Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Queen Palms Becoming Royal Pain

I received another email from an HOA that is seeing evidence of their queen palms dying.  Since 2003, when it was first diagnosed, Central Florida has seen increasing cases of Fusarium wilt in Syagrus romanazoffiana,  Queen palms, and Washingtonia robusta, Mexican fan palm, also known as Washingtonia palm.  The fungal disease kills the palms very quickly. 

Do you think you have Fusarium wilt in your palms? Check these symptoms:
  • One-sided chlorosis.  The fronds will all be yellow or brown on one side.
  • Distinctive red or brown stripe on the stem of the frond.
  • If you cut the stem off, inside the stem is discolored especially to one side.
  • Disease appears on the lowest living fronds, moving upwards, with the youngest emerging frond last to die.
  • Palm dies within two to three months.
The disease has been diagnosed throughout the state of Florida spread by wind-blown spores but local communities can also see many palms affected through unsterile pruning equipment. There is no cure for Fusarium wilt and rapid removal of dying palms is recommended to prevent other palms from becoming affected. Queen or Washingtonia palms should not be replanted in the same locations. 

Monday, November 28, 2011

Got Aphids?

With over 1300 species of aphids in North America, it shouldn't be a surprise to you that you find them in your garden.

When I get aphids in my landscape, it's usually on my asclepias tuberosa or butterfly weed, which can handle a few aphids.  I'm fortunate enough to catch them in time to spray the water hose on them or natural predators - like lady beetles -  to have their way and they do disappear.  If you are faced with sooty mold or a declining plant because aphids are so damaging, then you have to use stronger methods to eradicate them, such as pyrethroids or horticultural oils. Always follow instructions on the label.  Try not to stress, aphids are everywhere and you can get rid of them.

In Your Backyard Time Change

"In Your Backyard" is going back to its original time slot on Tuesdays at 11am - 12pm on My790am.com! You've been a loyal audience for 12 years and we've listened to you!

Every Tuesday at 11am, you can call into 352-787-9523 with your gardening questions.  I'll be updating you with Florida-friendly landscaping maintenance tips and garden trends along with the most important environmental issues facing Floridians.

Check out our Facebook page here and here! 

Monday, November 21, 2011

Leesburg Couple Rips Up Grass But Is It Florida-friendly?

Central Florida communities that use a lot of water seem to be blaming it all on the turfgrass. In a Lake Sentinel article this weekend, one Leesburg couple using 30,000 gallons of water a month on their landscape decided to overhaul their entire yard and replace it with rocks, mulch, and supposedly "drought-tolerant" landscaping.  But was it necessary?

That term drought-tolerant is getting really old and the misperceptions of turfgrass being the culprit is just downright wrong.  All plants are drought-tolerant in the right locations and turfgrass needing a lot of water is not true.  St. Augustinegrass only needs between 1" and 1.5" of water a week during the summertime if it doesn't get rainfall and only needs that amount once every ten to fourteen days in the cooler winter season.  That anyone uses 30,000 gallons on their lawn is the fault of the homeowner, an inefficient irrigation system, and a poorly designed landscape.  If you have a rock, mulch, and "drought-tolerant" plants, depending on the size of your yard, even 10,000 gallons is too much!  Your landscape should be able to survive and thrive on rainfall alone after establishment. 

Its up to the cities  and counties that are approving landscape plans and irrigation systems to allow only the correct landscapes with efficient irrigation.  Homeowners working with builders or buying new homes need to demand and insist on a certified Florida Water Star landscape and irrigation system.  Then the responsibility falls on the homeowner to maintain his landscape and watering system correctly to ensure that it works efficiently.

Rocks are not the keystones to water efficiency and can actually increase the amount of water that installed plants in a rock garden need.  The heat around the home will be greater.  Using no tufgrass is going to lead to more stormwater pollution of our water bodies. I repeat:  There is nothing wrong with turfgrass.

Heck, this is Florida!  This is not Arizona and we can have beautiful landscapes with lots of flowers, shrubs, palms, and yes, Virginia, even turfgrass and not have a high water bill or overuse our ample water supply.  Florida receives abundant rainfall and with observant care, our irrigation systems should only be used as a supplement when we don't have rain.  Depending on the size of your lawn and your landscape plants, using 10.000 gallons of water or less should be easily achievable. 

Before anyone installs a landscape that is all rocks, mulch, and no turf, do your research, contact your County Extension office and find out the facts about waterwise landscaping.  You will be very surprised to learn that its probably not your grass's fault that you have a high water bill or high maintenance landscape. 

The Vision House 2008 in Montverde, Florida uses only non-potable water from a HOOT system and a 7,000 gallon cistern.  It is a great example of Florida-friendly landscaping.  Low maintenance and low water use.

Vision House 2008

Free 2012 Bird Watching Calendar

For its 25th anniversary, Cornell Lab of Ornthinology is giving away free beautiful bird-watching 2011 -2012 calendars. The wall calendar provides an easy way to keep track of the days for Project Feeder Watch,  a seasonal all-winter tracking of birds at feeders throughout North America.

Please participate in Project Feeder Watch. The Watch goes from November through April 6th but they are still enrolling bird watching afficinados. You have to sign up and receive a number to turn in your sightings. 

Feed The Birds - New Year’s Eve 2008, Taunton MA

Updated Florida Exotic Invasive Plant List

The Florida Pest Plant Council has updated their exotic invasive plant lists for 2011.  The list is an excellent resource for ensuring landscape selections do not include plants that can escape and endanger native habitats. FLEPPC separatesd invasives into two categories, I and II. 

Category I includes "invasive exotics that are altering native plant communities by displacing native species, changing community structures or ecological functions, or hybridizing with natives. This definition does not rely on the economic severity or geographic range."

Category II invasives are plants "that have increased in abundance or frequency but have not yet altered Florida plant communities to the extent shown by Category I species. These species may become ranked Category I, if ecological damage is demonstrated of the problem, but on the documented ecological damage caused."

New plants added to the 2011 Category I list:
  • Deparia petersenii, Japanese false spleenwort
  • Lumnitzera racemosa, black mangrove - Not to be confused with native black mangroveAvicennia germinans
  • Phymatosorus scolopendria, serpent fern, wart fern
New plants added to the 2011 Category II list:
  • Ardesia japonica, Japanese ardesia
  • Bruguiera gymnorrhiza, large-leaved mangrove
  • Cocos nucifera, coconut palm
  • Syzygium jambos,  Malabar plum, rose apple
Corrections on the plant list include: 
Jasminum sambac and Solanum jamaicense removed from Category II based on lack of data in natural areas. Urena lobata moved from Category II to Category I.

City and county planners, nurseries and growers, and landscape architects and designers should make note of these new changees.