Preparation key to growing wildflowers
Published: Saturday, October 19, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, October 16, 2013 at 5:05 p.m.
Q: I would like to establish wildflowers such as coreopsis, phlox and blanket flower along the roadside in the front of our house. We live on a graded road in a rural area, and I think it would look beautiful and attract pollinators. Where is a good place to get seeds?
A: October and November are the months to sow Florida wildflowers for a spring bloom. The best way to find seeds is through the Florida Wildflowers Growers Cooperative.
This is a group of wildflower farmers who sell their seed from a centralized source. They have small seed packets and larger bulk amounts available. My favorite offering from the cooperative is the mixed blends of wildflowers, such as the "butterfly mix" or the "bee knees" blend. You also can find wildflower seed at your local nurseries, but check the packet and make sure they are appropriate for Florida.
Preparation of your site will probably be the most difficult part of getting the wildflowers going. You may need to kill off some of the existing plants to reduce competition for the sprouting wildflower seeds. Do this by covering the area with thick cardboard or black plastic for two weeks, then remove the dead plants.
Rake the soil smooth, and then sow the seeds at the depth recommended on the packet. Planting too deeply can inhibit germination; the seeds should only be 1/8- to ¼-inch deep. Water the seeds at planting, and then every day for the next two weeks to ensure germination.
By the spring, the wildflowers will blooming and attracting pollinators and compliments. The website for the Wildflower Growers Cooperative is www.floridawildflowers.com.
Q: How do I treat my lawn for weed control and prevention under and around mature trees? Will I endanger my oak trees if I use weed control granular products such as a weed and feed? Likewise, would the hose sprayer and or tank-type handheld sprayers be "safe" with the liquid mixed products for weed control and prevention?
A: When you are doing home weed control, I encourage you to read the fine print on the label of the product you are using. This goes for the combination products such as a fertilizer plus herbicide (weed and feed) as well as other formulas of herbicides.
The most common herbicide in weed and feed combos is the chemical atrazine. It is a serious chemical and needs to be used with caution. Read the entire label before applying it to control weeds and to prevent weed seeds from germinating.
Timing is especially important if you use atrazine. The label states "do not use atrazine when temperatures are above 85 degrees F." This means that temperatures need to be below 85 degrees for at least three days. If it warms up too much, you can have a burn on your St. Augustine lawn. The label also says "do not use in the root zone of ornamental plants." The root zone of your oak trees extends well beyond the drip line of the canopy of the leaves. Try to avoid these areas if possible.
It is best to follow the Florida-friendly landscaping recommendations and apply your fertilizer separately from your herbicide. September is the last time to fertilize lawns in North Central Florida for the year. Then, when temperatures have cooled, apply an herbicide, if needed. You can either use a hose-end sprayer or tank sprayer to perform this task. This way, you can spot treat the problem areas in the lawn. You will save chemicals and not apply it where it is not needed. Also, check the label to make sure the herbicide is safe to use on your turf grass species. Many herbicides can harm the "Floratam" variety St. Augustine grass, so read the label carefully.
For more information about weed control in your turf grass, visit the UF/IFAS Extension website at www.solutionsforyourlife.com.
Wendy Wilber is an extension agent with UF/IFAS. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.