is completion of voluntary certifications such as the Florida Nursery, Growers and Landscape Association (FNGLA) Certified Horticulture Professional (FCHP). The FCHP program has been the industry’s standard for measuring horticulture and landscape knowledge since 1984. The training is also useful for property managers, homeowner associations, retail garden center employees, or anyone that wants to know more about Florida’s plants and their care.
Plants are complex and variable living things that range from microscopic to the largest of living organisms. With steady population growth in the state of Florida, environmental damage risks created by the use of improper products and practices has continually risen. State and federal natural resource protection agencies have restricted certain horticultural practices including fertilizer and pesticide application. It takes scientific knowledge to properly maintain lawns and landscapes, not just a “green thumb” in order to keep plants healthy while reducing contamination to the soil, air and water that we all need.
The Florida Certified Horticulture Professional training covers 16 areas, including identification, fertilization, irrigation, pest management, safety and business practices. Lecture and hands-on activities are utilized at each session. The 60-hour course will enhance anyone’s knowledge and will provide the basis for professionals to deliver a skilled service to clientele. The course is available in-person or virtually via Zoom.
If you are a green industry worker or a concerned citizen interested in attending a FCHP preparatory course, there is an opportunity coming up in Crestview. Beginning Thursday, January 6, 2022 and continuing for 8 weeks to February 24, 2022, the Okaloosa County Extension office will be providing training for $185, which included the newest hard copy manual and plant identification book. Contact Sheila Dunning, 850-689-5850, firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Turf pros, you have fought for years to try to get enough downtime on your sports turf to really work on making big improvements. Now, with school and city leagues cancelled, is the perfect time. The grass has
greened up and is needing mowing. The soil temperatures are up. We have gotten a decent rain with more predicted. So, plan to make some of those much-needed improvements in May.
If you haven’t submitted soil samples, start with getting that baseline information. All the labs are open and working, including UF. Sampling kits and instructions are available at: https://soilslab.ifas.ufl.edu/ESTL%20Tests.asp.
Get out there and fix all the irrigation system imperfections. Knowing the water output and uniformity can make all the difference in the turf appearance and response to fertilizers, not to mention reducing disease pressure. Make sure you have head-to-head coverage, not the “almost” head-to-head coverage that cheats a few feet here and there. Calibrate each zone to determine how much time it takes to deliver ¾ inch of water. Watch this video for more information: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W_wn-hwLNtg
Take this time to accurately measure the areas that will need fertilizing and calibrate your spreader to you and the product. Set the application schedule for the rest of the year. Accomplishing this now when you’re not so pressed for time will pay off. Remember with rotary spreaders, fertilizer distribution is not uniform. More granules fall in the middle of the pass than along the outer edges. To achieve uniformity, check that the tire is just inside the track from the previous pass and that the granules are reaching the previous track. Additionally, apply in two directions.
How about reducing compaction and improving the overall soil conditions? That’s the one project you’ve been wanting to do for many seasons. Physical penetration of the soil improves air, water, and nutrient movement within the root zone. This is especially important for high traffic areas. A hollow tine, or core, aerator pulls soil cores from a 2-6 -inch depth. Cores can be removed or dried on the surface and reincorporated using a drag mat. If thatch is an issue, consider vertical mowing to cut into the turf runners and loosen the dead tissue layer. Then, rake, rake and rake! The grass will look rough for a while during the recovery but will be much healthier in the long run.
When you get your soil test results back, they will identify nutrient deficiencies and recommend lime and fertilizer for the year. Lime should only be applied in accordance with the recommendations on soil test results. Over-application can take years to correct. Split applications of the annual required rate will allow for more adjustment. Nitrogen influences color and many growth factors. Application rate recommendations are based on research-driven requirements for each grass type. However, nitrogen comes in quick-release and/or slow-release. Quick release products are water soluble and cause a turf response in a week or less but can evaporate or burn. Application should always be followed by ¼ inch of irrigation to get the most benefit. Slow release products are water insoluble and provide a gradual, consistent turf response over a 3-10-week period. They require warm, moist soil with microbes in order to release nitrogen. Most of the available fertilizers will have a combination of both quick and slow release components. That way there is an immediate green up with long lasting color. Bermudagrass needs 0.5-1 pound of soluble N/ 1,000 sq. ft. to get going in the spring.
You’ve been saying, “We need to get some of these big tasks done, but just can’t find the time when no one is on the field.” Here’s your chance.
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 click on the picture below:
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.
Setting the sprinkler head for an irrigation system. UF/IFAS Photo: Josh Wickham
Lawns and landscapes require water to flourish and provide the green surroundings desired around homes and recreational areas. Often nature provides water for the landscape in the form of rain, but that is not always adequate. Turf and ornamental plants in the establishment stage need supplemental irrigation during hotter months, especially in the sandy soils of northwest Florida, which can dry out at a rapid pace. February is typically a time when very little supplemental irrigation water is needed because most of the desired landscape plants and grasses do not use much water in the cooler temperatures. The warmth of spring and the heat of summer are around the corner and preparations should be made now to ensure that irrigation systems are working properly before being needed. Here are a few things to think about when prepping irrigation systems for spring:
Maintain, Repair, or Replace the Rotors, Nozzles, and Heads. Many sprinkler heads get damaged over time from riding lawn mowers, utility workers, vehicles, or other causes. To avoid having a geyser in the irrigation zone, it is a good idea to test run the system to make sure the rotor and heads are working properly and the nozzles have not been knocked loose. Many times broken rotor or spray heads can be replaced simply by taking the interior mechanical parts out and replacing them with new parts. This may not even require digging! Sometimes repairs are as simple as replacing a filter or spray nozzle that has popped off over time.
Calibrate the system to provide 1/2 inch to 3/4 inch during an irrigation event. Many Florida homeowners and horticultural professionals apply too much or too little water while irrigating. Most do not even know how much irrigation water is being applied. It is important to calibrate the irrigation system to apply only 1/2 inch to 3/4 inch of water during an irrigation event to promote a healthy lawn and landscape. To little water will stress the plants while too much water may promote disease and insect problems. Irrigating improperly may also cause environmental issues, from soil and fertilizer runoff, to develop. Watch this short video on irrigation calibration.
Inspect and make sure the Rain Shutoff Device is working properly. In Florida, it is state law to have a rain shutoff device on an automatic irrigation system. Most systems have a device installed that utilizes a small cork disc that expands when wet and physically clicks a button to tell the system to skip the next automatic cycle. As the cork degrades over time, it will cause system malfunction and should be replaced periodically. It is best to skip using an automatic timer and instead watch the weather and the plants for symptoms of drought stress. If an automatic timer is used, a functioning rain shutoff device is essential for proper irrigation management. Other types of shutoff devices are available as well.
The following University of Florida / IFAS publications contains more information on proper irrigation management for landscapes: