Is Your Flower Pot Half Full? part 1

September 13, 2009 by Rick

Ray Kurzweil gave this presentation about the exponential effect of technology on the advancement of science and the standard of living. Listening to this you get a feel for where we have come from and where we could be going with the current and future advancements at hand. Definitely a glass half full presentation.

If you really want to get your hopes up read this story or listen to this recent NPR report. It states that scientists at MIT have developed a new, more environmentally friendly way to make batteries. Their approach employs an unusual component: genetically engineered viruses. These new batteries have the same energy capacity as other lithium batteries of the same size and show potential to develop even more powerful batteries. They can be made in water at room temperature without organic solvents or pollutants. Exxon owns the patents on nanotubes and buckminsterfullerene . I hope there is no conflict of interest with them on MIT developing major energy saving devices too quickly?

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Turn that Brown Thumb Green

August 19, 2009 by Rick

Gardening Basics

As Penny Carnathan, Tampa Tribune Garden Writer - The Dirt, is fond of saying about one of her gardening friends. "Her thumbs are so green she can grow rocks".

Some folks rely mostly on organics. Why do they work so well for these green thumbs? Plant-soil-microbe-fungus relationships are highly complicated and studied but the truth is science has a hard time quantifying and isolating the tremendous number of complex interactions involved. We do know quite a bit about many interactions. We know that the good fungi and bacteria outnumber the bad many times over and when good fungi and good bacteria loose their overwhelming advantage things can go wrong. Compost and organic matter support good fungi good bacteria good nematodes and many other good microorganisms and earthworms with the good bacteria in their hyperactive gut. Too much salt based fertilizer upsets the balance and kills the good guys that are working in the organic system.

Compost and Organic Matter support the good micro organisms that naturally control bad nematodes. Most of the nematodes in the world are good guys. Nematodes account for 90% of the living multi-celled organisms on the planet yet you can't see them with the naked eye. They are really small but interrelated to the natural processes in more ways than we will ever know. So you have to take it on faith or experience that relying on organic processes will help turn your brown thumb green. Here is the scoop on Nematodes for Bedding Plants in Florida.

In contrast to gardening in soil rich in organic matter, we can grow plants in our nutrient poor sandy soils that have very little organic matter. This is where you need to add timed release salt based fertilizer. This is always more cost effective than liquid or fast release 6-6-6 granular that only seem cheap. Don't feed your plants a 3 month's supply of the cheap stuff only to have it wash away in one rain when you can give them a 3 month supply of timed release fertilizer in one application that releases a little with each irrigation. and not pollute the downstream environment!

Pot-in-Pot Landscaping is a great way to turn a brown thumb green. You should try this and report back on the color of your thumb. Ask away and we will answer questions to get you on the right garden path.

9 Principles of Florida Friendly Landscaping

We share through numerous posts our enthusiasm and experience as long-time Florida gardeners and horticulturists. Our hope is that your gardening efforts will be successful and enjoyable.  We share ways to make your yards and patios beautiful while following the University of Florida's Nine Principles of Florida-Friendly Landscaping:

1) Right Plant, Right Place: Plants selected to suit a specific site will require minimal amounts of water, fertilizers and pesticides.

2) Water Efficiently: Irrigate only when your lawn needs water. Efficient watering is the key to a healthy yard and conservation of limited resources.

3) Fertilize Appropriately: Less is often best. Over-use of fertilizers can be hazardous to your yard and the environment.

4) Mulch: Maintain two to three inches of mulch to help retain soil moisture, prevent erosion and suppress weeds.

5) Attract Wildlife: Plants in your yard that provide food, water and shelter can conserve Florida’s diverse wildlife.

6) Manage Yard Pests Responsibly: Unwise use of pesticides can harm people, pets, beneficial organisms and the environment.

7) Recycle: Grass clippings, leaves and yard trimmings composted and recycled on site provide nutrients to the soil and reduce waste disposal.

8) Reduce Storm water Runoff: Water running off your yard can carry pollutants, such as fertilizer, pesticides, soil and debris that can harm water quality. Reduction of this runoff will help prevent pollution.

9) Protect the Waterfront: Waterfront property, whether on a river, stream, pond, bay or beach, is very fragile and should be carefully protected to maintain freshwater and marine ecosystems.

More details can be found here:

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Bulbine Popularity Soars

July 31, 2009 by Rick



You can see struggling turf surrounding the thriving Bulbine here (above). Jelly Burn Plant is getting very popular in landscapes throughout Florida.

Drought Tolerant Bulbine at Epcot Demonstration

Bulbine is easy to establish in the hottest months when other plants take more water and TLC.



Florida Friendly Landscape FAQ's

June 25, 2009 by Rick

Frequently Asked Questions about Landscape Irrigation for Florida-Friendly Landscaping Ordinances

This FAQ link answers many questions but there is still more research being done by the U of F to get the best answers for protecting our environment.

State bill 494 is important since it will require BMP training for all lawn companies that apply fertilizer. In addition, it may ease watering restrictions for those who incorporate moisture or rain sensors as part of their irrigation system. Research shows that watering twice a week with less water improves turf and reduces water usage. U of F research also shows that there is little difference in water requirements between the different turf grasses. Turf uses more water in the spring when coming out of dormancy and then again in the fall when establishing roots

Phosphorus leaching from turf fertilizers is a big problem for our water supply. St Augustine turf uses and holds phosphorous, the P in N-P-K on your fertilizer bag, 30 times better than highly promoted Empire Zoysia. That also holds true for nitrogen recycling making St. Augustine more environmentally friendly than Zoysia.

The best thing you can do with your St. Augustine lawn is to only fertilize in the fall and only use a slow release N-P-K formula. Lawns overgrow and become thatched if you fertilize in the growing season when they do not need it. Overfertilized lawns are more prone to disease and insects and then require properly timed pesticide sprays to prevent decline. If you want a greener lawn in the summer you should just use iron fertilizer.

Empire Zoysia has shallow roots and goes dormant faster than St. Augustine. It is susceptible to brown patch and requires no less water than St. Augustine turf. It is slow to spread and slow to come out of winter dormancy.

The governor has not to signed the into law the bill that ties Florida Friendly Landscaping principles to protect homeowners rights if they employ them in their communities that may have laws or deed restrictions requiring turf. According to a story in the Bradenton Herald, Manasota 88 objected to late amendment language that lessens permitting requirements. See also Florida-Friendly Landscapes Pass the Legislature

Real Turf vs. Fake Turf and the Environment

June 18, 2009 by Rick


Have you seen the modern Astroturf? The 2009 version is very nice and can be seen at EPCOT. It feels really good to walk on and you can add a rubber under layer for play areas.

Artificial Turf 1 Artificial Turf 2

Artificial Turf Artificial Turf 4

Artificial Turf 5 Artificial Turf 3

There is an interesting pro and con article at Sustainable Gardening Australia if you think this is appealing to you. In some Florida counties we have Energy from Waste plants where the synthetic turf product will be incinerated 10-25 years after installation rather than land filled which adds to the facts of this article.

Artificial Turf 7 Artificial Turf 6

For more inspiration check out  Felders New Lawn

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Categories: Design | Environmental Awareness Education | Florida Friendly Landscape
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"Consult the genius of place in all"

May 28, 2009 by Rick

Alexander Pope's 1731 statement is one for the ages. Today gardeners can seek local genius from the U of F's body of Florida research by scientists that seek out and publish facts to make us successful. As gardeners we benefit from the knowledge of what plant works in what setting. Right Plant - Right Place. The recently updated Vegetable Gardening Guide tells what modern and heirloom varieties of vegetables will work in the part of Florida where you live but just as importantly what dates we need to plant them to ensure a harvest.


If you garden in Florida your genius bookmark should be Solutions for Your Life. There you can easily access the knowledge database from the U of F Cooperative Extension Service and find the right answer to common and not so common problems with your turf, garden, house plants, pets, energy consumption, home economics and much more. The information is local to your county and staffed by a local genius who is just a call or email away and it's FREE.

You will also find your local county extension office is also the office of your local Florida Yards and Neighborhoods coordinator. FYN information is largely based on U of F research and partially funded by the DEP and water management districts to help you decide how to plant the Right Plant in the Right Place the right way to protect our rivers and lakes. Pass along these links to family, friends and neighbors so Florida's environment can improve. Learn what it takes to do your part to protect the environment and you too can become a genius of place.

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Categories: 9 Principles of Florida Friendly Landscaping | Environmental Awareness Education | Florida Friendly Landscape | U of F Cooperative Extension Service
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Florida-Friendly Landscapes Pass the Legislature

May 16, 2009 by Rick

Landmark legislation went through several face-lifts during this legislative session resulting in a huge win for the environment.  The Florida-Friendly Landscape bill provides a critically needed and much overdue update of Florida law relating to landscapes. 
Historically, Florida law has highlighted Xeriscapes.  If signed by the Governor, the law will be updated to showcase the use of Florida-friendly landscapes (put the right plant in the right place). The bill also provides a missing link to Florida-friendly landscaping by recognizing not only the water conservation, but also the water quality, benefits which Florida-friendly landscapes provide.
The law explicitly adds a connection to the UF/IFAS Florida Yards and Neighborhoods Program for homeowners and builders.  The bill references the UF/IFAS Center for Landscape Conservation and Ecology (for which FNGLA helped establish and secure funding four years ago) and the educational resources it provides. 
Finally, the bill strengthens protections for homeowners wishing to install Florida-friendly landscapes and clearly states local government ordinances cannot prohibit or be enforced to prohibit Florida-friendly landscaping.  Special thanks goes to Sen. JD Alexander (R-Lake Wales) and Rep. Seth McKeel (R-Lakeland) for shepherding this victory through the Legislature.

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Categories: 9 Principles of Florida Friendly Landscaping | Florida Friendly Landscape | Turf Substitute | U of F Cooperative Extension Service
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Governor Crist and FNGLA Celebrate Arbor Day with Tree Planting

May 3, 2009 by Rick

FNGLA members participate in ceremony as Red Crape Myrtle planted in Tallahassee's Liberty Park

On Friday, Governor Charlie Crist joined Florida Girl Scouts and Florida Nursery, Growers & Landscape Association members to plant a red crape myrtle in celebration of National Arbor Day. The tree was planted in Liberty Park, outside the House Office Building.

“From the sabal palms lining our sandy white beaches, to the tall, green pine forests of the Panhandle, much of Florida’s natural beauty can be attributed to our trees,” said Governor Crist. “In addition to being an important source of oxygen, planting new trees remains one of the least expensive, most effective means of drawing excess carbon emissions from the atmosphere.”


Gov. Crist plants a crape myrtle with the assistance of Florida Girl Scouts.


FNGLA's Director of Government Affairs, Jim Spratt, addresses the crowd at Liberty Park.


Gov. Crist speaks with FNGLA's Jim Spratt.

 Florida legislators and members of the Florida Nursery, Growers & Landscape Association were also in attendance for the annual tree planting.

Florida’s trees play a vital role in the state’s economy. During the 2007-2008 fiscal year, more than 20.7 million people visited Florida’s 161 state parks, contributing more than $1 billion to Florida’s economy and generating more than 20,000 jobs. The renewable resource also adds billions of dollars annually to Florida's economy by providing lumber, paper, mulch, oils and other products.

Arbor Day is a nationally-celebrated observance that encourages tree planting and care. National Arbor Day was founded by J. Sterling Morton in 1872, and is celebrated on the last Friday in April.


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Categories: 9 Principles of Florida Friendly Landscaping | 9 Principles of Florida Friendly Landscaping | Environmental Awareness Education | Environmental Awareness Education
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Compost Happens

May 2, 2009 by Rick

As Felder Says, " Rule #1 Stop throwing that stuff away. Rule #2 Pile it up."

Or, you can get real elaborate if you compost your table scraps too and don't want the critters digging in your pile. 

Take a look at this fancy ECOmposter at COSTCO It looks like an easy way to get into compost production. It is 32 inches in diameter and one of the practical rules is that the pile needs to be 3 foot by 3 foot by 3 foot to build enough heat to effectively compost. Maybe the black color, patented air tubes and shape do give the ECOmposter the ability to heat up and work quickly as they claim. You would have to have it nearly full and the stand that allows you to spin it is included at that price only when you purchase it from Costco. It would be difficult to manage for some folks without the stand. Will it keep the racoons out of your food scraps? I have seen some smart and toothy racoons and would like to know if anyone has an ECOmposter and can declare it bandito proof and an efficient tool. Costco's 100% satisfaction gauranteed return policy is another reason it is one of my favorite stores.

picture of a racoon

Image from CathCat

The U of F Cooperative Extension Service in your county has information and workshops on composting that will enlighten you about these natural happenings.

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Categories: Environmental Awareness Education | 9 Principles of Florida Friendly Landscaping | U of F Cooperative Extension Service | Environmental Awareness Education | U of F Cooperative Extension Service
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Drip and Low Volume Irrigation Conversion

March 25, 2009 by Rick

Here are a few links to stimulate your thinking about saving water and converting to more efficient irrigation systems. At the bottom of ths post is a site with some good graphics and kits you can study and a link to a new post from that shows you how to do it and how it actually works. Kits are available online or you can get similar kits and components at your Florida Home Depot. The water you save will be worth the effort and expense. Planning is key. You can modify these setups later and add to as you expand but it is more efficient to design it right before you start.

Typical sprinkler systems are very inefficent. The University of Florida did statewide homeowner surveys of existing systems and found that the majority of waste comes from poor design. Only 25% were designed with proper spacing and overlap. That's a lot of waste! With the cost and value of water you might consider an expert for your sprinkler, drip or micro spray design but even then it may not be as efficient as you need. Set up straight sided containers of equal sizes in grids and catch water from a 20 minute run of an existing zone just to get an idea of how to measure uniformity.

Lawn Sprinkler Selection and Layout for Uniform Water Application

Drip irrigation for individual plants is effective but you have to design it properly and calibrate run times and duration so you are not wasting water while using an efficient system. Low volume spray jets may be what you need depending on the size of your targeted plants and considering the sandy soil that lets the water seep vertically so quickly. Drip irrigation can be very effective for landscapes that are planted from gallon size containers if the drippers are properly placed.

Microirrigation in The Landscape

Landscape Irrigation and Fertilization


 From your Faucet Drip and Low Vol Graphics

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Categories: 9 Principles of Florida Friendly Landscaping | Drip Irrigation | U of F Cooperative Extension Service
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