Sheila Dunning, Commercial Horticulture Agent with the University of Florida Extension Office in Okaloosa County, will provide a lecture on landscape renovation. This free hour-long presentation will be held on Wednesday, August 21 from 10 to 11 a.m. at the Okaloosa Extension Annex located at 127 Hollywood Boulevard NW in Fort Walton Beach.

Dunning will help guide you in assessing your landscape needs, setting goals and finding design ideas to help renovate your landscape.

Seating is limited for this seminar and reservations are required. Please call the UF/IFAS Okaloosa County Extension Office at 850-689-5850 or email achisholm@myokaloosa.com to reserve your seat.

Over time, landscapes change and our needs change. Lawns, shrubs, and trees are living and respond to their environment, growing and declining with time. Many older landscapes eventually need renovation and improvements. Older plants outgrow their space. Others decline. Large, open lawns for play may not be needed any longer as children become older and eventually move away.

There are plants that are best removed from the landscape. They may become overgrown or become less than aesthetically pleasing. That’s a nice way to say they were ugly. The area may look better after removing old, overgrown plants.

Late summer through fall is a good time to do a walk-through of your landscape. Make notes if necessary as you visually inspect the plants. You get to see the plants that did great, the plants that didn’t do so great. You can make decisions on which plants to do away with, which to keep, which were more trouble than they were worth from a maintenance standpoint, etc.

As you inspect your landscape, ask yourself questions. You can easily identify problem areas in the lawn. As you identify problem areas in the lawn, attempt to determine why those areas aren’t doing so well. Begin formulating plans for correcting those areas. Decide if renovating and replanting with grass is your best option. Or, something other than grass may be the best option, particularly if there is a history of problems with grass in a specific location.

It may be time to replace an older, declining plant with something new. There may be a plant that hasn’t performed up to par but that would do better if moved to a more appropriate location – fall is a good time to relocate plants. Now is a good time to take a soil sample and possibly take the guesswork out of liming or fertilizing. We can test the pH at the Extension Office now and you’ll still have plenty of time to apply lime if needed. Larry Williams, UF/IFAS Extension Agent, Okaloosa County

Reestablish old, declining lawn

Sometimes we waste time and money attempting to rejuvenate an older, thinning, weedy lawn when the best solution is to start over.

As a general rule, when there is less than sixty percent coverage of the desirable lawn grass left, reestablishment should be considered. Many times with time, the original lawn grass dies out leaving a mix of weeds, some of the original lawn grass, sometimes a volunteer grass such as bermudagrass and/or bahiagrass and some bare ground.

Many people wrongly assume that a pest is responsible for the thinning lawn grass in association with large shrubs or trees. As a result, some people misguidedly treat the area for insect and/or disease problems. Some people blame weeds as the lawn declines. But in reality, as the lawn thins, weeds move in.

Over time, trees and large shrubs may simply outcompete the grass. This is a common scenario. When dealing with a similar situation (particularly a group of large trees and/or shrubs), consider alternatives to lawn grass. People sometimes go to great extents to grow lawn grass where it doesn’t want to grow and without ever considering an alternative. Mulch or a shade tolerate groundcover may be a better choice in place of the declining lawn. A mulched bed will look better than a weedy, thinning lawn. And the tree’s roots will benefit from the mulch.

In the process of starting over, decide where lawn grass is needed or where it serves a purpose and consider other options in areas where grass may not be needed or where grass does not historically grow well.

As grass declines in high traffic areas, consider pavement or mulch. In naturally wet areas, consider plants that do well on wet sites. Some areas aren’t appropriate for growing lawn grass. As the grass declines in these areas, “weeds” that are better suited to the conditions outcompete the grass. In such cases, consider turf alternatives and avoid the use of herbicides to control the weeds, which are only a temporary fix at best.

Attempt to determine why the lawn declined and, if possible, correct any mismanagement practices that may have contributed to the lawn’s demise.

It’s unwise to put the time and money into redoing a lawn and then continue to follow poor lawn care practices that will again result in a short-lived, declining lawn. 

Professional or expert assistance may be required to diagnose some lawn problems such as nutrient imbalances or nematode and disease issues.

For more information on lawn renovation and care, contact your local UF/IFAS County Extension Office or visit http://hort.ufl.edu/yourfloridalawn.  

Larry Williams, UF/IFAS Extension Agent, Okaloosa County

August landscape tasks and plant clinic

August can be a tough month in the North Florida landscape. Heat, humidity, insects, and diseases can take their toll on both the landscape and the gardener. But there are things to do this month that can make a big difference in your landscape.

August is a good time to clean up roses for fall flower production. Disease-prone roses may need to be on a regular spray schedule for black spot and powdery mildew. Prune to remove diseased and dead shoots and prune back weak, leggy branches. An application of fertilizer is suggested for rose plants that have not been fertilized recently. Some care now can result in neglected rose plants blooming during late summer and fall. Some old fashioned and species roses will only bloom once each year.

This is an ideal time to lift daylily clumps, divide and replant them. Retain as many of the roots as possible with each division. Cut back foliage to 1/3 its original height. Prepare the soil in the bed by loosening and amending it with organic matter such as compost or peat moss. Set new divisions as deep as they grew originally but no deeper make sure to water to get replanted divisions established.

Crape myrtles can be forced to flower again. Remove (deadhead) spent flowers or seedpods, pruning just the terminal seed cluster. This forces new growth and repeat flowering. It will take four to six weeks before the second flush of blooms develops. This technique also works on chaste trees (Vitex). This practice may not be possible or practical on larger mature trees.

The August plant clinic will be held Friday, August 9 from 9 a.m. to noon in Fort Walton Beach at the Okaloosa County Extension Annex located at 127 NW Hollywood Blvd.

The plant clinic provides a place and time for people to bring in samples of plants for diagnosis including weeds for identification.

Bring a fresh sample of the weed, plant, insect, etc., that you’d like diagnosed to the clinic. This may include a plant stem with several leaves, a 4-inch square of grass with roots attached, etc.

You also may bring a sample of soil for pH testing. Use a clean shovel, trowel or soil probe to collect a representative sample by taking thin slices or cores of soil to a depth of six to eight inches from ten different spots throughout the plant bed, lawn or garden. Thoroughly mix all of the small soil slices/cores together in a clean bucket. Place one to two cups of this mixture in a closable plastic bag and bring to the clinic for testing. Larry Williams, UF/IFAS Extension Agent

When and How to Renovate Your Landscape with Commercial Horticulture Extension Agent Sheila Dunning

The Okaloosa County Master Gardener Association will offer a free lecture on landscape renovation on Wednesday, August 21 from 10:00-11:00 a.m. at the Okaloosa Extension Annex, 127 Hollywood Boulevard NW, Fort Walton Beach.

Things go out of style, age and wear out during the years — and that includes landscaping. A landscape is dynamic, always growing and changing. Just like a home or car, a landscape needs regular maintenance to look its best. There are many reasons to renovate: add curb appeal, correct drainage, repair irrigation, increase the home’s value, provide plants room to grow or to improve security.

Sheila will help guide you in assessing your needs, setting goals, and finding design ideas to help renovate your landscape.

Seating is limited for this seminar and reservations are required. Please call the UF/IFAS Okaloosa County Extension Office at 850-689-5850 or email achisholm@myokaloosa.com to reserve your seat.

Common Summer Tree Problems

During our hot, humid summer weather, questions concerning tree problems increase. Stan Rosenthal, former UF/IFAS Extension Forestry Agent in Leon County, and I explain some of the more common summer tree concerns in today’s article.

Our warm, humid summer days allow insects, fungi, bacteria, and mold to thrive. We often see evidence of these organisms living on our trees during summer by noticing dead areas, spots or a crumpled look to the leaves. Often these problems, while not good for the trees, are no more serious for trees than warts are to us. Even though it may be helpful to learn the cause, most of the time our recommendation is to leave the problem alone.  

Another common problem this time of year is squirrel damage. Squirrels are quite abundant in our urban environments. We get many calls about bark having been chewed off, most frequently on thin-barked trees. If you look closely you will see teeth marks. This is usually caused by squirrels. The only thing that seems to work is to wrap a fairly small holed fencing wire around the trunk and/or branches of the tree. Reducing the population of squirrels seems to be a futile effort at best.

Sometimes we overuse or misuse weed killers in our lawns. Many weed killers that are used in lawns kill dicot plants and not monocots. Grass is a monocot. Dicots include not only many of the weeds that we intend to kill but also large trees like oaks and dogwoods. When heavily used, these weed killers can weaken or even kill some trees. In close proximity to trees, avoid the use of lawn herbicides that have the potential to injure the trees and establish large mulch beds instead of grass.  

Soil compaction is a major problem for trees in our urban environments. Roots need to take in oxygen and release carbon dioxide. In compacted soil, sufficient air can’t be exchanged. The result is too much carbon dioxide in the soil pores instead of oxygen.  This poor exchange leads to poor root growth and poor tree growth. It’s best to keep vehicle traffic off areas intended for growing trees and to use mulch where possible to build up the soil and protect tree roots from soil compaction.  

I am also beginning to see signs of tiny insects called psocids (pronounced so-cids). Psocids cause much alarm but are harmless to trees. They form silky webbing over the bark of a tree. Under this webbing, the psocids consume fungi, lichen, pollen and other organic material that is on the bark. Once they have eaten everything, they leave the tree unharmed.

Larry Williams, UF/IFAS Extension Agent, Okaloosa County