Fair is a very busy time for Okaloosa County 4-H. There are just so many things to prepare for. Animals need baths, their hair and nails clipped. 4Hers are busy polishing off their skills in show and project delivery. It is the best time of year to come out and see all of what our kids have been working on all year long. 4-H youth have been raising farm animals that range from chickens and cows to other smaller animals such as rabbits and cavy. They have also been perfecting skills such as cooking, sewing, and even canning!

The best part of fair is its diversity of project areas. Local 4-H members are able to display anything from photography to robotics and show animals ranging from steer to turkeys. Throughout fair, youth will participate in competitions in which they will demonstrate their knowledge in animal science and showmanship techniques. We even have a dog show on Thursday night which includes some of the best dressed dogs around! It is a fun and eventful time. Okaloosa County Clubs will also have booths available to provide extra information about current offerings through 4-H in our area. Nightly demonstrations in the 4-H building are scheduled to give the public a small idea of what these amazing youth are learning throughout the year. So, mark your calendars and come visit us at the Northwest Florida Fair this year September 25th-30th at the Northwest Florida Fair Grounds in Ft Walton Beach Florida.

This year our fair is open to all Okaloosa, Walton, and Santa Rosa County 4-H members. If you are interested in participating in the Northwest Florida Fair, please contact the UF IFAS Okaloosa County Extension Office at 850-689-5850 or email me at graham.v@ufl.edu for registration information. All registration is due to this office by 4:30pm on September 15th, 2017. Premium booklets and registration forms are available on our website at http://okaloosa.ifas.ufl.edu/4hy/okaloosa-county-fair/.

The fair will be open Tuesday-Friday, September 25th-29th, from 5pm-10pm and Saturday, September 30th, from 2pm-10pm. For more information on the Northwest Florida Fair visit their website at http://www.nwffair.com/fair/index.htm.

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Water efficient landscapes don’t happen by chance. They happen by design. The following are ideas to help in designing a more water efficient landscape. An efficient water use design includes dividing the landscape into three water-use zones: low, medium and high.

Low water-use zones require little to no supplemental water after establishment. Moderate water-use zones contain plants that require some supplemental irrigation during hot, dry periods. High water-use zones should be limited in the landscape to small high-impact or most visible areas of the home such as the entrance.

Shade helps cool the landscape by as much as twenty degrees and reduces water loss. It is an important design concept. Use practical lawn areas. Locate lawn grass where it provides the most functional benefit such as recreational areas or on slopes to prevent erosion. Separate the lawn from ornamental plants in the landscape so they can be watered separately. Most lawn grasses can be located in any of the three water-use zones but the amount and frequency of irrigation should be adjusted accordingly.

Only water plants that need to be watered. An irrigation system is a tool to supplement rainfall, not to water in addition to rainfall. Daily watering is bad for plants. It encourages shallow root systems and causes plants to demand more water. Water your lawn and landscape on an as-needed basis.

Midday watering of turf areas is not recommended because much of the applied water can be lost due to evaporation and wind blowing the water off site. Water between 9:00 p.m. and 8:00 a.m. to minimize evaporation and foliar diseases.

Consider use of micro-irrigation in plant bed, vegetable garden and fruit garden areas. Micro-irrigation uses less water and is more efficient than traditional irrigation systems.

Mulch is vital to a water-efficient landscape. Mulch helps conserve soil moisture and keeps the root area cooler during hot, dry weather. A two to three inch layer of organic mulch such as pine straw, pine bark or woodchips helps create a more water efficient landscape.

Try to match the right plant for the site conditions and preserve as many native plants as possible. Native plants are generally well adapted to the environment and may require no supplemental irrigation.

During dry weather, mow the lawn so that no more than 1/3 of the leaf height is removed at each mowing. This reduces plant stress and water demand. Reduce fertilization during dry weather because it can damage plant roots in dry soils.

For additional water saving ideas, contact the UF/IFAS Extension Office in your County (http://ifas.ufl.edu/maps).

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The Grass is Getting “Hungry”

Sheila Dunning

Commercial Horticulture Agent II

Northwest Florida’s weather patterns can present challenges to maintaining a health lawn. Heavy rains promote fast growth and relentless sunshine causes lawns to fade.  In the last 200 days we have received at least 68 days of rain.  While the rest of Florida was experiencing record drought earlier this year, the Panhandle was experiencing torrential downpours.  With every drop of rain your spring fertilizer is being metabolized by the lawn, reducing how many nutrients remain in the soil.  Even the best slow-release fertilizer will only last 3-4 months.  The message is: “It’s time for more fertilizer.”

A healthy lawn is an important component of the urban landscape. Not only do lawns increase the value of a property, they also reduce soil erosion, filter stormwater runoff, cool the air, and reduce glare and noise.  A healthy lawn effectively filters and traps sediment and pollutants that could otherwise contaminate surface waters and groundwater.  Lawns require nutrients throughout the growing season to stay healthy.  In Northwest Florida the growing season is typically April to October.

Proper fertilization consists of selecting the right type of fertilizer and applying it at the right time and in the right amount for maximum plant uptake. The type of fertilizer should be based on a soil test, available through UF/IFAS Extension. The timing of application and amount of fertilizer is dependent on the research-based recommendations for the grass species and the fertilizer analysis of the product being used.

Select only a fertilizer that states that the product is for use on residential turf. Do not use a fertilizer meant for flower or vegetable gardens on lawns. By Florida Administrative Code, Rule 5E-1.003, the Urban Turf Rule requires that the fertilizers being applied to residential lawns are labeled for the site and the application rates be followed.  Typically, these products will contain both slow-release nitrogen and low or no phosphorus.  Slow-release nitrogen will provide a longer-lasting response from the grass and reduces the potential for burning. For more information on the Urban Turf Rule go to: http://www.edis.ifas.ufl.edu/pdffiles/EP/EP35300.pdf.

With frequent rain the soil is also losing iron. Keep in mind that the green fading to yellow appearance in your lawn may be an iron deficiency.  Before applying your summer fertilizer put out a liquid chelated iron.  It will improve the health of the lawn while you are trying to find a dry day to fertilize.

While it is necessary to water in fertilizer with ¼” of water to reduce burn potential and volatilization, never apply fertilizer when heavy rain is expected.  The rainfall over ¼” can encourage runoff and/or leaching of that fertilizer, which can be costly and environmentally harmful.


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Check out the latest edition of The Compost Pile



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2017 Beekeeping in the Panhandle Summer Series

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Learn more about Florida’s artificial reefs

85b81b43-ae36-4a10-9a9b-fc8c46e3b8e9Check out the connection between expired military equipment and artificial reefs!  https://spark.adobe.com/page/gZsU8hbgZ4OsV/

Photo credit: Bernard Brzezinski


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White spots on magnolia leaves & sandspur control in lawn

Q. My magnolia tree leaves have small white spots on them. I can scrape them off with my fingernail. What is this and will it damage my tree?

A. More than likely this is a scale insect. It’s probably False Oleander Scale, which is common on magnolias. If the tree is otherwise healthy, the scale will not cause permanent harm. But if the tree has been weakened by other factors such as construction damage (adding or removing soil around the roots, paving over the roots, soil compaction, etc.), storm damage or if the tree has been damaged from weed and feed applications in nearby lawn areas, then the scale could be the “last straw” for this tree. You’ll find this scale on native magnolia trees out in the wild. You can spray the infested leaves with one of the horticultural oil sprays but good coverage of infested leaves is important. Make sure it is summer oil, not dormant oil. If the tree is too large to spray, you may get some control with a systemic insecticide containing imidacloprid. If the tree is otherwise healthy, the scale should not be a problem for the tree. For more information on this scale, visit http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/in306.

Q. I have a large infestation of sandspurs. Is there anything that I can use in my lawn to get rid of this weed?

A. Sandspur or sandbur is a warm season annual grass. As such, it comes up from seed during spring. In the seedling stage it blends in with the lawn grass. Later in spring and summer, it produces the stickers (burs/spurs), which contain seed. The parent plants will die as a result of the first killing frost or freeze. The seed remain dormant throughout winter and germinate the following spring to start the cycle all over again. Because sandbur is a true grass, there are few to no effective and safe postemergence choices for controlling this weed in a lawn. So, the best option is to apply a preemergence herbicide for lawns during February to early March. This provides a very narrow window to achieve control. Timing is extremely important when using a preemergence herbicide. You may also need to apply a second application six to nine weeks after the initial application to achieve season-long control based on directions on the product’s label. Always follow the label directions and precautions when using any pesticide, including herbicides. For more information on growing a Florida lawn, including weed control, visit http://hort.ifas.ufl.edu/yourfloridalawn.

Larry Williams, UF/IFAS Extension Agent, Okaloosa County, July 19, 2017

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