Coral plant, Russelia equisetiformis, is a rush-like shrub with slender red flowers resembling firecrackers. It blooms throughout most of the winter providing a cheerful green with red color combination, while the butterflies attracted to it add other colors. Although it originated in Mexico, it is adapted to Florida winters as and summers and is considered a Florida native. Planted in locations to allow the long slender branches to spill over shows off the graceful structure of the plant.
Weeds are simply plants growing where they aren’t wanted so what is a weed is my judgment call, but I’ve decided what should grow here and what shouldn’t.
I’ve worked to prepare the ground for a beautiful garden. I’ve pulled weeds by hand and put down weed mat to stop them from growing back. I’ve added mulch to help suppress the weeds. On the positive side, I have tried to put the right plant in the right place, then fertilized, and watered.
My gardening techniques have been successful, but I have a problem. The new microirrigation system provides water at the roots of plants. Those small drips of water penetrate the soil around the roots and are stimulating the weeds under the weed mat and mulch. The germinating weed seeds and leftover parts of weed roots grow towards the opening around the roots of plants, because that is where the most water is.
Since the microirrigation was installed, each time I step into the garden I see weeds sticking up, wanted and ugly, through the plants that I want to grow. My message to the invading weeds is, “there is no place in my garden for you.” I may have a long battle ahead of me, but I’ll keep working towards my goal: a beautiful, pleasant and healthy Florida-Friendly garden environment for my family to enjoy. I will remain persistent, fighting the weeds as they invade.
Oh, delight. I am no longer dragging a hose around to water my plants. I love technology and I love my new microirrigation system. After living here for almost a year, we decided it was time to do something about the lack of an irrigation system. There were old pipes in the ground with rotary heads, but several of them were broken or missing, and the old control panel didn’t work.
I knew I needed professional help, so I made a call to arrange a consultation. His recommendation was that it would cost less to install a new system than it would to dig up and repair the old system. We had no idea where all the old pipes were or how good they were. To ensure the old pipes were in good condition would involve digging up the entire system and that seemed like a waste of time and money. I could also see that many of the old rotary heads were in locations where I don’t need water, so to reconnect them would be very inefficient.
My Goal: The old rotary head system was set up to water turf grass but maintaining turf grass is not part of my plan. I’m trying to establish a Florida-Friendly landscape that will be drought tolerant and that once established will need little water. I knew I needed at least 3 sections or zones: one for the front yard that will need little water once established, another for the vegetables that will need more water than the front area, and a third that will provide water until the fruit trees are established.
The System: We decided to install a microirrigation system. Plants only absorb water in contact with their roots. A microirrigation system allows controlled distribution of water where the plants are located. The photo above shows the plastic tube that was installed around the edge of the garden. It is easy to attach small emitters to the plastic tube so there is a controlled release of water where needed. The emitters can be adjusted to allow just a few drips of water or a small steady stream. It is easy to modify the system. I have already added a few tubes and emitters for new plants I have put in since the microirrigation system was installed.
The new control panel allows me to set the time and day for each zone. If it has rained and there is no need for the microirrigation system to turn on, a rain gauge turns off the system temporarily.
Can I say it again? I love the new microirrigation system.
It is May and already hot and humid; weeds are growing; some new plants need to be moved to more appropriate sections of the yard; mulch waits to be put out. There are strange insects and odd spots on the leaves of my vegetables. We’ve planted and fertilized and watered and watched and waited. Why do we do this? We do it because gardeners have high hopes! We have heart and faith and high hopes that we can improve our environment.
It gives me pleasure each day to see our progress. I love it when my daughter goes out to get herbs we’ve planted or when my husband exclaims that we have tiny tangerines as well as tiny oranges on trees we’ve planted, I love it when a flower appears that I wasn’t anticipating – like the spiderwort that easily transplanted to new areas of the yard.
We know we are just starting to develop the garden we want, but we have high hopes and will continue to work on it. The photo below was taken just a few days ago, but already the wabi-sabi bench was moved to a new location and I’ve added another small flower bed at the back of the yard. We have a long list of tasks still to do and we have high hopes that it will all work out and will be the beautiful Florida-Friendly paradise we are planning.
Marina D’Abreau, Residential Horticulture Extension Agent of Hillsborough County, presented a Master Gardner session on ornamental palms for central Florida at the Charles J Fendig Library. I wasn’t going to include palms in my garden plans, but I will now. She convinced me. She presented a summary of several that are Florida-friendly due to their tolerance for drought, salt, sand as well as somewhat tolerant of temperatures close to freezing. She recommended plantapalm.com website and floridata.com for further information on growing and maintaining palms.
Her tips for palms included:
- Plant in the spring and early summer when they are growing. Cut back the roots to a root ball when transplanting. Plant with the top of the root ball level with the ground. Water regularly until they are well established.
- Stake, if necessary, but gently. Buffer the tree with burlap, then tie it in place. Prop a stake against the burlap without damaging the tree. Do NOT nail anything into the tree.
- Since palm roots are in the top 2-3 inches of soil, mulch to maintain moisture in the soil. Keep other plants, even grass, away from the palm trunk, so other plants will not be too competitive for moisture.
- Leave old fronds on the tree until they are dead and brown. Do not remove yellow fronds because the tree will pull nutrients out of the fronds.
- Fertilize 4 times a year using slow release nitrogen (N) and potassium (K). Palms also require micro-nutrients, so planning is needed to ensure they get all their required nutrients. Lawn fertilizers do not contain magnesium (Mg). If palms only receive lawn fertilizer they become deficient in magnesium resulting in yellow fronds. Epson salt, magnesium sulfate, is often used to fertilize palms for magnesium, but Epsom salt does not supply other needed micro-nutrients. For instance, palms develop “frizzle top” if a palm is deficient in manganese (Mn). Fertilizers specific for palms can be purchased at garden supply stores. Apply palm fertilizer under the canopy of the palm. If this includes some turf, do not fertilize the area with turf fertilizer.
- Palms have pests, but if the palms are properly placed and maintained, they will remain in good health and pests will not be a major problem.