Thursday, December 18, 2008

Water Management District Changes Their Mind on Planting sod

From the SWFWMD web-site

The Tampa Bay region continues to suffer from the effects of a three-year drought. The region is experiencing an extreme water shortage and water restrictions have been tightened. The District’s Governing Board recently modified the water restrictions to allow for the establishment of new construction and lawn replacement (sod, plugs and other turfgrass material). The changes include:

  • Restricting the new construction and turfgrass replacement establishment period to 30 days total.
  • On days 1-15, beginning the day of installation, the new or replacement turfgrass may be watered every day of the week.

  • On days 16-30, the new or replacement turfgrass may be watered approximately every other day. Unless otherwise specified by a local ordinance, even-numbered addresses may only water on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. Odd-numbered addresses may only water on Wednesday, Friday and Sunday.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Gifts for the Gardener

Andy Wilson, Horticulturalist

The University of Florida Bookstore has a great variety of books, flashcards, posters and other helpful references for the gardener on your gift list. Check out the selections here:
Among the selections is Growing Orchids: Easier Than You Think!, a DVD with lots of information on selecting and growing orchids:

Florida Native Christmas Trees

Andy Wilson, Horticulturist

Southern red cedar (Juniperus virginana) and sand pine (Pinus clausa) are two Florida natives that are grown commercially for both cut and potted Christmas trees. Both southern red cedar and sand pine can be planted in the landscape after use and both are drought tolerant once established. The southern red cedar also has good salt tolerance. Want the experience of selecting your own tree to cut on a Christmas tree farm? Check out this listing of Florida Christmas tree farms from the Florida Department of Agriculture:

Monday, December 15, 2008

Care of Cut Christmas Trees

Andy Wilson, Horticulturist

The single most important thing to do to keep cut Christmas trees fresh is to keep the base of the trunk immersed in water at all times once it is brought into the home. Most research has failed to show any real benefit from additives to the water like corn syrup, bleach, etc. Depending on the size of the water reservoir in the tree stand it will probably be necessary to check the water level at least once a day. The tree’s ability to absorb water is usually improved by making a fresh cut at the bottom of the trunk before placing the tree in the stand.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Cold Protrection for Landscape Plants

By Pam Brown, Urban Horticulture Extension agent

January can bring frost or maybe freezing temperatures and here in Pinellas County we have tropical plants in our landscapes, so these cold spells can be damaging. If you have plants outside or in the landscape that may be damaged by cold, plan on what you will need to do to protect them.

One of the best protections against cold damage is a healthy plant. Provide the proper location and growing conditions for your plants. Cold sensitive plants are best planted in parts of the landscape where they will have protection from cold winds and away from areas where cold air settles. Fences, dense shrubs, overhead tree canopy and even buildings can help protect tender plants. Avoid heavy fertilizations in the fall. Also avoid heavy pruning in the early to late fall which can encourage a flush of new growth that will be more sensitive to cold damage.

If a freeze or frost is expected, you should hand water the root zone of your cold sensitive plants thoroughly. It is best not to do overhead watering during a freeze. Growers do this to protect valuable crops like strawberries, but it is difficult for a homeowner to judge the correct amount of water to use. It may also go against the water restrictions in your area. Plants in containers are more vulnerable than plants in the ground. They are more easily transported to a shelter, inside, or the garage. Some plants like orchids may need to be moved inside to shelter if the temperature will get down below 50 degrees.

Have on hand blankets, sheets, newspapers, bricks, large rocks, and large boxes to cover cold sensitive plants. You should cover them before the sun goes down. Covers should extend all the way to the ground and be weighted down with bricks or rocks. By covering all the way to the ground you will trap some of the heat that the ground has absorbed during the day. If you have a particularly valuable cold sensitive plant you can build a shelter over it, cover it with a blanket and put a light under the shelter to provide heat. Be very careful that the light does not touch the covers and cause a fire.

Check out our short video below for tips for protecting plants from a frost or freeze and also what to do after a freeze.

For additional information on cold protection for your plants, access the UF/IFAS publications on line at:, call our lawn and garden help line at 727 582-2110 or visit our web site at .

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Fall in Pinellas County

By Pam Brown, Urban Horticulture Extension Agent

We have had some cold weather early this year which has created some wonderful red, orange and gold colors in our trees and other landscape plants. Deciduous plants – those that loose their leaves in the fall – seem to magically turn colors with shorter days and colder temperatures. But, it seems that the combination of these two factors do not combine together in Pinellas County very often to produce these vibrant colors.

When a deciduous plant begins preparations for dormancy, the green colored chlorophyll begins to break down. But chlorophyll is not the only pigment inside leaves. There are other colored pigments that are masked by the intense green chlorophyll. These other pigments include carotenoids and anthocyanins. Carotenoids create the bright yellows and oranges and anthocyanins impart a red color.

It was believed that these colors simply appeared after chlorophyll breaks down, and that they served no function. However, research shows that in many plants, anthocyanins are not simply unmasked, but produced by leaves during the fall (Lee et al., 2003). There is very good evidence that the anthocyanins work like a sunscreen so that the plants can continue to take nutrients from the leaves as they fade (Yamasaki, 1997; Chalker-Scott, 1999; Matile, 2000).

All of this science aside, it is very nice to enjoy some lovely fall colors in our area for a change.