Daylilies in full bloom. Image credit UF / IFAS Solutions Website
“A penny saved is a penny earned” is the famously frugal advice from Poor Richard’s Almanac. The author Benjamin Franklin, elder statesman and founding father of the United States, offered this simple pearl of wisdom to 18th century American colonist to remind them to cautiously manage their assets.
This concept has met the test of time and had been resurrected in a variety of guises. Individuals, families, companies and governments have all applied a variation of this resource management concept, especially when their economic outlooks are challenged.
As basic as the idea is it can be applied to almost any situation, even the home landscape. Daylilies, the commonly encountered flowering ornamental in many 21st century gardens, is an excellent example of getting the most return for the least output.
The daylily is a popular flowering perennial with East Asian origins which has adapted well to Florida landscapes. Plants are available in a wide variety of growth habits, flower shapes and colors, including yellow, orange, red, pink, purple, near-white and shades and combinations of all of these.
Flowering starts in March for early-season bloomers with late-season cultivars starting in mid-May. The typical bloom period is about four to seven weeks, although some varieties bloom even longer.
Daylilies are colorful and easy to grow. Propagation is easy this time of year, just dig, separate, and replant.
As their name accurately indicates, daylilies are members of the lily family, in the genus Hemerocallis. “Hemero” is Greek for “day” and “callis” for “beauty,” so the scientific name translates to beauty for a day.
For the adventurous eater, the flower buds and petals of daylilies are edible raw, boiled, stir-fried, steamed, stuffed, or battered and fried. Dried daylily petals, called “golden needles,” are used in numerous Chinese dishes.
Many of the modern varieties of daylilies available today have been developed from native Chinese species. Early settlers from Europe and Asia brought many of the original species with them to America.
Daylilies grow best in full sun or filtered shade. The darker colored red and purple varieties flourish better in partial shade, while light colored yellows, pinks and pastels varieties need full sun to bring out their best colors.
The filtered light level under pine trees is ideal for growing daylilies. Heavy shade should be avoided because it will cause thin, spindly growth and poor flowering.
The soil pH should be between 6.2 and 6.8, with 6.5 being optimal.
The soil of daylily beds should be topped with three to four inches of organic matter, such as peat, compost, or well-rotted manure. The amended soil should be mixed or tilled, leveled and then moistened.
Daylilies survive dry conditions well because of their extensive root systems. However, the number and size of blooms, plant growth, and overall vigor can be adversely affected by prolonged drought.
Daylilies multiply fairly rapidly and plant division is an easy way to propagate them for new locations in the home landscape or to share with friends. Division is best done immediately after the flowering season.
Dig the entire clump and shake or wash off the soil without damaging the roots. It is easy to see where the divisions can be made with smaller clumps being easily pulled free to establish a new planting.
The home gardener can expand and share the beauty of these perennials and only spend a little time to accomplish this. No doubt Ben Franklin and Poor Richard would approve.
For more information, check out this excellent publication titled “Daylilies for Florida”.
While yard work is important to maintain an attractive lawn, if done successfully, the resident can spend quality time in other pursuits like watching the wildlife from the front porch.
With the passing of September the end is in sight, well at least the end of summer, and hopefully summer-like weather. The hot humid days of August gave way to the hot humid days of September,now October, and the Florida Panhandle is finally experiencing cooler temperatures. At least temporarily.
Days have shortened noticeably and the plants have noticed. Foliage growth has slowed and seed production is in overdrive.
As the season slowly shifts, the needs and care for the lawn and landscape are changing too. Inputs need six months ago and environmental factors which were true in the spring are now being altered by the immutable and timeless forces of nature.
Fertilizer is one factor which must be considered in light of the dormant season’s approach. Inappropriate or excessive application will waste resources and end up in the water supply where it will do no good.
As many warm season grasses and plants are reducing their growth rates to prepare for winter, the need for nutrients slows. Nitrogen, the first number on a fertilizer tag’s list of ingredients percentages, is especially vulnerable to misuse by the well-intended but inexperienced or uninformed person.
Over application of nitrogen will promote the aggressive growth of tender green foliage in the lawn. If a frost or freeze occurs when the tender vegetation is presence, the plant will experience excessive damage or death.
The directions on home and garden fertilizer bags, and soil test report all recommend restricting or eliminating nitrogen application late in the growing season. This is sound advice.
Herbicide use changes in the late summer and autumn also. As with misapplied fertilizer, misused herbicides will waste resources and can end up in the water supply.
Weeds and other targets of herbicides must be actively growing for the herbicide to work effectively. Late summer and fall can present challenges to effectively applying herbicides.
With very few exceptions, plants must be actively growing for herbicides to work properly. Plants slowing towards dormancy will not absorb as much herbicide and may, species depending, be completely immune.
Herbicides do not work on plants which are under drought stress. It is important to remember early fall is the driest time of the year in panhandle Florida, nature’s way of forcing a fall growth shutdown.
Yard waste and grass clipping will help refresh mulch in flower beds and on tree root zones. The summer heat and humidity have combined with bacterial activity to breakdown the current supply of mulch.
The on-site utilization of yard waste as mulch or as a basis for compost is a good practice to establish. It will benefit the landscape and reduce the multiple layers of expenses required to collect, haul and dispose of this material.
If properly composted, the material reduces the chances of introducing weeds, insects and diseases which can be on commercial products. Another way to look at the subject is “What is produced in the Florida Panhandle stays in the Florida Panhandle…and saves everyone money in the process.
While Septembers early weeks were just as oppressively hot and humid as August, relief seems to be here. Be ready to spend the cooler days enjoying a private bit of paradise in Northwest Florida without worrying about problems which could have been avoided.
To learn more about getting the lawn and landscape ready for autumn, contact your UF/IFAS Extension Office.
July’s hot summer weather has given way to August’s 31 days of what will likely be temperatures and humidity equally elevated and intense. Wishes for November’s cooler thermometer reading are already creeping into daily conversations. The lawns and gardens in Wakulla County have rains as a mitigating factor to counteract the wilting potential of normal to excessive temperature readings. Unfortunately the arrival of water from above is not on a set or easily predictable schedule.
Traditionally, summer is the wettest season in Florida, with more than half of the annual rainfall occurring during the June to September “wet season”. Florida’s highest average annual rainfall occurs in the Panhandle with averages exceeding 60 inches per year. The Pensacola and Tallahassee weather stations are listed among the ten “wettest” stations in the nation. Still, this pattern of seasonal precipitation can vary greatly between locations, years and even days. This variability often results in the need to water the lawn, landscape and garden. By following a few guidelines, you can produce the best results for plants under stress and conserve a vital and limited resource.
It is most efficient to apply water between 5:00 a.m. and 10:00 a.m. for several reasons. Only water that is in contact with roots can be absorbed by the plant. If water is applied after 10:00 a.m., a substantial portion of it will evaporate before it reaches the roots; more will then need to be applied and this resource’s productivity will be reduced. Never water late in the afternoon as evaporation will still be a problem, and wet turf and plants will invite a variety of fungal diseases to flourish as night settles.
Photo Courtesy: Les Harrison, UF/IFAS Wakulla County Extension
In the case of landscapes and gardens, water should be applied only when the moisture in the root zone system has been depleted to an unacceptable level, usually by 1/2 to 2/3 of the stored soil-water. There are several ways to determine when the soil-water reservoir has been depleted beyond an acceptable level. The simplest method is a visual inspection of the turf or plants. Common symptoms of water stress include leaf color changes to a bluish-gray tint, footprints which linger long after being pressed into the grass and curled or folded leaf blades. Be sure the sprinklers are delivering water to the target area as water which misses the soil and is applied to hard surfaces such as driveways and sidewalks will be wasted. It also may pose an environmental problem in the form of runoff. Surface runoff that flows past the landscape will usually reach streams, ponds, or the Gulf of Mexico. If it picks up pollutants along the way, they too will reach the surface water bodies.
Over watering can be just as damaging as too little water. Excessive irrigation water can infiltrate the ground and reach groundwater aquifers. This issue is complicated when groundwater runs close to the surface. Excessive nutrients or pollutants can be discharged into surface bodies or move vertically into the deeper land layers. The connected springs and sinkholes in Wakulla County make the movement of surface water a common concern. Responsible and efficient irrigation will have positive effects far beyond the front yard.
To learn more about the effective use of water in Wakulla County’s landscapes, contact your UF/IFAS Wakulla Extension Office at 850-926-3931 or http://wakulla.ifas.ufl.edu/
Praying Mantis, Image Credit Les Harrison
Summertime is bug time in the Florid Panhandle. The weather has provided enough rain for the bugs which depend on a supply of foliage and the temperatures have been ideal for a population explosion.
Stink bugs, leaf-footed bugs, grasshoppers, all sizes and colors of caterpillars and many more have been enjoying the lush and plentiful dining options. More than one Panhandle homeowner or gardener has been plagued by the sudden appearance of a hoard of hungry nuisances which are eyeing the menu choices at residences.
Fortunately, nature has a way of eventually balancing all situations when left to its own devices. With the increase of the plant eaters comes a surge in those insects which restrain the excess population.
One of the most easily recognized predator insects is the praying mantis. This beneficial insect is actually a family with multiple members, some of which have been introduced to Florida.
While there are over 2400 mantis members worldwide, Florida is home to eleven. Two of those exotics have been introduced from other regions, but considered non- invasive.
Mantises are thought to have evolved during the Cretaceous period about 100 million years ago, possibly from a predatory cockroach with similar front legs. Their closest surviving insect relatives are cockroaches and termites, both of which they will consume if given the opportunity.
Like many insects, the mantis is equipped with a tough, durable exoskeleton which provides a basis for successful close quarter combat and meal procurement. These hunters have three other advantages which create a severe vulnerability in their prey’s defense and potential for surviving a mantis encounter.
The mantis is an ambush predator which will lay in wait for the victim/meal to deliver itself. The mantis has the instinctive ability to identify and hide in areas with high amounts of prey species traffic.
This insect is a master at stealth and camouflage. The creature’s coloration and linear shape allow it to blend into the earth tones of many settings.
To complement its ability to conceal itself in plain sight, the mantis can hold perfectly still and patiently wait for the oblivious bug to bumble into sticking range. At that precise moment, the mantis is a blur of lethal motion.
The mantis’ forelimbs are a set of deadly spiked vices used to immobilize and secure its target. It extends these spiny levers forward in a raised position which appears as though it is in a mealtime prayer, hence its name.
The kill technique is to impale and restrain the victim with a single stroke of the forelimbs while holding the victim securely to the mantis’ body. On occasion the attempt fails and the mantis has to apply a more direct approach.
This insect’s beak is designed for slicing and tearing its victim’s body. Its jaw muscles provide the power to effectively employ this tool.
Depending on its stage of live, the mantis will eat a wide variety of creatures. Early stage mantises will eat little flies and other tiny insect (including its siblings), but at maturity they will take on small reptiles and amphibians along with a variety of destructive insects.
Female mantises will even consume their prospective mates. Despite its vicious and cannibalistic nature, the praying mantis is the answer to many gardeners’ prayers.
To learn more about praying mantises and other beneficial insects, check out this EDIS site with many articles on various species of beneficial insects.
Fertilizer spreader use is in full swing throughout the Florida panhandle
Fertilizing a lawn properly in the summer can enhance the landscape without inducing disease or harming the environment .
One universal activity is seasonal lawn and landscape maintenance. While some consider it a chore, many view it as a means to enhancing their personal environment.
The list of tasks are, for the most part, standard with few surprises. Raking leaves and pine straw, replacing shrubs which did not make it through the winter, and fertilizing the lawn and landscape.
While a routine undertaking, applying fertilizer requires thought and consideration to be effective without negative consequences. It should be a deliberate and well-planned accomplishment which is science based.
The proper selection of a fertilizer should be based on a soil test. Every UF/IFAS Extension Office has supplies for pulling and submitting a soil sample for evaluation.
The results, which can come via mail or e-mail, will tell the homeowner what nutritional deficiencies exist in their lawn and landscape. Based on the type of grass or shrubs, the report will deliver the information on the fertilizer analysis needed for optimum plant performance.
With this information in hand, the homeowner can visit a local retailer who can provide the product which meets the needs of the landscape without wasting excess nutrients. Excess soil nutrients can easily be relocated to bodies of water when storm water washes it downstream.
Homeowners have several types of fertilize from which to choose for use on their lawn. Each has distinct advantages and disadvantages.
Dry blend fertilizer is usually the least expensive and is easy to find in the market place. It is a mixture of minerals and compounds which are combined to produce a particular analysis, such as 10-10-10.
This analysis is ten percent nitrogen, ten percent phosphorus, and ten percent potassium with the remaining 70 percent being micronutrients and inert carrier. Applied correctly, it can be effective at delivering the needed nutrients.
It is most effective when applied several times throughout the growing season. The grass and shrubs will then have a continuous supply of the needed nutrients over time.
Soil test kit available from your local Extension office. Photo: Mary Derrick, UF/IFAS.
One potential problem with dry blend fertilizer is the particle size of the different nutrients. If irregular, they can separate during transportation to the retailer.
This can be easily corrected by the homeowner. Just pour the contents of the bag into a container and mix using a can or shovel.
Dry slow-release fertilizers are gaining popularity, but they are more expensive. They have a sulfur or polymer coating on the particles which allows for the slow release of the nutrients.
A single application can last for up to six months which frees the homeowner to pursue other activities. The most common use of this product is with shrubs and potted plants.
Liquid fertilizer concentrates are available, but the convenience comes at a high cost. It is easily diluted for use, but uniform application over a large area can be challenging.
No matter which form is used, proper application will grow good results. A healthy and well maintained lawn and landscape leave more time for other springtime pursuits.
To learn more about the fertilizer for your landscape, contact your county agent and refer to this section on our website devoted to lawn fertilization.