On August 12, 2021, our panel answered questions on a wide variety of landscape topics. Maybe you are asking the same questions, so read on!
Ideas on choosing plants
What are some perennials that can be planted this late in the summer but will still bloom through the cooler months into fall?
Duranta erecta ‘Sapphire Showers’ or ‘Gold Mound’, firespike, Senna bicapsularis, shrimp plant, lion’s ear
Where can native plants be obtained?
Dune sunflower, Helianthus debilis. Photo credit: Mary Salinas UF/IFAS Extension.
Gardening Solutions: Florida Native Plants – see link to FANN: https://gardeningsolutions.ifas.ufl.edu/plants/ornamentals/native-plants.html
What are some evergreen groundcover options for our area?
Mondo grass, Japanese plum yew, shore juniper, ajuga, ferns such as autumn fern.
What are some ideas for partial morning sun butterfly attracting tall flowers to plant now?
Milkweed, salt and pepper plant, swamp sunflower, dune sunflower, ironweed, porterweed, and salt bush.
I’m interested in moving away from a monoculture lawn. What are some suggestions for alternatives?
Perennial peanut, powderpuff mimosa, and frogfruit.
We are new to Florida and have questions about everything in our landscape.
Florida-Friendly-Landscaping TM Program and FFL Web Apps: https://ffl.ifas.ufl.edu/
UF IFAS Gardening Solutions: https://gardeningsolutions.ifas.ufl.edu/
What are some of the top trends in landscaping today?
Houseplants, edible gardens, native plants, food forests, attracting wildlife, container gardening, and zoysiagrass lawns
Artwork broccoli is a variety that produces small heads. Photo credit: Mary Salinas UF/IFAS Extension.
What vegetables are suitable for fall/winter gardening?
Cool Season Vegetables: https://gardeningsolutions.ifas.ufl.edu/plants/edibles/vegetables/cool-season-vegetables.html
North Florida Gardening Calendar: https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/publication/EP451%20%20%20
Florida Vegetable Gardening Guide: https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/publication/vh021
How can I add herbs to my landscape?
Herbs in the Florida Garden: https://gardeningsolutions.ifas.ufl.edu/plants/edibles/vegetables/herbs.html
My figs are green and hard. When do they ripen?
Why Won’t My Figs Ripen: https://www.lsuagcenter.com/profiles/rbogren/articles/page1597952870939
What is best soil for raised bed vegetable gardens?
Gardening in Raised Beds: https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/publication/EP472
And there are always questions about weeds
How can I eradicate cogongrass?
Chamber bitter is a troublesome warm season weed in our region. Photo credit: Brantlee Spakes Richter, University of Florida, Bugwood.org
Is it okay to use cardboard for weed control?
The Cardboard Controversy: https://gardenprofessors.com/the-cardboard-controversy/
What is the best way to control weeds in grass and landscape beds?
Weed Management Guide for Florida Lawns: https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/publication/EP141
Improving Weed Control in Landscape Planting Beds: https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/pdf/EP/EP52300.pdf
Can ground water be brackish and stunt plants?
Reclaimed Water Use in the Landscape: https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/publication/ss545
How can I prevent erosion from rainwater runoff?
Stormwater Runoff Control – NRCS: https://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/detail/national/water/?cid=nrcs144p2_027171
Rain Gardens: https://gardeningsolutions.ifas.ufl.edu/design/types-of-gardens/rain-gardens.html
What is the best time of the year to propagate flowering trees in zone 8B?
Landscape Plant Propagation Information Page – UF/IFAS Env. Hort: https://hort.ifas.ufl.edu/database/lppi/
Which type of mulch works best on slopes greater than 3 percent?
Landscape Mulches: How Quickly do they Settle?: https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/publication/FR052
When should bulbs be fertilized?
Bulbs and More – UI Extension: https://web.extension.illinois.edu/bulbs/planting.cfm
Should I cut the spent blooms of agapanthus?
Agapanthus, extending the bloom time: https://gardeningsolutions.ifas.ufl.edu/plants/ornamentals/agapanthus.html
Monarch caterpillar munching on our native sandhill milkweed, Asclepias humistrata. Photo credit: Mary Salinas, UF IFAS Extension.
I planted native milkweed and have many monarch caterpillars. Should I protect them or leave them in nature?
It’s best to leave them in place. Featured Creatures: Monarch Butterfly: https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/pdf/IN/IN780/IN780-Dxyup8sjiv.pdf
How does Vinca (periwinkle) do in direct sun? Will it make it through one of our panhandle summers? Can I plant in late August?
Periwinkles and No more fail with Cora series: https://gardeningsolutions.ifas.ufl.edu/plants/ornamentals/periwinkles.html#:~:text=Plant%20your%20periwinkles%20where%20they,rot%20if%20irrigated%20too%20frequently.
Insect and disease pests
What to do if you get termites in your raised bed?
The Facts About Termites and Mulch: https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/publication/IN651
How to combat fungus?
Guidelines for ID and Management of Plant Disease Problems: https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/publication/mg442
Are there preventative measures to prevent diseases when the humidity is very high and it is hot?
Fungi in Your Landscape by Maxine Hunter: http://blogs.ifas.ufl.edu/marionco/2020/01/16/fungi-in-your-landscape/
If you missed an episode, check out our playlist on YouTube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bp0HfdEkIQw&list=PLhgoAzWbtRXImdFE8Jdt0jsAOd-XldNCd
One of the most conspicuous outcomes from Hurricane Michael was the complete disruption of local lawns and landscapes. Giant holes where tree roots once existed, ruts and compacted ground from clean-up equipment, and formerly shaded acres flooded with fresh sunshine were three very common situations property owners suddenly found themselves faced with. An unforeseen consequence of all this newly bare ground ripe was the intrusion by a variety of very aggressive weeds. One invasive exotic weed that has made itself right at home in many county landscapes following Michael and that I’ve seen lots of lately is Torpedograss (Panicum repens).
Often brought into landscapes with “fill-dirt” and “topsoil” applications or spread through mowing, Torpedograss is an aggressive perennial grass in the same plant family as Bermudagrass and Cogongrass. Like many invasive exotic species, Torpedograss was introduced into the United States in the late 1800’s from its native Africa and Asia as a potential forage crop. Unlike its cousin Cogongrass, the Torpedograss is highly palatable to cattle and so gained a quick following among the ranching community. Unfortunately, over the next century, Torpedograss had left the pasture and turned into one of the biggest pest plants in Florida, ruining many a lawn, taking over 70% of the state’s public waterways, disrupting native marshlands, and costing Florida over $2 million a year to control!
Torpedograss growing in a Calhoun County gravel driveway. Photo courtesy of Daniel Leonard.
Torpedograss spreads rapidly through underground, sharply pointed, white-colored, “torpedo-like” growing tips and can dominate wet or dry areas in short order. The species often hides in lawns when mixed in and mowed with other turfgrasses (especially Zoysiagrass, which it closely resembles), growing unnoticed until infestations are severe and control options are few. This makes scouting for the weed and accurate identification crucial! Torpedograss can be identified by its bluish-green leaf and stem color, hairy leaf edges, stiff overall appearance, distinctive panicle-type flowers, and can grow quickly to 3’ or so in height, spreading indefinitely. Though it initially can resemble other turf species, once you know what you’re looking for, Torpedograss stands out visually amongst its competitors.
After identifying Torpedograss, control methods can be chosen depending on the site it has infested. In lawns, options vary based on turf species. If infestation occurs in the common Centipedegrass and Bahiagrass lawns of the Panhandle, options are few. Products with the active ingredient Sethoxydim (Poast, Fertilome Over the Top, Southern Ag Grass Killer, etc.) can suppress Torpedograss growth in these situations but will not destroy it and are not permanent options. If the area infested is not large, killing the whole spot out with a non-selective herbicide like Glyphosate (Roundup and generics) and then resodding is probably a better option. In Bermudagrass or Zoysiagrass lawns, products with the active ingredient quinclorac (Drive and generics) are very effective at controlling Torpedograss without having to go the “nuclear” glyphosate route. Unfortunately, there are no effective controls for Torpedograss in St. Augustinegrass lawns.
In landscaped beds, Torpedograss is somewhat easier to control. Hand pulling in beds can be effective where new invasions occur but are impractical once the weeds gain a strong foothold. Once that occurs, chemical control is required. In bare or mulched areas away from plants, careful spot spraying in bare areas with a 2-3% glyphosate solution is extremely effective. Where the Torpedograss has grown into and through landscape plants, an “over-the-top” application of fluazifop (Fusilade) will take out the weed without harming most ornamental plant species! (Be sure to check the Fusilade label to make sure your ornamental plant species are safe to apply to!)
Torpedograss is one of the most serious, yet overlooked, invasive plants that occurs in Florida. However, through prevention and control techniques like cleaning mowers when mowing infested areas, accurate identification, and prompt, effective herbicide use, you can keep the weed from taking over your lawn and landscape! For assistance in identifying and controlling Torpedograss and other lawn weeds, contact your local UF/IFAS County Extension office! Happy gardening!
For those of you who tuned into the July 29 edition of Gardening in the Panhandle LIVE, beneficial insects was the topic of the day. Here are links to the publications our panelists talked about.
Mantid. Photo credit: David Cappaert, Bugwood.org.
How do I identify the kind of insect I have?
Recognizing beneficial bugs: Natural Enemies Gallery from UC Davis http://ipm.ucanr.edu/natural-enemies/
How to distinguish the predatory stink bug from the ones that harm our crops: https://entomology.ces.ncsu.edu/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/FL-pred.jpg
How to tell difference in stink bugs and leaf footed insects. Are both harmful? UF/IFAS Featured Creatures: leaffooted bug – Leptoglossus phyllopus (Linnaeus) (ufl.edu)
How can I tell bad beetles from good ones? Helpful, Harmful, Harmless Identification Guide is one resource available: http://ifasbooks.ifas.ufl.edu/p-153-helpful-harmful-harmless.aspx
How can we encourage beneficial insects?
How can we encourage the beneficial insect species?
- Plant more flowers attract pollinators that also feed on insects.
- Diversity of plants in the landscape.
- Use softer or more selective pesticides to minimize damage to beneficials.
Is it helpful to order beneficial insects such as lady bugs? Encouraging Beneficial Insects in Your Garden OSU: https://catalog.extension.oregonstate.edu/sites/catalog/files/project/pdf/pnw550.pdf
How effective is buying predatory insects to release in your greenhouse? Natural Enemies and Biological Control: https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/publication/IN120
Can I buy beneficial insects to start breeding in my garden? Natural Enemy Releases for Biological Control of Crop Pests: https://www2.ipm.ucanr.edu/agriculture/natural-enemy-releases-for-biological-control-of-crop-pests/
What benefit would result by planting city right-of-ways with native wild flowers? https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/publication/in1316; https://adamgdale.files.wordpress.com/2020/03/gcm_feb2020.pdf
Can an individual gardener sustain an ecosystem for beneficial insects? Penn State Article on beneficial insects that mentions some flowering plants that help support predators and parasitoids: https://extension.psu.edu/attracting-beneficial-insects
How do I get rid of mole crickets? UF/IFAS Mole Crickets: https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/entity/topic/mole_crickets
Are wasps really beneficial? Beneficial Insects: Predators!: https://sfyl.ifas.ufl.edu/sarasota/gardening-and-landscaping/horticulture-commercial/integrated-pest-management/beneficial-insects/
Is a dish soap solution effective against wasps? Soaps, Detergents, and Pest Management: https://gardeningsolutions.ifas.ufl.edu/care/pests-and-diseases/pests/management/soaps-detergents-and-pest-management.html
How to control leaf footed bugs? Handpick them, attract beneficials, create diverse plantings in landscape, accept some damage, and control them when in the juvenile stage.
Can you tell me about praying mantids? Praying Mantids: https://entomology.ca.uky.edu/files/efpdf2/ef418.pdf
Are there any beneficial insects that keep mosquito populations down? Dragonfly larvae in water, mosquitofish
What are the little insects that hop out of centipede grass? Are they beneficial?
Spittlebugs and your lawn: https://nwdistrict.ifas.ufl.edu/hort/2020/05/27/spittlebugs-and-your-lawn/
How to stop Eastern Black Swallowtail Butterflies laying eggs on parsley – the hatched caterpillars eat it all. Plant extra or put a screen over plant.
Extra fun video!
Take a look at this video of parasitic wasp attacking aphids: Parasitic Wasps | National Geographic – YouTube
The lawn is a source of pride for most and anything out of the ordinary causes alarm. Now image finding something that looks like lumpy green jelly in your turfgrass and it doesn’t go away. You try raking it, spraying it, covering it, and it still comes back time and time again. One of the things we see in late spring/early summer turf is a reemergence of cyanobacteria (Nostoc), sometimes confused with algae because of green coloring and this remains all summer long.
Dehydrated cyanobacteria in a centipedegrass lawn.
Unlike normal bacteria that needs a food source, cyanobacteria contains chlorophyll and produces its own food source through photosynthesis which allows it to grow on bare sandy soils, fabric mats, concrete sidewalks, plastic, and yes even your lawn. Besides the green pigment, it also produces a blue pigment and is why we call it cyanobacteria which means blue-green bacteria. In addition to photosynthesis, cyanobacteria can also fix nitrogen, and are believed to produce cyanotoxins and allelopathic compounds which can affect plant growth around them.
Cyanobacteria are considered one of earth’s oldest organism and they have tremendous survival capabilities. They can dry out completely, be flat, flaky, black-green dried particles in your lawn and once rehydrated, spring back to life. If you happen to notice it spreading throughout your yard, remember that pieces of the organism can stick to your wet shoes or lawnmower tires and be transported unintentionally.
The question then becomes how to control the cyanobacteria and reclaim your turfgrass. The first solution is to have a healthy lawn. Cyanobacteria likes poorly-drained compacted soils. This same condition is unfavorable to turf growth and why you end up with bare spots and establishment. Reduce soil compaction by using a core aerator, and then adding organic matter. This will increase drainage, gas exchange, and encourage microorganism populations which I like to call soil pets. Spike aerators only push the soil particles aside and don’t really loosen as well. Try to reduce low lying areas in the lawn where water sits after rainfall and irrigation. You might have to till and reestablish those areas of the yard.
The same cyanobacteria pictured above 24 hours after being rehydrated in a petri dish of standing water.
Controlling the amount of water Mother Nature gives us and humidity levels during summer is not possible, but you can control your irrigation whether it be automatic (sprinkler system) or hand-watered. During the rainy season, you should be able to get by with only rainfall and shut off your system. If needed during extended dry weeks, it is easy enough to turn the system back on. It is thought that cyanobacteria likes phosphorus which is another reason to use little to no phosphorus in your lawn fertilizers.
As you begin to rid your lawn of cyanobacteria, remember when fully hydrated it forms a slippery surface so be careful walking on it. Cultural practices will be more effective in controlling the spread versus using chemical methods. Cultural solutions are safer for your lawn, yard and all of the wildlife that visits. If you need help with your cyanobacteria, please contact your local Extension office and we are always happy to assist.
A special thanks to Dr. Bryan Unruh, UF/IFAS for his assistance in identifying the cyanobacteria.
For additional information, please read the sources listed below.
Biology and Management of Nostoc (Cyanobacteria) in Nurseries and Greenhouses. H. Dail Laughinghouse IV, David E. Berthold, Chris Marble, and Debalina Saha
Rain, Overwatering Can Cause Slippery Algae to Pop Up in Turfgrass. C. Waltz
Nostoc. N.J. Franklin
Now that we’re getting plenty of rain and the temperatures are nice and toasty, our nemesis to enjoying the outdoors is back in full force. Yes, I’m talking mosquitoes, the reason for inventing window screens! If you’re gardening outside these days, you’ve probably been annoyed by one of the many mosquito species that occur in our area. Many of these mosquitoes are native species that play an important role in the food chain, feeding many aquatic and terrestrial wildlife, but some of them, like the daytime biting Asian tiger mosquito, are invasive species that were accidentally introduced. While mosquitoes are an important food source to more charismatic critters, they are annoying and can spread disease, and so we can benefit by reducing their presence.
The Asian tiger mosquito, another annoying invasive species. Photo credit: Susan Ellis, Bugwood.org.
In addition to the age-old advice of draining any standing water, there are other control methods that can be very effective at reducing the mosquito population. One of the most effective and least-toxic options is the use of Bti products. These products come in granular or “donut” forms with the smaller granules being best for various uses around the home and the dunks/donuts for larger areas of standing water like ponds. These Bti products are considered a type of biological control since it is a species of bacteria, Bacillus thuringiensis israelensis to be precise, that causes mosquito, blackfly, and fungus gnat larvae to perish as they wiggle around and grow into their pupal stage. Because it only affects a narrow range of species, it is considered a selective pesticide that does not cause harm to non-target species, such as bees, birds, butterflies, frogs, lizards, and other desirable garden visitors. Bti can be sprinkled into rain barrels, bird baths, bromeliads, gutters, and other places where water may stand more than 5-7 days, the amount of time needed for mosquito eggs to develop into adults.
Bti granules prevent mosquito larvae from becoming biting adults. Photo by: Mark Tancig, UF/IFAS.
If considering other methods of mosquito control, such as the use of foggers, keep in mind that many of the pesticides used to control adult mosquitoes are not selective products and can kill the pollinators you may be trying to invite to your garden. Additionally, planting citronella plants, eating copious amounts of garlic, wearing repellent bracelets, or using ultra-sonic devices or cell phone apps has not been shown to repel mosquitoes so stick to what is known to work.
For a more enjoyable mosquito season, keep the window screens tight, wear long pants and sleeves and use appropriate repellents when outdoors, and do your best to minimize standing areas of water. If you have questions about mosquitoes and their control, visit the UF/IFAS Florida Medical Entomology Lab website (https://fmel.ifas.ufl.edu/) and browse the many resources available.
If you’ve taken care of your yard properly from spring green-up to now (mid-July), you might think you can comfortably coast into the cool temperatures of fall without any problems. You would be mostly right, save for one extraordinarily tough weed that waits until the depths of summer to rear its troublesome head: Doveweed (Murdania nudiflora).
Doveweed seedlings just emerged on July 9, 2021. Photo courtesy of Daniel Leonard.
Doveweed is an insidious invader of Panhandle lawns. In the Panhandle, Doveweed germinates (sprouts) long after most other summer annual weeds, from late May-June when soil temperatures reach ~70°F. This allows it to sneakily avoid spring pre-emergent herbicide applications and even early summer post-emergent applications that target common weeds like Florida Pusley, Spurge species, and others. Doveweed also looks an awful lot like many of our common lawn turfgrasses, especially Centipede and St. Augustine Grass. It possesses thick, shiny, grass-like foliage and even grows in a spreading, low to the ground fashion. This mimicry causes many homeowners to not realize there is a problem until it’s too late. Once Doveweed is mature and displaying its characteristic purple flowers, it is very difficult to control. Finally, Doveweed is extremely tough and aggressive, particularly thriving in moist areas of the lawn. In these areas, Doveweed can easily outcompete the desirable turfgrass and, without intervention by you, will soon have the whole lawn to itself.
Controlling Doveweed is no easy task and requires a combination of practices to keep it out of your lawn. The first line of defense against any weed, Doveweed included, is through proper cultural practices. In turfgrass lawns, this means ensuring that you mow your lawn regularly and at the proper height (2.5” or so for Centipedegrass), keeping the lawn irrigated during droughty periods, fertilizing based on a soil test, etc. Being diligent in the above tasks will go a long way to ensuring that your turfgrass is healthy and better able to ward off a Doveweed invasion. However, even when homeowners maintain their turf perfectly, chemical herbicides are usually required to keep Doveweed at bay.
Doveweed patch in St. Augustine Sod.
While many commonly used homeowner herbicides are not effective on Doveweed, there are several quality options at your disposal.
- Doveweed is most easily controlled with preemergent herbicides, specifically one of the following: Atrazine, Pennant Magnum (S-metolachlor), Tower (dimethenamid), and Specticle (indaziflam). The issue with pre-emergents is that most folks shelve them after spring application in February or March. Since these products lose their efficacy after 4-6 weeks, Doveweed’s emergence in May is undeterred. To obtain control on Doveweed with these products, split the spring application and apply once in late Feb/early March and again in mid-late April.
- Doveweed can also be controlled by post-emergent herbicides after it is up and growing, though multiple applications may be required. The most effective formulations contain a combination of 2,4-D or Dicamba and other herbicides. While most of these products have at least fair efficacy on Doveweed, stronger, more expensive products like Celsius, Tribute Total and others provide better results.
- If Doveweed has already displaced turfgrass in large areas of your lawn, you may unfortunately be better off to make an application of a non-selective herbicide like glyphosate (Roundup), kill out the entire area of infestation and start over by resodding.
While Doveweed is a major problem in Panhandle lawns, it doesn’t have to be in yours! By keeping your turf healthy with proper cultural practices and making timely applications with effective herbicides, your lawn can be a Doveweed free zone! For assistance in Doveweed identification in your lawn, help choosing herbicides and calculating application rates, or any other horticultural information, contact us at the UF/IFAS Calhoun County Extension office! Happy Gardening!