Thursday, August 13, 2015

Demo Garden Update August 2015

It's time for our yearly demo garden/rainy season update on what we are growing to share. And also just because with the onset of rainy season (late and sporadic) everything is looking gorgeous! This is the mid-season range of our rainy season (normally) and Miami takes on a tropical feel and look. Hot, humid and rainy we are most like a tropical rain forest at this time. And everything on the other side of your front door responds.

Enjoy this gift of green abundance and also be aware that we are a sub-tropical region and the dry season rules 7 months of the year. Not to worry, there are many many plants that grow here both native and Florida-Friendly that will thrive in the dry season as well.

The key to  beautiful, sustainable Florida-Friendly Landscaping is knowing more about what plants will grow where you live and what they need. For those that have not yet discovered the joy of gardening as well as the benefits of fresh air and exercise, knowing more about plants may seem a daunting task. All avid gardeners started somewhere. Start here and now with contact with your local Extension Office!

Enjoy as we tempt you outside despite the heat.........

The small  butterfly garden in the employee parking area got a clean up and a new sculpture. We also added another cool ground cover that is both a larval host and nectar plant, Phyla nodiflora is a larval host for the not commonly encountered common buckeye butterfly. This one from my home garden was a little shy when it first arrived, I did not get close enough to identify the sex. The best thing about growing the phyla? We rescued it from the lawn here at the Extension Office!

Phyla nodiflora could be an alternative to turf. It loves our rainy season but not sure if it will stand up to the drier than normal seasons with rising temperatures that we are tending towards.

The entrance to the shadehouse had really become overgrown. The older hand made bamboo trellis was completely hidden and could not support the weight of the imperiled native Passiflora pallens, (we still have seeds to share).

A lot of vision and even more elbow grease cleaned up an unused trellis from a friends garden. Thank you Chris Rollins!                                             

The next big project....                                                                                                                           The potting and composting area.We just need to stop and construct a potting table, unless anyone has one they are not using.......p.s. the Solidago leavenworthii will recover and we will be sharing with Natural Areas Management and Urban Paradise Guild.

Hard to believe this mass of Justicia brandegeeana grew from a few cuttings. We will be starting new plants to share from cuttings soon. I will always remember this plant survived Hurricane Wilma in my home garden and was there as a nectar source for the hummingbirds that also survived! The cuttings were from that same home garden patch.It is great to be able to test a plant before recommending it.

Even with the need for a new potting table, the view with the morning sun as a back drop is a refreshing way to start the work day.

My favorite part of Hibiscus acetosella to eat? The young tender leaves! Exceptionally tasty with a local Florida avocado. We have more than 50 seedlings to pot up to share.

Food for pollinators.We have doubled our efforts to plant nectar source plants since attending the Imperiled Butterflies of Florida Workgroup (IBWG) last year. A new addition to shadehouse is two "mother" plants of Croton linearis , larval host plant for both Bartam's Hairstreak and Florida Leafwing butterflies which have been federally registered as endangered.
And we have larval host plant Senna ligustrina and nectar plant Salvia coccinea ready to share with neighborhood residents at next weeks Gratingy Plateau Park's First Anniversary Celebration. 

Thank you everyone for your efforts to save our water resources, see you at Deering Estate in August and September!

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

An introduction to micro-irrigation for your landscape

When thinking about how to maintain a beautiful landscape, supplemental irrigation (even if only for establishment) is a necessary element. But did you know that you could be doing more harm than good when irrigating your precious landscape? Choosing the correct type of sprinkler for the job is very important.
Which sprinkler is best for your landscape?
Sprays (depending on the brand), cover smaller areas, up to 28 feet.
Sprays cover smaller areas.
While rotors start at 30 feet and up.
Rotors cover larger areas.
Proper spacing (head to head coverage) is very importing when using sprays or rotors, they should also not be in the same zone. Mixed sprinkler heads leads to water waste because they both have different application rates.
Mixing sprinkler heads creates an imbalance in the application rate.
Most homeowners, and even some irrigation contractors we’ve spoken to, have no idea that the sprinklers they are using are primarily designed for turf (grass) areas. When sprays and rotors are used correctly they work great; however, when used in areas other than turf, like shrubs or bedding plants, they can harm your landscape. Sprays or rotors apply water at high rates and with lots of pressure, which can affect plant development. Sprays especially apply water too fast, which can lead to poor root development or worse, fungus.
Sprays apply water too fast, which can lead to poor root development
Micro-irrigation, like a drip line or micro-jets, do a better job irrigating shrubs, ornamentals or hedges because they apply the water at the root of the plant at a much slower rate, which prevents overwatering and unnecessary water waste.
Drip irrigation applies the water at the root of the plant at a very slow rate
Micro-jets apply water at the root of the plant at a much lower application rate than a spray
If you’re looking for the best way to irrigate your shrubs, ornamentals or hedges, micro-irrigation is the best way to go. If you live in Miami-Dade County and are considering replacing a sprinkler zone with micro-irrigation, contact the UCU via phone, Twitter, Facebook or email, we're here to help! 

Friday, May 22, 2015

Why Do We Need to Practice Water Conservation?

Let's start with where our water comes from.
When I ask this question in a Rain Barrel/Water Conservation Workshop I get an array of answers.
The ocean, Lake Okeechobee, the sewer,the faucet, rivers. Where your municipal water comes from depends on your location and the surrounding natural hydrological system. Our water comes from the Biscayne Aquifer and the deeper underground water of the Floridan Aquifer. Note in Miami Dade County the Floridan Aquifer is mixed with seawater and is considered brackish needing additional treatment (Reverse Osmosis) for our consumption.

How does the Biscayne Aquifer get its water? Rain! Great! It rain a lot in Miami! It's always raining, right?

Yes it rains a lot in Miami Dade County.
Our rainy season approaches, any day now it will start and on average continue thru October. We receive approximately 70% (40")of our annual rainfall in this 5 month span. That leaves 7 months of dry season. Why than do we perceive that it rains a lot in Miami?

When it Rains it Pours.
We do have high rainfall weather events. April 15th produced 5" of rain in our grove. This caused local flooding in many areas of Miami Dade County. Advancing cold fronts can bring several inches of rain in the dry season. Up to April 15, 2015 we had experienced lower than average rainfall for the 2014-2015 dry season. Why? There are fewer cold fronts reaching south and many of the "cool" fronts that do arrive have dissipated their energy and arrive dry.

Where did the 5" of rain go?
Statistically 12% of rain that falls in an urban area will find its way to recharge groundwater resources. The "other" 88% will travel across paved/hard surface areas to the nearest storm water drain/and/or drainage canal. Where does this water go in Miami Dade County? Still going out to the ocean. Ditto for California (remember the two "Pineapple Express" weather events?).

With 5" of rain in one day plants should be good for weeks, right?
Well, NO actually. Water peculates thru our sand based soil right into the aquifer. Have you ever heard a meteorologist describe a rain event as a "slow soaker, just what we need for our lawns"? Too much water at one time washes thru the sandy soil whether the water is from rain or irrigation over watering for hours. How long the plants will benefit from rain depends on length of day, temperature and humidity. Call us at the Miami Dade County Extension Office if you have questions!

What if Rainy Season starts late?
Depending on conditions, say record heat, we could face draw down on well fields which are normally at their lowest levels at the end of dry season. The dry season of 2009 was the 2nd driest recorded dry season at the time and we risked salt water intrusion into well fields along the south eastern sector of Miami Dade County. Remember the brief restrictions limiting watering your lawn only once a week roughly south of SW 216th Street?

Climate Change or Not?
Change your focus from predictions and look at recent weather patterns in comparison to historical weather data. Our weather patterns are becoming colder, hotter, dryer, and wetter depending on your location and in some areas in the US it is all of the above. Weather has become more difficult to model and forecast despite advances. What is 100%? Looking at recorded data, ice cores, tree rings and more.
Our climate is changing.

What about Sea Level Rise?
It is happening and you do not need to be a scientist to understand what is happening and how it will affect the Biscayne Aquifer. Sea Level Rise is documented. Well fields are already being inundated by salt water intrusion due to Sea Level Rise and are being taken out of service.

What other issues stress our water resource?
Population! More people = more water. Locally Miami Dade County is now at 2.6 million people and extremely diverse in all measurable areas. Planet wide population exceeded 7 billion March 12, 2012. Peak estimates now exceed 10.3 billion by 2050. How old will you be in 2050?

Thank you for reviewing the basics
Barbara McAdam
Program Outreach, Rain Barrels and Water Conservation

Water Water Everywhere, Sea Level Rise in Miami
Climate Change Resource Center
NASA Global Climate Modeling
Miami-Dade Sea Level RiseTask Force Report andRecommendations
USGS Coastal Groundwater Systems
The Effect of a One-Foot Sea Level Rise on Saltwater Intrusion in theBiscayne Aquifer in Miami-Dade County, Florida
Ground Water Atlas of the United States: Alabama, Florida, Georgia and South Carolina

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Water, So Many Ways to Save It!

The message of Water Conservation and information on how to save water is everywhere. As a Water Conservation Educator I am perhaps acutely aware.  Below are upcoming events, current information and programs I have been seeing, hearing and eager to share with all of you!

Market Place  Water: The High Cost of Cheap has been airing on NPR/WLRN over the past few weeks. You can catch up on podcasts you have missed on their website. Their most recent podcast got my attention this past Friday. This is not a new concept however digesters have become more efficient.

The February 13th podcast Calculate how much water you use addresses how much water we use as individuals. If you do the math in the podcasts, an average family uses 100 gallons of water per person per day. The online version of this podcast links you to a Water Foot Print Calculator. What is not explained? Your water use number is how much water you use each day at home, work, play, in your yard etc. A Water Foot Print calculator estimates how much water is used to make your clothes, grow your food, and much more.

Miami Dade County Water & Sewer Department (WASD) carries a link to the EPA water savings calculator which shows you how much water you can save by installing water efficient fixtures (shower heads, faucets) and appliances (washing machines, dish washers). Link to WASD and you will find an extensive list of rebates/incentives-money back to you for saving water inside and outside.

South West Water Management District has good water use calculator on their website. However, for single family homeowners the most accurate way to measure your water use is to read your WASD water bill and do a small amount of simple math. Divide the total gallons of water you are being billed for by the number of days in the billing period and then divide the answer by the number of people in your household.

Need more than 50 Ways to Save? Link onto to the  Water Use It Wisely  website for 200 plus ways to save. Hover over each tip for additional information.

The key to saving water is awareness. Most of us do not realize how much water we are using. Once we become aware, the solutions are everywhere and they are simple.

Two special events take place in March every year to hone our focus on water. EPA Fix-a-Leak Week and the United Nations World Water Day.

Help save 1 trillion gallons of water. Link to EPA Fix-a-Leak Week campaign page and learn how to detect leaks and how to fix them yourself! The time to fix  leaks is when you find them, check your water meter, water bill for unusual water usage.

World Water Day 2015  focuses this year on Water and Sustainable Development and provides informative briefs covering 8 areas to be addressed at the Zaragoga Conference.

For children a theater play has been created. The play is 10 minutes long and covers the water cycle. At the end of the play each rain drop is speaking about the many places they have been, in a lake, in a cloud, underground, rain in Spain and more.

Celebrate water and life with the entire world.
                 Barbara McAdam, Program Outreach, Rain Barrel/Water Conservation Workshops

Monday, December 29, 2014

A Different Kind of Holiday Greeting

We received a wonderful email from a gentleman who has called us many times with questions over the years about growing vegetables here in South Florida.


Best wishes to everyone at IFAS for a great holiday season and a happy new year. Thanks to you and your colleagues for helping me to a great gardening season. The nematodes appear to be under control and we are enjoying beans, several kinds of lettuce, radishes in a rainbow of colors, herbs and cucumbers. Yet to harvest are kohlrabi, cabbages, cauliflower, broccoli, carrots, eggplant, tomatoes,peas and bok choy. Using rain water from our rain barrel! 


Fall and winter is our time to grow backyard vegetables and our commercial fields feed the US in the winter. And it is not too late to get started, in fact creating a backyard vegetable garden is an excellent New Years project along with saving water, creating a Florida-Friendly Landscape, eating healthy and fresh...... just call us here at the UF/IFAS Miami Dade County Extension and we'll help you grow a beautiful garden just like Ron's.

Enjoy Ron's  mouth watering garden photos and visit our webpage for tips on raised bed vegetable gardening (no nematodes!) and what vegetables really grow well here.

Don't forget to plant herbs too.

And don't forget to get a rain barrel!
Our first Rain Barrel/Water Conservation Workshop of 2015
kicks off at Zoo Miami on January 24th. Entrance to the Zoo is not required for the workshop, we will be in a special area but you are welcome to visit the Zoo (entrance fee required) and take the opportunity to visit some of the creatures that we share the planets water resources with. We will keep you posted on this first time workshop at Zoo Miami!

Wishing you all the best for 2015 from the FYN/UCU Team!

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Everyone's "Favorite" Invasive Plant

Tradescantia spathacea

Moses-in-the Cradle, Oyster Plant, Tradescantia spathacea

is by any name a plant the Urban Conservation Unit and I often find growing in all types of landscaped properties, including government and school grounds. Folks are just not aware of the invasive potential of this plant and also not aware the leaves are poisonous and the sap can cause a mild to severe dermatitis reaction for many who touch it.

Unquestionably Oyster plants  are attractive with a rich green topside and purple under leaf and they grow in a neat compact form.
However Tradescantia spathacea is listed as a Category II by the Florida Exotic Pest Plant Council. While not as serious a threat to natural areas as Category I plants, Category II plants are defined as " Invasive Exotics that have increased in abundance or frequency but have not yet altered Florida plant communities". This plant has been determined to be invasive by the Invasive Species Compendium and is under review by the Florida Exotic Pest Plant Council to be included as a Category I invasive plant.

Why do we see this plant in so many landscapes? It can sprout by wind blown seed  or seeds and stem pieces carried by water from other areas. Once a plant establishes itself it will rapidly multiply and monopolize all available space. Attempts at removal result in new plants sprouting from seed when the plants are disturbed by removal.  It is easily pulled out of the ground by hand or weeding hoe, gloves should be worn and care taken to avoid having sap splash into your eyes. Once removed, bag these, do not attempt to compost as new plant will grow from broken pieces of stems and roots. You will need to monitor and remove new seedlings as they sprout.

OK.... now you know you should remove these plants, what can you replace them with? Good news! There are lots of Florida-Friendly Landscape plants you can chose from that will thrive in our Zone 10a - 10b growing area with little to zero need for irrigation once established.

Some of my favorites "purples" are noted below:

Native porter weed is described as blue porter weed, 
however, I see purple. This native has a smaller, 
more delicate flower and is pale blue-purple.This plant may sometimes grow a bit raggedy in the winter especially if it's location  in the garden has become more shady as the earth tilts more towards the southern horizon. Remove them if needed and watch them sprout out and grow thick with blue flowers once  rainy season beings in late-May. Stachytarpheta jamaicensis is also a butterfly larval host plant for our mangrove buckeye/ Junonia genoveva. This is what native "plant people" call a "twofor", beautiful plant and beautiful butterfly!

Growing awareness of sustainability and how it relates to the concept of eating fresh and eating local brings us to another great choice. An edible groundcover! You can have a beautiful groundcover and eat it too. Okinawa spinach likes a bit of shade and will sometimes wilt on the hottest summer day but it quickly recovers especially with a sip of water from your rain barrel. The photo below is saturated with color on a rainy day growing outside our shadehouse. This planting faces south. Gynura crepioides is easily grown from cuttings.

Eating purple is delicious too. A quick internet search finds several interesting and simple recipes using Okinawa spinach.
Additional beautiful and Florida-Friendly choices include Mexican Heather, Purple Heart and the spectacular bromeliad, Aechmea Malva
  Contact us for lots more information, we will be happy to
share resources, books and data base information on plants that grow well, use little water and bring beauty and life to your Florida-Friendly Landscape!

Barbara McAdam
Program Outreach, Rain Barrel & Water Conservation Workshops

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Passing the savings on to you: Miami-Dade’s Landscape Irrigation Evaluation Program resets for 2015

Everyone likes an attractive, welcoming landscape, and you can have this while still being efficient with your water-use outdoors. Miami-Dade Water and Sewer and UF/IFAS Miami–Dade’s Urban Conservation Unit are here to get you on your way to water savings.

For 2014-2015, the Landscape Irrigation Evaluation Program (LIEP) has retained many of the incentives that homeowners and large properties throughout Miami-Dade are benefitting from. Just recently a large property in Brickell Key reported a 67% reduction on its irrigation bill! How were these savings achieved?

Right idea, wrong delivery: Planters can sometimes be an invitation to waste water
Participation in the LIEP for large properties translates to rebates of up to $2850 - a portion of which can go to repairs,  the bulk of which targets efficiency upgrades (such as the spray heads to drip line retrofit pictured below).

From risers above to micro below: drip irrigation delivers water slowly and directly to the root zone 
To complement those incentives, large properties are also assigned a weather-based timer to replace the current timer. These cutting-edge, smart devices use weather and landscape specifics to calculate irrigation run times daily, while also abiding by our local watering restrictions. Watch the video below to learn how the LIEP helped other properties bring their water expenses under control.

Single family homes are still very much the LIEP’s bread and butter. Nothing satisfies the UCU more than landing on your doorstep, running your irrigation system and telling you about the wide spectrum of water saving, rebate-worthy opportunities available for residential systems. Florida-friendly plant installs, large rainwater capture systems, even the latest Wi-Fi based, remotely accessible smart timers - the LIEP rebates all of these water saving attitudes.

Outdoor water-saving practices: a top 7 tips list
And if you’re anxious to preview how a smart timer can work for you, download UF’s free smart irrigation turf app. It’s programmed similar to a smart device and recommends adjustments to your watering schedule based on weather conditions just like a smart device does.

Get started saving water today. Find more information about participating in the Landscape Irrigation Evaluation Program here, print and mail/email a program contract below. or contact us at the office directly.

Single Family Home Contract                    Large Property Contract 

Jesus Lomeli
305-248-3311 ext. 246

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