The Art of Mowing

The Art of Mowing

Written by: Khadejah Scott, Horticulture, Agriculture, & Natural Resources Extension Agent, UF/IFAS Extension – Wakulla County

A well-manicured lawn not only enhances the beauty of your property but also provides a welcoming outdoor space. In North Florida, where warm weather and abundant rainfall create ideal conditions for lush green lawns, proper mowing practices play a crucial role in maintaining a healthy and vibrant landscape. With the right techniques and considerations tailored to the unique characteristics of this region, you can achieve a pristine lawn that becomes the envy of the neighborhood. In this article, we will explore essential tips and insights for mowing your North Florida lawn, helping you unleash the full potential of your outdoor haven while ensuring its long-term health and sustainability.

Mowing a lawn.
Mowing a lawn. Photo Credit: University of Florida/IFAS

Mowing Heights

The turfgrass species’ growth pattern and leaf width influence the ideal mowing height. Grass species that grow horizontally and have narrow leaf blades are often cut lower than grasses that grow upright and have wider leaf blades. Because of its numerous tiny leaf blades, Bermudagrass is an example of a plant that is mowed at low heights. St. Augustinegrass, on the other hand, has wider leaf blades and is cut at a higher height. Rooting depth is also influenced by mowing, with deeper roots developing in response to higher mowing heights. Greater resistance to drought, insects, disease, nematodes, temperature stress, poor soil conditions, nutritional deficiencies, and traffic are benefits of the deeper root system. The main cause of turf damage is frequent mowing below the suggested heights for each species, which should be avoided.

Mowing Frequency

The frequency of lawn mowing is determined by the rate at which the grass grows, which is influenced by various factors such as the type of grass, time of year, weather conditions, and the level of maintenance. In North Florida, the need for mowing during winter months may vary depending on the climate and the type of grass present. Grasses like bahiagrass, which require less maintenance, may primarily be mowed to remove seedheads rather than cutting the leaf blades. To maintain a healthy lawn, it is recommended to mow frequently enough to remove no more than one-third of the blade height at a time. Preserving an ample amount of leaf surface is crucial to allow for photosynthesis, especially when the grass is exposed to environmental or site-related stresses.

A lawn
A lawn up close. Photo Credit: University of Florida/IFAS

Using Grass Clippings

Leaving grass clippings on the lawn is generally beneficial as it aids in recycling nutrients and organic matter, while reducing waste in landfills. When lawns are regularly mowed, clippings pose minimal issues. Microbes in the soil readily decompose the clippings, returning valuable organic matter and nutrients to the soil without contributing to thatch buildup under normal conditions. However, infrequent mowing can lead to excess clippings, resulting in clumping and potential thatch formation. Excessive thatch can create various problems, including reduced water infiltration, increased risk of pests and diseases, and diminished turf quality. To mitigate environmental concerns, it is crucial to sweep up any grass clippings from hard surfaces like sidewalks or driveways. These clippings contain nutrients that, if washed into storm drains or water bodies, can contribute to water pollution. By sweeping them back onto the lawn, the grass can benefit from the nutrients while minimizing environmental impact.

Proper mowing practices are essential for maintaining a healthy and vibrant lawn in North Florida’s unique climate. Understanding the growth patterns of different grass species, adjusting mowing frequency accordingly, and leaving clippings on the lawn to recycle nutrients are key aspects of lawn maintenance. By following these guidelines, homeowners can achieve a well-manicured lawn that enhances the beauty of their property while promoting environmental sustainability. Additionally, regular mowing helps prevent thatch buildup, ensures optimal photosynthesis, and reduces the risk of pest and disease infestations. By implementing these best practices, residents of North Florida can enjoy a lush, resilient, and visually appealing lawn that serves as a welcoming outdoor space for years to come. Remember, mowing is not just a chore but an art that contributes to the overall health and aesthetics of your landscape. UF/IFAS provides a wealth of information online regarding maintaining a well-manicured lawn. For any questions or concerns, be sure to consult with your local UF/IFAS Extension Office.

Pollinator Gardening – Tips for Apartment Living

Article written by Khadejah Scott, Horticulture/Agriculture/Natural Resources Agent – UF/IFAS Extension at Wakulla County.

Gardening for pollinators is not only beneficial for the environment, but it can also be a rewarding and fulfilling hobby. However, living in an apartment can pose a challenge for those who want to create a pollinator-friendly garden. But fear not! With a little bit of creativity and effort, you can still create a welcoming space for pollinators to thrive. Check out these tips to encourage pollinators at your apartment.

Choose Your Location

The balcony is the obvious first choice for your apartment pollinator garden. Alternatively, if your building has a roof, porch, terrace, or courtyard, check to see if you can use those spaces for a few plants.

Assess Your Size And Space

The majority of apartment dwellers value their available space strongly. Finding space for just you and your possessions, much less a garden can be difficult. But even the smallest areas have the potential to turn into green havens with a little imagination. Make sure your space gets adequate sunlight and is close to a source for watering.

Select Your Plant Types

One way to start your garden is by choosing the right plants. Diversity is the key to a good pollinator garden. Because each pollinator has its techniques for sourcing nectar and pollen, flowers should be as varied as the pollinators that visit them. Native plants such as Gaillardia (Gaillardia pulchella) are an excellent option as they provide food and shelter for local pollinators. Together with native plants, you may also grow annual ornamental flowers in smaller gardens that will thrive and provide an excellent source of nectar and pollen, like zinnias (Zinnia elegans),  or sunflowers (Helianthus annuus). Another best option is also to use culinary herbs. For instance, basil (Ocimum basilicum) and oregano (Origanum vulgareare) are fantastic nectar sources if you allow them to flower. One creative way to create a pollinator-friendly garden is by incorporating a variety of textures and colors. This can include adding different heights, shapes, and textures to your garden, as well as incorporating a variety of flower colors. You can also choose plants that bloom at different times of the year to ensure a consistent food source. This will attract a wide range of pollinators, including bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds.

Sunflowers can be grown from seed and provide food for birds. Photo: J_McConnell, UF/IFAS

Plant in Containers

Another important aspect to consider is the type of containers you will use for your plants. You can use anything from traditional pots to repurposed containers like old tires or wooden boxes. Just make sure that your containers have proper drainage and are large enough to accommodate your plants. Plants such as swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnata), Blazing Star (Liatris spp.), and Black-Eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta) do well in containers.

Think Vertically

In a small area, vines can significantly expand the habitat that is available by climbing up a trellis or lattice against a wall or fence. Numerous native vines such as the Maypop (Passiflora incarnata) can go in large containers and are excellent sources of nectar and pollen for pollinators.

Include Bird Feeders And Bird Houses

An enjoyable way to observe birds up close and get in touch with nature is using bird feeders. Additionally, they enhance the natural food sources that birds can find near your garden. Bird houses also provide shelter to cavity-nesting species and increase the species of birds at your apartment. 

A hummingbird gathering nectar from a firespike (Odontonemastrictum) flower. Photo Credit:

Finally, make sure to supply a source of water for your pollinators. This can be as simple as a shallow dish or bowl filled with water or a small fountain. Just be sure to change the water regularly to prevent mosquito breeding.

Creating a pollinator-friendly garden in an apartment is not only possible but can be an enjoyable and rewarding experience. By following the tips above, you can create a welcoming environment for local pollinators to thrive. For questions about pollinators for apartment living, contact your county UF/IFAS Extension Office.

Every Rose has its Thorn: Growing Roses in North Florida

Every Rose has its Thorn: Growing Roses in North Florida

Article written by: Khadejah Scott, Extension Agent, UF/IFAS Extension – Wakulla County

Roses are renowned for their exquisite blossoms throughout the world. They can bloom for at least nine months of the year here in North Florida. Roses can be incorporated into plant beds, shown as a specimen plants, or planted in a separate garden just for them. The famous proverb “Every rose has its thorn” is well-known and frequently used to illustrate an important fact about life – nothing is perfect. Roses can be either low- or high-maintenance. Low-maintenance roses require little care and include the “old garden roses” and shrub roses. Hybrid tea, Grandiflora, floribunda, and polyantha roses (“modern” roses) are considered high maintenance since they require frequent grooming, fertilizing, watering, and spraying. It’s important to choose rose varieties that work well and fit your lifestyle if you want to cultivate roses. Below are some facts about cultivating roses in the landscape.

a pink rose
A rose. Gardening, ornamentals. flowers. UF/IFAS Photo by Tyler Jones.


Roses require at least six hours per day of direct sunlight. It is preferable to place plants in open areas where their roots won’t compete with one another for moisture and nutrients. Where shade is unavoidable, pick a spot that receives early sunlight. The optimum soil for growing roses drains properly while holding enough moisture and nutrients. To a depth of 12 inches, thoroughly and evenly mix amendments with 2-4 inches of organic material. These amendments work best when introduced to light, sandy soils, and easily compacted soils.


Roses in containers are generally offered for sale all year round at nearby nurseries. Early spring is the ideal time to plant roses. Create a hole that is at least as deep as the root ball. After removing the root ball from the container, loosen the circling roots by hand. The rose should be planted at the same depth that it was in the container. Each plant should have a 2- to 3-inch layer of mulch (compost, wood chips, pine needles, etc.) applied around it. The mulch should be kept about an inch away from the main stem.

A rose bush with pink blooms
A rose bush. Gardening, ornamentals. flowers. UF/IFAS Photo by Tyler Jones.


For 6 to 8 weeks after planting, water roses frequently to establish. The majority of modern roses require weekly watering and spraying, periodic grooming to remove old blossoms, monthly fertilization (February to November), and early spring pruning and mulching. Most low-maintenance roses are somewhat disease resistant and will survive with few to no sprays. Grooming is required to keep them healthy, attractive, and productive. The type of rose and your preferences will determine how frequently you should groom it. After each bloom cycle, prune away faded flowers, break off suckers that sprout from the rootstock, and remove dead wood and canes that exhibit disease symptoms to properly groom your plants.

Because of their stunning color and potent aroma, roses have long been a favorite plant for landscapes. Your local UF/IFAS Extension Office and local rose society are excellent resources for information on color, variety selection, and other topics.