We all need to look towards the future for personal improvement and goal setting. The backyard gardener should be no different and the New Year is a great time to make some resolutions that will benefit any landscape. Let's look at some tips, techniques and strategies that will make your horticultural experience in Southwest Florida the best in 2017.
Your first resolution should be to water properly.
Ø Water your lawn and other plants only when they show signs of stress.
Ø Calibrate your sprinkler(s) to apply 1/2 to 3/4 inch of water per application.
Ø Mow lawns high to encourage a deeper, more drought and pest tolerant root system.
Ø Use a drip or micro-spray irrigation system to more efficiently water plant and flower beds.
Secondly, feed your palms correctly. Nutritional deficiencies not only lead to unthrifty looking plants, but may also to the eventual death of the palm. All of these nutrients must be provided in proper balance for good growth and healthy plants. A complete palm fertilizer in a slow-release formula is the best maintenance fertilizer to use on a regular basis as per the label instructions. Broadcast the fertilizer under the canopy and not up against the trunk or in thick bands. As a general recommendation, we suggest that you get your palm on a granular fertilizer - 8-2-12-4 (or 8-0-12-4) applied in November, February and May as per label directions. In August, use a 0-0-16-6, again as per label directions.
Next, make sure to prune your palms responsibly. Palms need to retain all of their good, functional leaves. These leaves are the "solar panels" of the palm- food making devises needed to keep the plant alive. Premature removal of good fronds unnecessarily weakens these plants which may predispose them to secondary problems. What are some acceptable reasons for pruning a palm? Removing dead fronds makes the palm look better and improves the overall appearance of the landscape. Dead fronds which are loosely attached to the palm may fall and injure people or damage property. Removing flower/fruit clusters is also fine. Over-pruning can be detrimental to a palm, however. "Hurricane cuts", as they are called, stresses the palm to a point where there is an increased chance of disease and insect invasion. New fronds take time to emerge and green fronds should be protected and preserved.
Next, resolve to plant the "right plant, in the right place". Sensible selection of plant materials based on some knowledge of the plant is always best. For example, a shade-loving plant will not do well in a full-sun site. A plant that requires a somewhat drier environment may rot in a site regularly watered. A tree that may grow up to sixty-foot tall and over one-hundred feet wide would not be a good choice planted next to a house. Get to know your plant materials and analyze your site before you plant. Let our Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ program (FFL) help you with this!
In 2017, use pesticides properly! Key to the proper use of a pesticide is making sure to READ THE LABEL, THE LABEL IS THE LAW! The pesticide label is a legal document that must be followed to the letter. The label gives you a wealth of information such as which pests it will control, what hosts it can be applied to, how to mix the chemical, when it should it be applied, how much and how often and how to protect yourself and the environment. Each label will contain a Signal Word that will call attention to the degree of toxicity of each individual pesticide. For instance, a Caution label indicates that it is slightly toxic. A Warning signal word will indicate a pesticide that is moderately toxic. For a home garden, stick to materials with Caution labels to help minimize safety issues or use suggested non-toxic cultural controls.
The last resolution that I would like you to ponder for 2017 is to get to know your bugs, especially good bugs. Good bugs can also be called beneficial insects. Beneficial bugs are all around us and help maintain the balance of nature as it relates to insect pests in and around our landscape. A lady beetle eating an aphid is an example of this. These insects are generally orange with black spots but may also appear in shades of brown, red or black, with or without spots. The larvae look like a miniature alligator with a scaly, elongated black and orange body. Both adults and larvae eat aphids, scale insects, mealybugs, whiteflies, and mites. Another beneficial insect is known as the lacewing. In both brown and green forms, this insect produces a larva built for killing and eating aphids. Large pincher mouthparts grab prey and suck fluids from them. Let our office help you identify good and bad bugs.
Are you ready for 2017? Let the Charlotte County Extension Service help you with all of your horticultural educational needs. For more information on all types of gardening subjects, please call our Master Gardener volunteers on the Plant Lifeline on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 1 to 4 pm at 764-4340 for gardening help and insight into their role as an Extension volunteer. Don't forget to visit our other County Plant Clinics in the area. Please check this link for a complete list of site locations, dates and times - http://charlotte.ifas.ufl.edu/horticulture/Plant%20Clinics%20Schedule.pdf.