Reducing Your Lawn Size Options

Reducing Your Lawn Size Options

Photo Courtesy:  Stephen Greer

Lawn areas come in all sizes and shapes.  Some are large open expanses providing long views and others are smaller versions surrounded by shrubs and trees creating a more private and secluded setting.  There are a number of reasons for reducing the size of a lawn with some coming into play with your decisions.  A home lawn is often an important part of the landscape that provides a place to play outdoors from picnicking, tossing the ball to taking a quite stroll.

Maintaining a healthy lawn is important to an overall performance of this part of the landscape.  Several factors are involved in the success in keeping a strong and resilient lawn.  Understanding the needs of a grass to remain healthy involve soil testing to address soil pH and nutrient needs plus water challenges.  Misuse of fertilizer and over irrigation can be costly to you and to the overall health of the lawn. These decisions can lead to reducing lawn size to managing cost or removing underused areas.

There are big benefits to reducing your lawn from saving time in mowing, trimming and other manicuring needs to saving energy costs involving the lawn mower not to mention reducing pollution from the mower or weed eater.  The reduced amounts of pesticides needed to manage weeds and disease to the lawn saves time and money.

Another way to look at the reducing the size of our lawn is there will be more space for expanding plant beds and potential tree placement.  These settings increase the opportunities for a more biodiverse landscape providing shelter, protection and food options for birds and other wildlife.

Photo Courtesy:  Stephen Greer

The lawn can serve as a transition space that leads from one garden room space to another, while still offering a location to bring the lawn chair out to enjoy all that is around your lawn.  Lawns and the landscape are ever changing spaces, especially as your trees and shrubs grow and mature to sizes that can directly impact the lawn performance.  Often levels of shade will diminish edges and other areas of the lawn.  This often will define the reduction of the lawn size moving going forward.  Just remember that lawns and landscapes occupy a three-dimensional space involving the horizontal, vertical and overhead spaces.  Just look around and think about what is best for you, your family and the setting.Are you more interested in developing other parts of the landscape?  With many of us spending more time at home over the last year plus it gave time to think about the outdoor areas.  Growing our own vegetables may be a new or expanding part of the landscape with the use of raised beds or interplanting into the existing landscape.   Gardening can assist in reducing stress while at the same time providing that fresh tomato, lettuce, herbs and other fun healthy produce.

What ever your decisions are enjoy the lawn and landscape.  For additional information, contact your local University of Florida IFAS Extension office located in your county.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Weeping Yaupon Offers Year-Round Interest to the Landscape

Weeping Yaupon Offers Year-Round Interest to the Landscape

If you are looking for an interesting native plant that attracts wildlife and makes a statement, look no further than Weeping Yaupon Holly Ilex vomitoria ‘Pendula’. The weeping growth habit with olive green leaves and white bark are attractive year-round. A bonus are the showy bright red berries that attract birds in the fall and winter. It is a cultivar of Yaupon Holly Ilex vomitoria which is tolerant of variable light and soil conditions making it a very adaptable plant.

Weeping Yaupon is a small evergreen tree that grows 15-30 feet tall with a mature width of 6-12 feet. Once established it has a high tolerance to drought conditions and is also able to sustain salt spray making it a good fit for coastal landscapes.

For more information visit https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/publication/ST312

New Home Construction and Impacts of Existing Plants

New Home Construction and Impacts of Existing Plants

As we have all observed communities are growing in the Panhandle through new home construction or through renovation of existing properties.  This article will address new home construction.  Many questions come to mind as construction begins with some of these questions needing to be addressed prior to start of construction.  Determining impacts on the plant resources that already exist on the site should be included in the planning, design, construction and post-construction phases to be successful in achieving a healthy vibrant landscape for all to enjoy.

Photo Courtesy: Stephen Greer

Homes in community developments are being located on smaller lots in groups with conservation areas saved for the open spaces for all to enjoy.  An older term for this was new urbanism and now is often referred to as conservation or clustered development.  This type of development identifies and encourages environmentally friendly habitats for plants and animals creating a biodiversity within a walkable neighborhood designed to protect yet allow residence to enjoy some of the Northwest Florida beauty.

How can the objectives of building the new home desired, manage to protect the healthy plants already existing on the site?  These challenges are difficult to answer but there are steps to accomplish both.  For this article I will address construction and tree protection.

Protecting existing trees during the construction and post-construction phases takes expertise and a plan.  First, consider hiring a professional arborist or urban forester to assist in this plan development.  Understanding the existing trees on site prior to construction from the variety, location, visual impacts, size, overall health and location on the property are a good start.  How do you protect the selected trees?  First identify the trees that will need to be removed.  Look for unhealthy stressed trees, significant limb death already occurring, poor crown growth (thinning) and other observations.

Photo Courtesy: Stephen Greer

The next step is to make a sight plan that needs to include grading needs for the home, drainage on the property, existing trees and surrounding vegetation, property lines, set back requirements, driveway location, utility placements and site of home.  Flag trees that will be impacted and will need to be removed during the construction.

Following the sight plan, a tree protection plan needs to occur.  This must happen before construction begins and include all parties involved to make sure all are in agreement.  This is the stage where the group can identify conflicts involving tree protection and construction.  Oversight by the owner, contractor and equipment operators is critical.  A tree protection zone must be identified and implemented before construction.  This typically involves setting up a fence around the protected trees and vegetation to restrict access of equipment and potential damage to the root system.  A rule of thumb is to maintain a radius of at least 1.25 feet of protected area for each 1 inch of tree trunk diameter.  An example would be a 12-inch diameter tree trunk with good protection at 15 feet to best protection at 30 feet of radius.

Photo Courtesy:  Stephen Greer

The point is to give the best chance of a health survival of the tree during this soil and site disturbance as the construction process progress all the way to post construction with the removal of the protective fencing.  Difficult decisions may need to be made of selecting trees to protect but will be needed.  Enjoy the successes and plan for creating a new landscape that includes part of conserving plants that were there before and going forward.

(Video) Prepare for the Storm: Trees and Property Lines

(Video) Prepare for the Storm: Trees and Property Lines

There are often questions about who is responsible when storm-damaged trees end up on a neighbor’s property. UF IFAS Escambia County Extension discusses a few common situations using legal interpretations from the UF publication HANDBOOK OF FLORIDA FENCE AND PROPERTY LAW: TREES AND LANDOWNER RESPONSIBILITY.

How to Not Fail Growing Crape Myrtles

How to Not Fail Growing Crape Myrtles

Crape Myrtle season is almost upon us.  Soon, every roadside, landscape, and gas station parking lot in the deep south will be lit up in gaudy colors from white to hot pink to fire engine red.  A well-placed Crape Myrtle (Lagerstroemia hybrids) can turn even the most boring landscape into a picturesque photo op once summer rolls around.  These toughest of flowering trees also ask very little of gardeners to look their best, thriving in many varied settings with a wide range of care given to them.  Despite their low-maintenance nature, I see all too many Crape Myrtles languishing in landscapes.  While it is difficult to fail with Crape Myrtles, it is not impossible if you site and maintain the trees incorrectly.  This summer, follow these three tips to get the most out of the best small tree a southern landscape can offer.

Properly sited, pruned, and maintained crape myrtle. Photo courtesy of Daniel Leonard.

  1. Do not murder your Crape Myrtles.   For any reason.  No other tree gets lopped off each year to a random height in the belief that it makes it prettier.  While your “murdered” crape may indeed produce more flowers the following season, you are permanently damaging the tree, giving rot and decay a foothold, unnecessarily making the tree more susceptible to storm damage, and ultimately shortening the tree’s lifespan.  The only pruning that should be done to the species is an occasional “limbing-up” to expose the gorgeous flaky bark underneath and to remove dead or dying branches.
  2. Don’t plant Crape Myrtles in shade. Crape Myrtles perform their best in 6+ hours of blistering full sun per day.  Even light shade at various times during the day will greatly reduce flowering, cause the tree to appear thin, and force it to reach for the sun, creating a leggy look.  There are many wonderful small landscape trees like Greybeard, Redbud, and Japanese Magnolia that make excellent Crape Myrtle alternatives in shady sites.  If you can’t put a Crape in full sun, plant something else.
  3. Keep the area under the canopy free of turfgrass. Turf is a wonderful feature in lawns, just not directly under crape myrtles.  Grass does an excellent job of scavenging nutrients and water that otherwise would benefit the crape myrtle above.  Also, having grass inside the dripline forces homeowners and landscape professionals to cut the grass right up to the trunk.  This often leads to soil compaction from heavy mower traffic and damage from lawnmower decks and string trimmers, which damages the thin Crape Myrtle bark and can even girdle and kill the tree.  Either kill out the grass and weeds under the canopy with a nonselective herbicide like Glyphosate and then mulch or plant a shade loving groundcover like Asiatic Jasmine.

Crape Myrtle is one of the most rewarding plants Panhandle gardeners can grow as well as one of the easiest.  By following just a few best practices, not overpruning, planting only in full sun and keeping the ground free of turfgrass under the canopy, pretty much every landscape can enjoy success with the species.  For more information on growing Crape Myrtle and other gardening topics, reach out to your local UF/IFAS County Extension office!  Happy Gardening!