Why let your yard be a source of worry?

Photo courtesy of University of Florida/IFAS Charlotte County Extension

In times like these, it seems that our own perceived “problems” pale in comparison to the “big picture.”

In my day-to-day work, I have the opportunity to help people solve problems with their landscapes, lawns, and gardens. I enjoy the problem-solving part of my job as an extension agent.

You’d be surprised how upset some people can be about a few weeds, a dying petunia or a tomato with a crack in it. They’ll let small things like this upset their entire world. It’s as if they think we live in a perfect world when it comes to expectations for the plants in their landscape.

It has become apparent to me that too many people spend too much time letting too many small things bother them too much.

When my twin sister, Linda, and I were growing up in a small town in middle Georgia, an elderly couple (Mr. and Mrs. Hunt) would crack pecans and give the shelled halves to us to eat. They’d hand the shelled pecans to us over the fence that separated our yards. At five or six years old, this was a treat for my sister and me.

I remember their landscape. I remember Mrs. Hunt sweeping their dirt driveway lined with coconut sized rocks using handmade brooms. I remember their pink flowering dogwoods in spring. I remember their old fashion yellow and orange daylilies during summer. I remember the fascination of seeing red spider lilies seemingly come from nowhere in the fall underneath deciduous trees as they displayed their autumn colors. I remember Mrs. Hunt letting me smell a flower from a sweetshrub plant, which reminded me of sweet apples. The deep red blooms and dark green leaves of this shrub complemented the white wooden wall on the east side of their home.

I remember climbing a large mulberry tree in their backyard and picking and eating the berries. I remember watching Mr. Hunt prune grapevines growing on an overhead trellis. I remember learning about the history of a ginkgo tree planted just outside a chicken pin in their side yard. I remember watching hummingbirds flying in and out of the reddish-orange funnel-shaped blooms of a large trumpet vine growing on an old metal frame of a water tank.

I don’t remember the weeds, even though I know there must have been weeds in the Hunt’s landscape. I know there was the occasional pecan that didn’t fill out or that was worm-infested. And I’m sure the replacement of a plant had to happen on occasion. But these are not the things that made lasting impressions for me.

The big picture is not the weeds, the dying petunia plant, or the pecan with a worm in it. Sure, you will have weeds in your yard and individual plants that don’t survive. Just don’t let these things become the source of worry. In my opinion, a landscape should be a source of pleasure, a place to learn, and a place to pass along lasting memories.

With all there is to worry about in this world (as recent days have revealed), why let your own backyard be one of them?

Larry Williams, UF/IFAS Extension Agent, Okaloosa County

ANNOUNCEMENT

To our valued residents and volunteers:

Due to the COVID-19 developments and guidelines provided by the University of Florida, the following are implemented immediately.

  • All Master Gardener Volunteer activities are canceled. This includes classes, meetings, lectures, etc.
  • The Annex located on Hollywood Blvd., is closed but will be accepting phone calls through the Extension Office.
  • The Niceville location at the Senior Center is closed.
  • The Crestview office located on Airport Road will be open but with limited staffing.


We encourage our residents to call or email us regarding their horticulture questions in lieu of physically going to the office. We will be responding to emails and phone calls regularly.

Our main concern is keeping our residents and our volunteers safe during this time. 

We apologize for any inconvenience.

These restrictions are in place until April 30th but may change per instructions from the University of Florida, State/Local Governments, or the Federal government.

History of lawn grasses in Florida

In North Florida, it is possible for a lawn to look picture perfect one year and decline the very next year. The causes of problems in our lawns can be complicated involving environmental conditions, pests, and poor maintenance. To appreciate the challenges of maintaining a Florida lawn, it may help to understand the history of our lawn grasses.

Our lawn grasses are not native to the United States. Bahiagrass, originally used as a pasture grass, was introduced to the U.S. in 1914 from Brazil. In 1938, E.H. Finlayson, a County Extension Agent, discovered what was eventually named Pensacola bahiagrass on a sodded bank in Escambia County, Florida. It’s thought the seeds came in on a ship from South America. Bermudagrass is a native of Africa and was brought to the U.S. in 1751. Bermudagrass has been used in pastures, hayfields, athletic fields, and home lawns.

Centipedegrass, one of the more common lawn grasses in our area, was brought to the U.S. in 1918 from China by Frank N. Meyer, a plant explorer. St. Augustinegrass, another common lawn grass in Florida, was discovered growing in South Carolina in 1788. Its origin isn’t known prior to this time; however, it’s believed to be native to the West Indies. Zoysiagrass was introduced from Asia during the late 1800s. Currently, there are newer zoysiagrass cultivars that are used as lawn grasses in Florida.

It’s surprising to some people to learn that our lawn grasses are not native. Not understanding these lawn grasses sometimes results in common lawn maintenance mistakes.

Correcting four common mistakes can result in a better lawn.

  1. The first step in correctly managing a Florida lawn is to know the type of grass you have, but many homeowners don’t know.
  2. Many homeowners do not know the size of their lawns. As a result, too much fertilizer and pesticides are applied.
  3. Many home lawns are irrigated incorrectly.
  4. Some homeowners mow their lawns too low. This results in the lawn becoming weak and thin. Weeds then move in where the lawn is thin.

To better understand how to manage these lawn grasses, you may want to attend an upcoming seminar titled Getting Ready for Another Lawn Growing Season.

This hour-long presentation begins at 10 a.m., Wednesday, March 18. It will be held at the Gerald R. Edmondson Extension Building located at 3098 Airport Road in Crestview. During this presentation, I will show how to prevent/correct these common mistakes. Doing so can result in a better lawn that requires fewer inputs, time and money.  

To register for this free seminar, please call (850) 689-5850. Space is limited.

Larry Williams, UF/IFAS Extension Agent, Okaloosa County

When it rains, they flourish

Rainfall has been plentiful. That’s great for the water table and preparing plants to wake up for spring. But insects are also stirring. Bugs are affected by rain in many ways. When water is plentiful, they can grow faster, reproduce sooner and travel farther. Combine that with the fact that the insects’ homes are being flooded out and their normal food sources are displaced; and where do you think they are headed? Yes, into your house. Four bugs you can anticipate seeing after rain events include cockroaches, sowbugs, ants and centipedes.

American Cockroach

Roaches tend to live in places that flood easily, especially this time of year. To survive the cold nights, cockroaches need to find a warm place to rest. Typically, those places would be drains, pipes, sewers, along foundations and in crawl spaces. But, when it rains, these locations are often flooded, forcing cockroaches to scurry for their lives to avoid drowning. A crack in weather stripping or window caulking makes a quick hideaway. Once inside, they may decide to stay.  Frequent rainy days create the lingering humidity that makes all kinds of places more livable for roaches.

Sowbug

Sowbugs and his cousin, the pillbug, are very small, pill-shaped pests with multiple legs and a series of shell-like plates. Often referred to as roly-polys, these creatures are actually a form of land crustacean related to lobsters, crabs, and crayfish. The sowbug’s breathing tubes require moisture to function properly, so they must stay near water. Typically, this fact restricts the sowbug to living in moist soil or sand. Ending up inside a building is normally a terminal condition for them. However, due to the moisture left in the air after a rain event, sowbugs that seek refuge inside are able to survive for longer periods of time. Given the opportunity, sowbugs will reproduce indoors. If they have decaying organic material to feed on, they may stick around even longer; having time to create a multi-generational infestation.

Carpenter Ant

Ants are never too far away. They usually build their colonies in the soil near convenient sources of food and shelter. Being in the ground puts ant colonies at great risk for flooding out, even with short periods of rainfall. When this happens, ants are forces to find higher, drier ground quickly or risk being washed away. What better place than a house? Once inside, the ants get back to work looking for food and building the colony. Expect to see ants around kitchen sinks, on window sills and working their way into cupboards and pantry areas during and after heavy rain. Unfortunately, if they find all the elements needed to make their home, the ants will be very reluctant to go back outside.

Centipede

Like the other pests mentioned, centipedes are attracted to humid environments. But centipedes are active hunting carnivores. They like to feed on roaches, sowbugs, and ants. So, they follow them into the house, a well-stocked hunting ground. Centipedes typically only hunt late at night, but in dark areas, they can hunt day and night. Finding centipedes if most likely an indication of another pest infestation.

These rain-displaced pests may need some help from a pest control product and/or operator to be discouraged from staying inside. We need the rain. But, keep a close watch for unwanted visitors.

Sheila Dunning
UF/IFAS Commercial Horticulture Agent III

Free Seminar! Getting ready for another lawn growing season

Captiva St. Augustinegrass Credit: Julie McConnell, UF/IFAS

Correcting four common mistakes can result in a better lawn.

The first step in correctly managing a Florida lawn is to know the type of grass you have, but many homeowners don’t know. The kind of lawn pests, mowing height, herbicide selection, irrigation requirements as well as fertilization and lime needs are all dependent on the type of lawn grass. Many local lawns decline and/or die completely as a result of being maintained improperly… all because the person managing the lawn doesn’t know the requirements for the lawn grass being managed.

The average homeowner most likely does not know the size of their lawn. As a result, most people apply too much fertilizer and pesticides. Lawn fertilizers, insecticides, herbicides, and fungicides are applied based on square feet (lawn area). Directions on these products instruct to mix and or apply a certain amount per 1000 square feet of lawn area. Most homeowners apply too much of these chemicals as a result of not knowing the size of their lawns. Overdosing a lawn with fertilizers and pesticides results in a lawn costing more than it should. Plus, it’s unwise and illegal to apply pesticides at a higher rate as compared to the label directions. And, applying too much fertilizer and weed killer (herbicide) can injure a lawn. Overuse of insecticides and herbicides can result in pest resistance. This can result in a population of pest insects and weeds that no longer can be controlled with currently available insecticides and herbicides.

Many home lawns are irrigated incorrectly. Watering correctly involves applying ½ to ¾ inch of water on an as-needed basis to meet the lawn’s need. To do this, the lawn manager needs to know the number of minutes to let the watering system run to provide this amount of water and the visual signs of when the lawn is indicating that additional water is needed. This is referred to as calibrating an irrigation system.

Many homeowners mow their lawns too low. This is a common cause for lawns becoming weak and thin. Weeds then move in where the lawn is thin.

On Wednesday, March 18, I’ll provide a seminar titled Getting Ready for Another Lawn Growing Season. This hour-long presentation begins at 10 a.m. and will be held at the Gerald R. Edmondson Extension Building located at 3098 Airport Road in Crestview. During this presentation, I will show how to prevent/correct these common mistakes. Doing so can result in a better lawn that requires fewer inputs, time, and money.

To register for this free seminar, please call (850) 689-5850. Space is limited.

Larry Williams, UF/IFAS Extension Agent, Okaloosa County

Seminar – Getting ready for another lawn growing season

Correcting four common mistakes can result in a better lawn.

The first step in correctly managing a Florida lawn is to know the type of grass you have, but many homeowners don’t know. The kind of lawn pests, mowing height, herbicide selection, irrigation requirements as well as fertilization and lime needs are all dependent on the type of lawn grass. Many local lawns decline and/or die completely as a result of being maintained improperly… all because the person managing the lawn doesn’t know the requirements for the lawn grass being managed.

Most homeowners do not know the size of their own lawns. As a result, most people apply too much fertilizer and pesticides. Lawn fertilizers, insecticides, herbicides, and fungicides are applied based on square feet (lawn area). Directions on these products instruct to mix and or apply a certain amount per 1000 square feet of lawn area. Most homeowners apply too much of these chemicals as a result of not knowing the size of their lawns. Overdosing a lawn with fertilizers and pesticides results in a lawn costing more than it should. Plus, it’s unwise and illegal to apply pesticides at a higher rate as compared to the label directions. And, applying too much fertilizer and weed killer (herbicide) can injure a lawn. Overuse of insecticides and herbicides can result in pest resistance. This can result in a population of pest insects and weeds that no longer can be controlled with currently available insecticides and herbicides.

Many home lawns are irrigated incorrectly. Watering correctly involves applying ½ to ¾ inch of water on an as-needed basis to meet the lawn’s need. To do this, the lawn manager needs to know the number of minutes to let the watering system run to provide this amount of water and the visual signs of when the lawn is indicating that additional water is needed. This is referred to as calibrating an irrigation system. 

Many homeowners mow their lawns too low. This is a common cause for lawns becoming weak and thin. Weeds then move in where the lawn is thin.

On Wednesday, March 18, I’ll provide a seminar titled Getting Ready for Another Lawn Growing Season. This hour-long presentation begins at 10 a.m. and will be held at the Gerald R. Edmondson Extension Building located at 3098 Airport Road in Crestview. During this presentation, I will show how to prevent/correct these common mistakes. Doing so can result in a better lawn that requires fewer inputs, time and money.  

To register for this free seminar, please call (850) 689-5850. Space is limited.

Larry Williams, UF/IFAS Extension Agent, Okaloosa County

Soil mounds could be ground-dwelling bees

Ground-dwelling bees get a lot of attention in late winter and spring as they create large numbers of small mounds in local lawns and landscapes. 

Many people become concerned as they see these bees hovering close to the ground out in their lawns and landscapes. But these bees are interesting, docile, beneficial and are unlikely to sting.

These bees are known as andrenid bees or mining bees. Andrenid bees are solitary. As the name implies, they live alone. However, they may nest in close proximity to one another but they do not form a colony or hive. They produce individual mounds with a small entrance hole. The bees are approximately ½ inch in length with a black body.

Richard Sprenkel, retired UF/IFAS Entomologist, explains their biology in today’s article.

After mating in late winter and early spring, the female selects a site that has dry, loose soil with sparse vegetation. She excavates a vertical shaft in the soil that is approximately the diameter of a pencil and up to eighteen inches deep. Off of the main shaft, the female will construct several brood chambers that she lines with a waterproof material. The female bee provisions each brood chamber with pollen and nectar on which she lays an egg. The pollen and nectar sustain the larva until fall when the overwintering adult is formed. Early the following spring, adult bees emerge from the ground to begin the cycle again. There is one generation per year.

The small mound of soil that is excavated from each burrow brings additional attention to the activity of the bees. As males continue to hover in the area of the burrows looking for unmated females, the bees appear more menacing than they actually are. Andrenid bees have a tendency to concentrate their nests in a relatively small area. The openings to the underground burrows may be no more than three to four inches apart.

The threat of being stung by these bees is usually highly overrated. The males cannot sting and the females are docile and not likely to sting unless stepped on, handled or threatened. While entrances to the tunnels and excavated soil may appear disruptive to the lawn, they usually are not damaging. It may appear that the grass is thin because of the bees but it is more likely that the bees are in the area because the grass was already thin. Control is usually not necessary. Because the andrenid bees forage to gather pollen and nectar, they are actually beneficial. They serve as pollinators this time of the year. Larry Williams, UF/IFAS Extension Agent, Okaloosa County