Water management during dry weather and Cottage Garden seminar

Even though our average annual rainfall is around sixty-two inches per year, we don’t always receive rain exactly when we need it. There are times when we need to apply additional water. During dry weather, implement the following water management practices to improve the water efficiency of your landscape.

Mulching conserves water. On bare ground about sixty percent of the water can be lost through evaporation. A two to three inch layer of mulch will help hold the water so plants can use it. Try to apply mulch all the way around the plants out to the end of the branches or beyond, if possible.

When watering, a thorough soaking to wet the soil to a depth of six to eight inches is better for plants than light frequent watering. Three to five gallons of water applied to one spot under the canopy of trees or shrubs should thoroughly wet the root zone in that location. During dry periods, twenty-five percent of the root system, when watered thoroughly, can absorb all the water a plant requires at any given time.

In watering lawns, apply one to two inches of water per week when we’re not getting rain. Although most sprinklers have irrigation rates of ¼ inch per hour, some may apply up to one inch per hour. Measure your irrigation rate and uniformity by placing several open-top containers of the same size under the sprinkler to see how long it takes to apply 1 inch of water.

An efficient lawn irrigation program should not begin until the grass shows signs of moisture stress. Symptoms include a dull, bluish-green color and leaf blades folding. The most efficient time to irrigate is between sunset and sunrise because of less evaporation, less wind and lower temperatures. Early morning is the next most effective time to irrigate while midday is the least efficient.

Avoid fertilizing drought-stressed plants. Fertilizers, being chemical salts, will dehydrate roots when water is in short supply. If you need to apply a pesticide, make certain the plant is not wilted at the time and spray during early morning or late afternoon. Avoid unnecessary pruning of plants during drought. Pruning encourages new growth which has a high demand for water.

You may be interested attending in a program titled Cottage Gardening being presented on Wednesday, May 16 from 10 to 11 a.m. at the Extension Annex located at 127 NW Hollywood Blvd. in Fort Walton Beach. Master Gardener Karen Kirk-Williams will share info on how to create and maintain a cottage garden in Northwest Florida.

A mini plant sale for attendees will be conducted following the program.

To register for this free seminar, please call (850) 689-5850. Space is limited.

Larry Williams, UF/IFAS Extension Office, Okaloosa County, May 9, 2018

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Cleaning Your Home After an Illness Like Influenza

Clean light switches to reduce the spread of illnesses. Photo credit: NW Extension District

Seasonal influenza (flu) viruses are most common during the fall and winter, with peak activity occurring between December and February.  According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses. It can cause mild to severe illness. Serious outcomes of flu infection can result in hospitalization or death. Some people, including senior adults, young children, and persons with certain health conditions, are at high risk for serious flu complications.

When someone in your family has had a cold or the flu, it is important to clean and sanitize your house properly to avoid any recurrences or further spreading. Follow these tips:

  • Before you get started, try opening the windows for some fresh air, or raise your blinds or curtains to let in the natural light.
  • Clean the areas first, then disinfect.
  • Wash your hands often:  before, during, and after cleaning.

The bathroom will need a good cleaning and disinfection after an illness.

  • Disinfect with a mixture of bleach and water.  Use one scant teaspoon of chlorine bleach to one quart of water.
  • Clean toilet lever, shower faucets, cabinet knobs, light switches, and doorknobs.
  • Replace or clean toothbrushes.
  • Disinfect all things that people touch:  refrigerator door handles; coffee pot; electric can opener; microwave oven; door, stove, and cabinet knobs; faucets; light switches.  Do NOT use chlorine bleach with added fragrance, as it is not food-safe.
  • Run all utensils through the dishwasher after each use.
  • For more information on sanitizing the kitchen, see Cleaning and Sanitizing the Kitchen: Using Inexpensive Household Food-Safe Products.
  • Clean remotes, phones, computer keypads, gaming systems, door knobs, and light switches.
  • Sanitize all items with proper cleaning products.
  • Change pillow cases daily and wash soiled bed linens right away with proper laundry detergent.
  • Wash everything in your washer on the hottest temperature the fabric allows, but be sure not to overload your washer.
  • Disinfect all items on the night stand. Don’t forget light switches, doorknobs and drawer pulls, and remote controls, if used.
  • Some stuffed animals can be cleaned in the washer with the other bedding.
  • For hard-surfaced toys, make sure to clean with proper cleaning solutions for their surface and rinse well.
  • Some small toys can be safely cleaned in a mesh laundry bag in the top rack of the dishwasher.


  • Rubber gloves
  • A different sponge for each room you are cleaning or paper towels
  • Proper cleaning products:  Please be sure to follow all manufacturer’s instructions on all cleaning products.

According to the CDC, the flu virus can live on surfaces for 48 hours—potentially infecting anyone who comes in contact with the germs. Disinfecting the house is one of the best ways to prevent anyone else from contracting the illness.

For more information on sterilizing items in your home, visit the CDC Website, https://www.cdc.gov/oralhealth/infectioncontrol/questions/sterilization/cleaning.html



Author: Laurie Osgood – osgoodlb@ufl.edu

Laurie B. Osgood is the Family and Consumer Sciences Agent at the Gadsden County Extension office. You can contact her at: (850) 662-3287

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Alternative Rose Options for Florida Nursuries

Tea Rose, ‘Rosette Delizy’ in the landscape. Photo credit Matthew Orwat

Today in the nursery trade, when you think of roses, your mind inevitably turns to the ‘Knockout’ rose and its offspring. That’s fine, there’s nothing wrong with Knockoutroses, it makes a great ornamental landscape plant, and it’s easy to propagate.

With all the Knockout’ mania, since the early 2000s, many garden roses, that are well adapted to the Northwest Florida climate, have been left out of both the local and national nursery trade to a large degree.

Several roses, which were grown in Florida commonly in the last hundred years, and recommended by former University of Florida president H. H. Hume in his book “Gardening in the Lower South,” are still grown here today. To obtain these roses gardeners must look to small nurseries scattered throughout central Florida and Alabama, or order them from larger nurseries in Texas where the “Texas A&M Earthkind Rose Program has taken off.

Below are a few examples of easy to grow roses, that are just as disease resistant as the ‘Knockout,’ but offer more variety in color and form that local nurseries might consider for propagation and sale. They have been grown successfully throughout southern Texas for over 30 years, and at the Washington County Extension office for the past seven years without spraying fungicides or insecticides. Several of these cultivars were also involved in a 3-year rose trial at the UF/IFAS North Florida Research and Education Center, in Quincy.

‘Belinda’s Dream’ rose in the landscape under no-spray conditions. Photo credit Matthew Orwat.

‘Belinda’s Dream’

‘Belinda’s Dream was bred by Texas A&M Professor Robert Basye in 1988, as a culmination of years of intense breeding and selection for disease resistant landscape and cut flower roses. It makes a 4-5 foot shrub that grows about 3 feet wide. Apple-green foliage clothe its pleasing shrub form. It’s free flowering but not overly vigorous, so it’s easy to keep in bounds.  Disease resistance is high, there’s rarely any blackspot of note, under no-spray conditions, and only slight powdery mildew in a few years when conditions are favorable for fungus development.

In cool spring or fall conditions, the clear pink flowers can top six inches in diameter, and contain over 200 petals, but regular hot conditions during the summer usually reduce flower size to four inches. This rose loves to be part of mass plantings, particularly when planted 3 feet apart in a triangular formation. It has a reputation as being moderately easy to propagate.

Deeper coloration of ‘Rosette Delizy’ after cool Fall weather. Photo credit Matthew Orwat.

‘Rosette Delizy’

‘Rosette Delizy is a French Tea rose that was introduced to the U.S.

nursery trade in the mid-1920s. Since it was bred before the days of modern fungicides, it sports excellent resistance to disease. It shows no powdery mildew, and only the occasional leaf with blackspot under no-spray conditions.

This is strictly a rose for the coastal south, since it does not like cold temperatures, and cannot thrive north of zone 7b without protection.

Color is striking, opening yellow with petal edges changing to pink as the flowers age. Cooler weather brings out deeper russet and maroon tones. It has a light “tea” fragrance. This mannerly shrub gets 4-5 feet tall and 3-4 feet wide. It requires very light pruning, and can actually be killed from heavy handed gardeners with shears in hand. Minor flaws noted in this rose are that it is somewhat sparsely foliated, and somewhat difficult to propagate.

Bud and open flower of ‘Madame Antoine Mari’. Image credit Matthew Orwat

‘Madame Antoine Mari’

‘Madame Antione Mari’, a Tea rose, was introduced in 1900 when the buttonhole rose was all the rage. Massive quantities of perfectly formed delicate buds of pink and ivory quickly open into 3 inch flowers that decorate the bush like butterflies fluttering in the wind. Re-bloom is fast. Additional interest in the landscape is created by the deep red color of new foliage.

This makes a mannerly shrub for the small landscape, easily kept at 3-4 feet tall, and 5-6 feet wide by light pruning. Disease resistance is above average in a no-spray garden, with very low blackspot infection rates, and only occasional powdery mildew. This rose has been found to be easily propagated with the author reaching near 100% success rate.

‘Mrs. B.R. Cant at the NFREC Quincy. Photo credit Matthew Orwat

‘Mrs. B. R. Cant’

No mention of easy to grow roses is complete without the mention of ‘Mrs. B. R. Cant’. In the trials UF/IFAS horticulturists performed at Quincy and Plant City, this variety was rated the best performer. It has been in continuous cultivation since 1901, and is often found at old home sites and gardens in Washington County.

This makes a large garden rose, easily topping 8 feet in height, and just as wide.  Deep pink flowers are borne profusely from March to first frost. Disease resistance is outstanding, and it’s easy to propagate. Plants are densely clothed in medium green leaves. This rose is often grown in hedges as a substitute for a fence. One of the best all-around garden roses for the gulf south.

Nursery Availability

I provide presentations at workshops on these roses multiple times a year, throughout the Florida Panhandle. The recurring question I get is, “Where are these roses available locally?”  Hopefully this article will inspire some local nurseries to offer these easy to grow roses, and others, since these are just a few of the roses available that do very well in North Florida under no spray conditions. If you are interested in propigating these roses for your nursery, contact, Matthew Orwat at UF/IFAS Extension Washington County, for more information on these, and other phenomenal garden roses.


Author: Matthew Orwat – mjorwat@ufl.edu

Matthew J. Orwat started his career with UF / IFAS in 2011 and is the Horticulture Extension Agent for Washington County Florida. His goal is to provide educational programming to meet the diverse needs of and provide solutions for homeowners and small farmers with ornamental, turf, fruit and vegetable gardening objectives. Please feel free to contact him with any questions you may have.

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Aquaponics: Growing Fish and Food

Aquaponic Napa cabbage

There is growing interest in hobby-scale farming techniques. In response to this need, UF/IFAS Walton County Extension Office established a hobby farm featuring a variety of low-input food production options. The farm is a cooperative venture drawing on expertise of the Horticulture, Aquaculture/Marine Science, 4-H, and Agriculture programs. The farm is on a relatively small, tenth acre, plot behind the County Extension Office where staff and volunteers have installed aquaponics and hydroponics systems, honeybee boxes, a chicken coop as part of the 4-H Chick Chain Program, herb garden, raised vegetable bed system, sustainable citrus grove, muscadine grape trellis, shiitake mushroom structure, and blueberry orchard.

Aquaponic red lettuce

The aquaponics demonstration system was constructed in 2017 using materials purchased at local stores, Tractor Supply Company and Lowes, or on Amazon.com. The system has a 300 gallon Rubbermaid fish tank that gravity feeds into a 20 gallon plastic garbage can with lid stuffed with bird netting for solids removal and biofiltration. The water then feeds into two 2 ft. x 8 ft. feed troughs with approximately 2 square yards of floating Styrofoam grow beds. Finally the water drains into a 100-gallon sump where it is pumped back into the fish tank. A small air pump provides supplemental air to the fish tank and a small water heater helped maintain temperatures during the winter.

Walton County demonstration aquaponics system

The fish tank is stocked with 18 catfish, originally 4-5 inches, now approximately 10-12 inches, and pushing a half-pound each. The system produced two crops of red and romaine lettuce during the last half of 2017 and is currently planted with romaine and red lettuce, Swiss chard and Napa cabbage. Lettuce is harvested out of the system every five to six weeks, while Swiss chard and Napa cabbage a take longer to reach harvest size.

Aquaponic Swiss chard

There is a lot of aquaponics information available on-line. Academic institutions and other research-based organizations are the best places to look for information. The University of Florida has a comprehensive factsheet entitled “A Practical Guide for Aquaponics as an Alternative Enterprise” available at http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/hs1252. Also recommended is the Food and Agriculture Organization “Small-scale Aquaponic Food Production” manual available at http://www.fao.org/3/a-i4021e.pd.

Aquaponic seminars or webinars are conducted upon request and provide introductory information on a variety of system designs and stocking options. Over 400 visitors have seen the aquaponics and other hobby-scale gardening demonstration plots over the past year, gaining knowledge and acquiring skills to use in their own gardens. If you are interested in a signing up for the aquaponics email listserv, participating in a tour, having a personal consultation or attending a workshop, please contact Laura Tiu, lgtiu@ufl.edu.


Author: Laura Tiu – lgtiu@ufl.edu

Sea Grant Extension Agent – Okaloosa and Walton Counties

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Snakes Are On The Move

Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake swimming across the Intracoastal Waterway near Pensacola Beach.
Photo: Andy Barnes

Most people know that snakes are ectothermic and the environment is what regulates their body temperature. However, many do not know that they like to maintain their temperature close to 98 F like us.  To do this they must move to locations where they can either warm (like basking in the sun or lying on warm asphalt) or cool (like under rocks or logs).  Unlike us, their temperature can rise to above 100 F or down close to 30 F with few health problems.

When environmental temperatures become colder, their heart and breathing rates slow significantly. Their blood oxygen levels decrease, and they become very slow and sluggish – a condition we call torpor.  There are some advantages to this, such as not having to hunt for food for several weeks or months, but when the air temperatures begin to climb they become more active… Moreover, their hungry.

In the last two weeks, I have had numerous reports of snakes moving around in yards. There have been three records of diamondback rattlesnakes in the Pensacola Beach area alone.

Should I be concerned about doing outdoor activities?

No, not really – but you should be aware. As it warms, snakes will become more active early in the morning and late in the evening.  Pit vipers, like rattlesnakes and cottonmouths, actually prefer hunting at night.  However, when the temperatures are cool enough for mid-day movement, they will.  Food and reproduction (for some species) are on their mind this time of year.

Stay on the trails – snakes typically do not like to be in the open because of predators but they do have to bask to increase their body metabolism; so they may be along the edge. If I am hiking, I tend to look down along the trail when walking.  If I want to observe something in the trees, I stop.

These snake movements happen every year, and very people have problems, but with the recent increase in encounters it is could to be aware. I actually think snakes are pretty cool.  I enjoy seeing them, especially ones that are not viewed very often like coral snakes and rattlesnakes.  You should still go out and enjoy the Pensacola Bay area.  It is a great time of year to do it.


Author: Rick O’Connor – roc1@ufl.edu

Sea Grant Extension Agent in Escambia County

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If weeds were a problem in your lawn last summer, the coming weeks are the time to apply a preemergence herbicide to prevent their emergence again this year.

Timing of a preemergence herbicide application for summer annual weeds such as crabgrass should be during mid-February to March 5 when day temperatures reach 65° to 70°F for four to five consecutive days. This generally coincides with when azaleas and dogwoods first begin to bloom. Note: This is not true for chamberbitter. Chamberbitter requires warmer soil temperatures to germinate. Apply a preemergence herbicide during April to May 1 when battling chamberbitter.

Most preemergent type herbicides won’t work when applied after weeds are visible. The product must be applied just before the seedlings emerge.

The weeds growing now in local lawns are not summer annuals. Summer annual weed seeds are still dormant awaiting warmer spring temperatures to germinate and emerge.

Most of the weeds in yards now are winter annuals. A few include annual bluegrass, chickweed, henbit, hop clover, lawn burweed and wild geranium. A preemergence herbicide should have been applied during October to help prevent these weeds.

A few common summer annual weeds include crabgrass, Florida pusley, chamberbitter, sandspur, spotted spurge and doveweed.

If your lawn has a history of summer annual weeds, one control option is to apply a preemergence herbicide. Timing is critical in order for preemergence herbicides to work.

Some preemergence herbicides to look for include oryzalin (Surflan), benefin (Sta-green Crabgrass Preventer, Hi-Yield Crabgrass Preventer), pendimethalin (Pre-M, Pendulum, Turf Weedgrass Control, Halts Crabgrass Preventer), benefin + oryzalin (XL), DCPA (Dacthal) and bensulide (Green Light Betasan Crabgrass Preventer).

For season-long weed control, a second application may be needed about six to nine weeks after the initial application. To activate some products, irrigation or rain may be necessary following application. Because preemergence products may interfere with lawn grass seed germination, delay reseeding six to sixteen weeks after application.

Overuse of some types of preemergence herbicides can cause a lawn to produce short stubby weak roots. So only apply the product if there is a pest to control – in this case, if you have had a history of summer annual weeds. Otherwise, save your money and time. Use preemergence herbicides only on lawns that have been established for at least a year. These products can severely injure newly planted lawns.

It is the user’s responsibility to read and follow all label directions and precautions when using any pesticide, including herbicides.

For additional information on lawn weed control, contact the UF/IFAS Extension Office in your County or access the following sites. http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/ep141

Larry Williams, UF/IFAS Extension Agent, Okaloosa County

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How 4-H members ‘learn by doing’


Speaker at 2003 4-H Congress (Photo: Thomas Wright)

The 4-H slogan is to “Learn by Doing” and our youths are doing just that by

learning through the experiences that they decide to embark on as club members.

Upcoming weeks will showcase this experiential learning approach. Okaloosa County 4-H has Teen Retreat, 4-H Day at the Capitol, and our County Events coming in February and early March.

Over Presidents Day weekend, the NW District Florida 4-H Teen Retreat will take place at Camp Cherry Lake. This youth-led-weekend gives teens the ability to plan the whole weekend from T-shirt design to workshops and fun shops.

Our teens have been engaged in the entire planning process via virtual planning meetings for months now. The theme this year is the “4-H’ers Guide to an Apocalypse,” with workshops and fun shops that include building bug-out bags, grilling, fishing and even archery!

The 4-H Day at the Capitol is an opportunity for members to travel to Tallahassee on February 22nd to partake in various endeavors. The youths are encouraged to make an appointment with elected officials to discuss the 4-H program.

Youths also have the options to go to the Museum of Florida History, The Tallahassee Museum, Florida State University, Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University, and the Florida governor’s mansion.

County events allow our 4-H youths to show their talents through photography, demonstrations/illustrated talks, graphic design, public speaking, and share-the-fun. County events are implemented through the experiential learning approach. The 4-H youths are making their own decisions, taking risks, applying what they have learned, and learning through reflections.

County events allow them to express what they have learned and receive feedback that they can learn from in a hands-on learning environment. The qualifying youths will have the opportunity to advance to district, state and regional/national events.

Our Okaloosa County 4-H county events registration will end March 5th and the county events will be held on March 10th.

I can be reached via email at twilken@ufl.edu or by calling the UF/IFAS Okaloosa County Extension Office at 850.689.5850 if you would like to find out more about 4-H in our county.

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