Deer Damage in the Landscape

Deer Damage in the Landscape

Many different Florida wildlife pass through a home landscape daily in search of food.  Possibly the most destructive animal to landscape plants in northwest Florida is the White-Tailed Deer.  Extensive amounts of damage can be observed after they have passed through.  This damage is not just to landscapes but also impacts agriculture crops at an economic level.

Deer walking through a landscape in Northwest Florida. Photo Credit: Stephen Greer, University of Florida/IFAS Extension – Santa Rosa County

Deer are searching for protein that can be found in many forms that may include acorns from oak trees, ornamental shrubs, flowers, and soybeans.  For this article, I will focus on landscape plants.  Deer require a significant amount of forages as adults to amass 6 plus pounds per 100 pounds of body mass on a daily basis as they attain muscle and fat.  Maintaining this level of growth is needed for quality reproductive rates and surviving the times of year, usually the winter, with less food available. Keep in mind damage is significantly lower from mid-spring to mid-summer with greater damage occurring from late-summer to late-fall.  

Deer damage to a loquat tree. Photo Credit: Stephen Greer, University of Florida/IFAS Extension – Santa Rosa County

How to make informed plant decisions before placing them in the landscape and protecting many of these plants is a big question.  There are many articles out there on selecting plants that are deer resistant or tolerant.  Resistant to deer browsing is often dependent on how hungry they are and the amount of availability of other plants they prefer near by out of your landscape.  With deer populations increasing significantly over the last few decades it has increased contact with people and the environments in which we live.  To deter feeding and other damage to the landscape, fences have been placed as barriers, offensive smelling sprays have been used, lights and sounds have been used.  The attempt is to offend more than one of the deer senses.  These tactics work for a while until they adjust to these events and find their way back.

A barrier placed over a raised bed garden. Photo Credit: Stephen Greer, University of Florida/IFAS Extension – Santa Rosa County.

Some of the favored plants for deer include hosta, daylily, holly, and maple leaves and many more.  Plants they tend to avoid are poisonous plants that include foxglove, poppies or fragrant plants from sage, salvias and bearded iris.  There are publications with extensive lists of plants not to plant as they are a preferred food for deer and much shorter lists of plants they do not prefer.  Contact your local UF IFAS Extension office for more information.

Deer, like many of the wildlife, were able to acclimate to neighborhoods and traffic settings.  This has created additional dangers for many wildlife animals and people.  The point is they are an established part of our communities.  Determining how to best manage these growing populations has and will continue to be a big topic of discussion from neighbor to neighbor, community boards, farmers, and the Florida Wildlife Commission. 

Gardeners:  A Critical Link to Protecting Our Water

Gardeners:  A Critical Link to Protecting Our Water

The joy of being outdoors in the yard and gardens is something many of us have the opportunity to receive and appreciate.  Observing nature at its best with the changes of seasons and all the activity, from birds visiting to vegetable and flower gardens to the healthy green lawns there is much to contemplate.  The environment in which we live is complex and ever changing and is a critical source to our quality of life.  One major source that links us all is water and the quality of it moving forward.  How are we addressing changes to this important resource and the unintended consequences that can follow?

How we garden and manage the landscape at home and possibly in a business situation seems small in comparison to the number of settings out there, but if enough people work to improve water quality the positive impacts can be significant.  Impervious surfaces that include paved driveways and walkways are areas that do not allow rain events or irrigation to infiltrate into the soil.  Creative solutions are out there to construct pervious surfaces.  Many acres of forest and wetlands have been lost to development impacting land areas like this to slow water movement allowing time for nutrients and sediment to settle and be absorbed into the soil and taken up by plants or sequestered in organic matter in the soil layers. 

We often think about the larger rivers and big bodies of water that include lakes, bays, gulfs, and oceans that shoulder the large scale of human activity.  It is often the smaller water sources that when combined multiple times as the tributaries involving creeks that lead to larger streams and rivers are often overlooked as having major impacts on water quality.  What we can do to assist is to better manage nutrients (fertilizers and others) involving lawns, trees, and shrubs in your landscape.  Work on improving soil balance through soil testing and following the recommendations to understand your soil types and plants that grow best in these settings.  Contact your local University of Florida Extension office located in your county for information to assist in this important process.

A waterfront buffer zone may include a raised berm with native vegetation to slow runoff from a yard before entering the water. Photo credit: Carrie Stevenson

Creating planting buffers around creeks, ponds and lakes is critical to reducing nutrient entry links to these water sources.  Care must be taken when applying nutrients that include nitrogen and phosphorus to the lawn, gardens, and other landscape areas.  UF/IFAS Extension’s Florida Friendly Landscaping program recommends, if you are broadcasting fertilizer without a deflector shield, The Ring of Responsibility should extend at least 10 feet from the edge of water.  Be aware that fertilizer landing on hard surface driveways and sidewalks are subject to running off with rain events and potentially entering these water sources. 

There is much more information available on this topic and it is highly recommended to do a little research via the smart phone and other ways to better understand the importance of how we address water quality moving forward.  Enjoy the great outdoors and appreciate all it has to offer. 

Propagating Plants by Leaf and Cane

Propagating Plants by Leaf and Cane

The subject of plant propagation by leaf and cane is a continuation from my article on propagating plants by layering, written in late October.  Plants can be generated in multiple ways with leaf and cane techniques emerging as a possible indoor winter and early spring project.  Not all plants can be propagated with a leaf or parts of leaves.  Fortunately, some of the plants that can are ones we all enjoy growing indoors or in protected areas outdoors, like a covered porch and other similar locations.  Do an assessment of indoors windows with bright light and a few hours of sunlight for the best success.  If you are fortunate to have a backyard greenhouse that is heated, you may want to try it there.

One of the simplest ways to grow a new plant is by clipping a leaf and petiole section off an existing plant that has certain characteristics you like (bloom color or the growth of the plant).  African violets and sedum are plants that can be easily propagated in this manner.  The length of petiole connected to the leaf should be around 1 ¼ – 1 ½ inches in length, this portion of the leaf will be planted in potting mix.  I would suggest planting two in a small to medium sized container to increase the chance of a successful rooting and the new plant establishing.  When the new plant leaves have emerged, usually in 6 – 10 weeks, they are clipped away from the original leaf and petiole.  Some will reuse the original and replant, but I tend to discard and begin with a new one. 

Plants being propagated by leaf cuttings.
Plants being propagated by leaf cuttings. Photo Credit: University of Florida/IFAS

Next up is trying to propagate using a leaf without the petiole.  This form of propagation can occur with plant that possess fleshy leaves that are thicker, with more energy to produce a new plant.  The jade plant, snake plant and African violet are examples of plants that root and form new plants successfully in this way.  Place a leaf or a piece of leaf vertically into a container filled with slightly damp plant media.  Be sure the leaf midvein is placed into the soil as this will likely be the site of the new plant’s emergence. 

Cane cuttings are yet another process for propagating a new plant.  If you have ever grown a Dieffenbachia, better known as dumb cane or corn plant, they can become leggy and require staking to keep limbs from bending away from the center of the plant.  If you look closely, you may see dormant adventitious buds (nodes).  These buds will be the future leaf emergence area for the new plant.  With a sharp clean knife cut remove a 6 – 10-inch section of the stem.  The top leaf areas and smaller stem section can be removed and discarded. 

Next, cut so that two stem sections are together with at least 2 nodes.  Place the sections horizontally or vertically with the bottom third of the section indented into the potting media for go plant to soil contain.  Make sure the node is facing upward.  Once rooted with new leaves emerging, you may transplant them into a selected pot for future growth and establishment. 

As mid to late spring arrives and the danger of frost passes, you can move the plants to a covered porch or under tall shade trees with filter sunlight for the summer and early fall.  Enjoy creating new plants and maybe share a few with family and friends!

Propagating Plants by Layering

Propagating Plants by Layering

Vegetative plant propagation is a way for one plant to create another plant without the need for pollination to occur. This process is often much faster in achieving a new plant than growing from seed.  The genetics of the parent plant can be carried on through this vegetative propagation method.  There are many methods to propagate plants and the one covered in this article was taught to me by my grandmother many years ago – layering.  Layering is a science and an art and has been performed by humans for over four thousand years. 

Propagating plants by layering can be accomplished in several ways, including simple, tip, air, mound, compound, and runner production layering methods.  Many plants in nature propagate by layering accidentally when long, low-lying limbs contact the soil around the plant and are eventually covered by leaves from other surrounding trees and shrubs.  This creates an organic cover over a part of the limb and keeps the area moist.  This creates the situation for adventitious roots to develop at the soil contact area.  This occurrence is called simple layering and is often mimicked by gardeners in the landscape.  Not all plants respond to this type of propagation, but several common species that do are azaleas, jasmine, viburnum, climbing rose, and grapevines. 

Unlike simple layering, tip layering involves digging out a shallow 3–4″ hole, which will allow space to bend the end of the branch down into the hole with the tip out the other side.  Then, simply cover the hole to keep the branch in the ground.  It may take something with a little weight placed over the covered hole to keep the branch from popping out.  A brick or rock may be all that is needed.  Both methods will take months for enough roots to develop before clipping the branch with a new plant ready to be dug and set somewhere new.  For best results with both simple and tip layering, begin either in early spring with last seasons growth or late summer, utilizing that current year’s growth. 

Simple layering
Simple layering. Photo Credit: Stephen Greer, University of Florida/IFAS – Santa Rosa County

Air layering is a fun adventure to rooting a new plant and can be used with both outdoor and indoor plants.  It can be used on outdoor plants like camellia, azalea, maples, and magnolia, or indoor plants including weeping fig, rubber tree, and dieffenbachia.  This type of layering requires a bit more planning and preparation than simple or tip layering.  If the plant has a bark layer surrounding the cambium layer (this is the growing part of the limb and trunk and appears green) this area will need to be removed with a sharp clean knife.  Choose a 1- ½ inch long area of the limb and scrape this area to remove the cambium layer located just beneath the bark. This is done to prevent the outside limb area from reconnecting back to the limb portion connected to the plant.  Sphagnum moss will be needed to wrap around the wound site to create a rooting zone.  Be sure to soak the moss with water by immersing it in a bucket of water, then squeeze it out.  Wrap the moss with plastic wrap, making sure the moss is fully covered and tucked inside of the plastic.  Both ends of the plastic wrap need to be secured tightly with twist ties or string.  Make sure it remains tight throughout the 2 – 4 months needed for rooting to occur.  If this process takes place in a sunny location, cover the plastic wrap with tin foil to block out the light. 

Air layering a camelia
Air layering a camelia. Photo Credit: Stephen Greer, University of Florida/IFAS – Santa Rosa County

There are other methods to layering plants and if you are interested, search online through the University of Florida IFAS EDIS site or contact your local UF IFAS Extension office in your local county.  Enjoy growing your new plants. 

Are there Scorpions in the Panhandle?

Are there Scorpions in the Panhandle?

There are many species of insects and Arachnida (Arachnid) found in the Florida Panhandle. A specific arachnid that often brings fear and dread is the scorpion.  There are 3 species of scorpion found the Panhandle. The Florida Bark Scorpion is commonly found in and around the home. The others, the Hentz Stripped Scorpion and Guiana Striped Scorpion, typically live in the woods.  One point to remember is that all three species prefer to avoid contact with humans and save venom for their preferred dinner meal, which includes many pests like include roaches, millipedes, silver fish, other spiders, and maybe a few termites. 

bark scorpion
Florida bark scorpion. Photo Credit: Stephen Greer, University of Florida/IFAS – Santa Rosa County

Scorpions are most often found outdoors under bark mulch around plants and under logs and other items on the ground.  When moving wood from woodpiles, remember to wear gloves and fully inspect them if pieces of wood are coming indoors for fireplace use.  Be sure to keep outdoor firewood stacked away from the home. 

Are the three Florida Scorpions found in the Panhandle capable of giving a fatal sting?  The quick answer is no, but it is painful – as this author can attest to twice over the last twenty plus year.  The last sting was in my laundry room and occurred about two months ago.  Individuals with elevated allergies that react to other insect stings, such as bee, wasp or yellow jacket stings, should take precautions and seek medical assistance if necessary. 

Keep in mind scorpions are considered beneficial as they hunt and consume many insect pests we commonly have in and around homes.  They are most often found in landscapes under things we may move that have been in contact with the ground.  Scorpions prefer to stay in moist dark areas.  They are nocturnal hunters, so remember to turn on lights when walking around the house at night, especially in kitchen, laundry, or closet areas.  They will quickly hide once the light is on.  If shoes are left outside on porches or other open areas be sure shake them out.     

Control methods involve several options that amount to making the setting less hospitable for scorpions to frequent.  Look for possible hiding areas in and around the home.  Seal around plumbing fixtures under the sinks, around exterior vents, and cracks/spaces around windows and doors.  Do not store wood or other stackable products in attic or basement areas.  It is recommended that if pesticides are used to consult with a commercial licensed pest management company.  Use of pesticides can have mixed results as scorpions can go two plus months without eating after consuming an insect.  Placing a yellow sticky board under sinks or tucked away in laundry areas can help catch a scorpion.  Place these cards out of reach of pets or children as they are very sticky.