Beneficial Insects Take A Bite Out Of Pests In The Florida Landscape

The State of Florida is currently experiencing the introduction of new harmful insects that specifically feed on plants and trees.

In an effort to reduce broad applications of dangerous insecticides, we are exploring the release of beneficial insects into the landscape.

We have consulted with the University of Florida and other colleagues particularly in Southern Florida to address a solution to our problem.

Lady bug beetles and green lace wings are thought to be beneficial insects that when introduced into the landscape can attack the harmful bugs and reduce their impact.

We have completed some small releases of lady bug beetles in controlled environments recently.

We will be monitoring those locations to see the effects and expand our understanding.

Please visit our website to see pictures of our landscapes or call the office at 941-343-9396 to schedule service.

Know Your Palm Trees: A Few Types Of Palms You May Have Never Heard Of

Driving about on Siesta Key or Sarasota roadways you may seem some pretty exotic looking palm trees. While some of these are fairly well-known there are plenty of exotic palm tree species around to keep a tropical plant or gardening enthusiast interested.

Well start things off with the Purple King Palm tree.

Purple King Palms are also known as the Mount Lewis King, Purple Piccabean Palm or just the Purple Palm.

Rarely seen outside of tropical botanical gardens the Purple King Palm will turn heads as passers by look twice to make sure they really did just see a purple palm tree. Well, to be more specific the crown shaft of the Purple Palm is a dusky bluish purple that can have an intense purple color (really were not kidding).

The fronds of the Purple King Palm are nothing to sneeze at either. Long tropical looking graceful fronds that resemble a coconut tree's fronds except a little firmer and less glossy. The Purple King is from the Mount Lewis area of Australia, it's scientific name is Archontophoenix Purpurea, and it is a medium-large palm tree that grows to heights between 30-50 feet tall. The spread is moderate at 15 feet so it is recommended to plant this palm tree in groups between 3 to 5 trees.

The Purple Palm Tree prefers partial sun to full sun but can be also grown indoors if the lighting is bright enough. This tree also prefers moist soil well-drained soil, and when taken well care of has a fast growth rate.

The Caranday Palm

Another rarely seen palm tree is the Caranday Palm. The comes from South America in Paraguay,Bolivia Brail and Argentina. It's defining characteristic is only apparent if the landscaping company maintaining this tree does not become to aggressive when trimming off other fronds. When the fronds of the Caranday Palm are allowed to remain on the tree longer a fountain effect is created. The new leaves grow mostly up while older ones bend downward making a beautiful "fountain" of palm fronds that cascade downward from the top of the tree. However to obtain this unique look leave the fronds on the tree longer.

The Caranday Palm is a large robust tree that grows to heights of 50 feet or more with a spread of 15 feet. The trunk is "knobby" similar to a Date Palm until the tree is very mature and a large size.

Carandy Palms are cold hardy down to 25 - 30 degrees but well-established trees have withstood even colder temps. The trunk as with the date palm grows very straight. The color of the fronds can vary from tree to tree with some looking more of a silvery blue and others more of a light waxy green.

Landscaper's Challenge: Diagnosing Citrus Tree Problems

One of the benefits of living in the Sarasota Florida area is being able to grow beautiful and productive citrus trees. Nothing says Florida like being out side in the evening when the fragrance of blooming Orange trees is carried in the air.

However as with many other fruit trees, citrus trees can be prone to problems both from nutritional deficiencies and diseases or fungus. The one major advantage a landscape maintenance company or homeowner has when figuring out what is wrong with an ailing citrus tree is most of the common citrus tree problems have highly visible symptoms. These symptoms can show themselves in a variety of ways including overall yellowing of the leaves, yellow spots or yellowing veins on the leaves, black spots or other problems with the fruit, or even dropping all of the fruit in a short amount of time. In this article we'll show a few examples of some citrus tree problems and how to remedy them.

The problems can be put into 3 general categories, Disorders, Diseases & Pests, and Nutritional deficiencies. Problems with inconsistent irrigation can also lead to issues with citrus plants.

Well start off with a quick note on a subject near and dear to our hearts: irrigation. Citrus trees like to have consistent moisture evenly dispersed. A weekly moderate watering of the tree would be preferred to letting things dry out then a heavy douse of water. Also over watering your citrus trees can cause major problems with root-rot and invite fungus and other pests so when diagnosing citrus tree problems always start with the irrigation and soil conditions. Further on that end, though citrus trees need consistent even soil moisture to stay in top health, they also require well drained soil, that is not in a low or soggy spot. Once we have ruled out watering problems as an issue we can look at the other possible causes.

This article will focus on Nutritional Deficiencies

One of the easiest problems to overcome with citrus trees is fixing a nutritional deficiency. To determine the type of nutritional deficiencies your citrus plant may have well need to take a close look at the leaves. The leaves will yellow in a variety of ways specific for each deficiency but the culprits is usually found in deficiencies of Nitrogen, Magnesium, Iron, Zinc or manganese. If your citrus plan suffers from any of these, your yard maintenance company should be able to fix the problem with the proper fertilizer coupled with a supplement of the deficient mineral.

Nitrogen Deficiency - A common problem with citrus is nitrogen deficiency. This will show it's self with and overall yellowing of the leaves. The color has a slight orange hue as opposed to a bright yellow common with other problems and the yellowing covers the entire leaf, not just spots or the veins. The veins will be nearly the same color as the leaves. The tree will have fewer leaves than normal because a nitrogen deficiency will cause it to drop leaves. The new leaves will be much green than the old leaves. A proper fertilizer program should correct nitrogen problems.

Zinc Deficiency – Zinc deficiency, also known as "little leaf", "mottle leaf" and rosetting will cause major problems with citrus plants especially if it is bearing fruit. A bad case of zinc deficiency will not only affect the color of the leaves but actually change there shape from more rounded to more pointed and much smaller than healthy leaves. Zinc deficiency will drastically reduce the size of fruit growing on the tree. Zinc deficiency cannot be corrected wit traditional fertilizer but can only be corrected by spraying a solution of sulfate, oxide or nitrate. The best time of year to spray the citrus tree would be during the spring flush to ensure that new growth has adequate zinc going forward.

Iron Deficiency – If your citrus plant's new growing leaves are very light colored and the veins of the leaves are actually a darker green than the leave the plant may have an iron deficiency. This problem is common in alkaline soils, or when the plant has been over irrigated or sitting in overly wet soil for long periods. Iron problems will cause the leaves to be reduced in size and the tree may drop older leaves early. This one is easy to fix though your yard maintenance company just needs to apply an iron fertilizer supplement.

Magnesium Deficiency – A magnesium issue will certainly be noticeable. Causing bright yellow blotches on leaves that will over time connect together to form large yellowed areas that may cover all of the leaf except for the tip and the base and the midrib. Really bay cases will defoliate branches and some leaves may begin to get a bronze hue. Defoliated stems often die back from magnesium deficiency however this problem is readily treatable. Simply water in Epsom salt, which can be purchased at any grocery store and the problem should be quickly corrected.

Manganese Deficiency – Manganese deficiency can be a little tougher for your lawn maintenance company to diagnose. It may be confused with the early stages of zinc deficiency. The leaf tissue will become a lighter green color than the veins of the leaf. However the color difference is not nearly as distinct as with other deficiencies like zinc or magnesium. The leaves will not be reducing size or shape but will be thinner and less robust. As with zinc, treatment is with a spray on the leaves. The spray should contain a manganese (Mn) solution.

We will follow up with another post on diagnosing citrus plants focusing on disorders.

Know Your Palm Trees: Specimen Palms Great For Waterfront Locations Like Longboat Key

The wonderful micro-climate on the Sarasota area islands, like Longboat Key, Siesta Key and Lido key create a warmer area making it possible to grow tropical plants from hardiness zones further south. This allows for islands landscapers to select from a large variety of palm trees including some very exotic species to create a tropical paradise in your yard.

Below are some interesting palm trees and plants that can create that tropical look and remain hardy even in winter if planted on the islands or bayfront locations.

Florida Thatch Palm Tree

A native of the Florida Keys, this beautiful little palm tree is an endangered species. The Florida thatch palm is almost like a cross between, a cabbage palm, cocoanut palm and pigmy date palm.

It's leaves are shaped in thatched fans, however the fronds are broader and more flexible than a sabal palms and are a bright medium green color with a glossy texture similar to the fronds of a cocoanut palm. A smaller palm tree, the Florida thatch palm will grow to a similar size as the more popular pigmy date palm.

Planting these trees not only adds beautiful and rare tropical specimen plants to your landscape but also helps by adding to the numbers of this endangered Florida native. It can be hard to find a sample to look at but if your willing to go on a drive, there are rows of these beautiful little palm trees thriving on the mainland side of the south bridge to Manasota Key along the westbound lanes. Take notice on your next trip to Englewood Beach.

Bottle Palm Tree

One glance an it's obvious why this very exotic specimen palm gets it's common name. Originating from the Mascarene Islands in the Indian Ocean, this unique looking palm tree adds a tropical atmosphere to any yard.

There are some things to consider when deciding on whether or not to go with a Bottle Palm. They are very slow growers and take many years to mature to their full height of 20 feet. So select a palm tree that is already fairly large. Also bottle palms are NOT cold hardy and will not tolerate any frost. I would only recommend them for areas near the waterfront as Sarasota bay and the Gulf will protect against freezing temps. Soil should not be an issue as the Bottle Palm Tree prefers sandy well-drained soil and requires full sun. Easy conditions for Longboat key or Siesta key yards.

Flame Thrower Palm Tree

The Flame Thrower Palm, also called the blushing Palm, Watermelon Palm, Red Feather Palm, and Red Leaf Palm is an amazing and beautiful addition to your tropical landscape.

From the island of New Caledonia, this palm tree gets it's name from the newly emerging fronds that can have a striking red or maroon color for two weeks or so after emerging. This very tropical looking, medium sized palm tree is also amazing because it is actually cold-hardy down to 25 degrees. This palm tree will grow to a height of nearly 25 feet and prefers full sun to light shade. This tree does however prefer moist yet well-drained conditions so it is not advisable to plant in a very hot and dry area. The trunk is also a focal point with a swollen green crownshaft over the ringed trunk ads to the beauty of this hardy and easy to care for tree.

Travelers Palm Tree

One of the most memorable and striking tropical plants in the world is the Travelers Tree. Often mistaken for a palm tree this very unique plant is not a palm at all, but a relative of the Bird of Paradise. Like so many other exotix-looking tropical plants the Travelers Tree originates from Madagascar.

A fully grown Travelers Tree in an incredibly impressive sight, with huge paddle-like leaves that can reach lengths of nearly fifteen feet long that are arranged along a single plan creating the appearance of a large fan. Travelers Trees require planty of space as they can grow to large sizes topping out at 50 feet. The complete size of the fan like leaves and spread across 20 feet or more when full grown. The Travelers Palm can live in our sandy Florida soil just fine and despite it's exotic and lush appearance can be somewhat drought tolerant as the plan stores water in the leaf stems. This tree will tolerate some cold but will not tolerate frost so as with the bottle palm best plant a travelers tree near coastal waterfront areas or in areas sheltered from the winds.

Specimen Palm Trees if planted in the correct locations can be easy for your landscape maintenance company to keep healthy and growing will adding a centerpiece and dramatic look to your yard.

The Rugose Spiraling Whitefly A New Challenge For Florida Landscape Maintenance

The Rugose Spiraling Whitefly, also known as Gumbo Limbo Spiraling Whitefly is new Whitefly to South West Florida

This new whitefly is a large, slow-moving insect capable of infesting a wide range of landscape plants such as: Gumbo Limbo, White Bird of Paradise, Mango, Black Olive, Palms, Copperleaf, Cocoplum, Wax Myrtle.

This whitefly is different from the Ficus Whitefly. So far, the Rugose Spiraling Whitefly is not causing severe plant damage such as plant death or severe branch die back.
This insect is very easy to identify. White spirals and a white waxy substance builds-up on the underside of leaves. Heavy infestation can sometimes weaken plants and disfigure infective plants and understory plants with Black Sooty Mold that grows on the insect’s excrement, also known as Honeydew. The sticky Honeydew can accumulate on cars, pool decks and patio furniture. Once the insect is under control, the Sooty Mold and Honeydew will disappear.

Whitefly Management:

Small Plants - thoroughly wash plants off with a strong stream of water. Follow-up with insecticidal soap or horticultural oil sprayed once a week for 3 to 4 weeks. Repeat as needed.

Larger plants and ornamental trees; heavily infested ornamental plants - thoroughly wash plants or for the strong stream of water. Systemic insecticides can be applied as a soil drench, trunk injection, as a granule or as a tablet. Systemics may take several weeks to be effective for large trees and palms. However, systemics of very long-lasting (9 to 12 months).

Trunk injection is the most effective alternative to spraying or soil applying pesticides for tree insect or pest-control. Unlike spraying or soil applications, trunk injection injects formulations directly inside the tree or Palm.

Fruit trees - must be treated in the same way that small plants are treated. Grant's Gardens, Inc. does not recommend the use of insecticides and pesticides on edible crops.
Please call Grant's Gardens, Inc. for a consultation.

Landscape Maintenance Tips: Rejuvenation Pruning

Are your old hedges looking tired and are not providing privacy? Your hedge may be a candidate for rejuvenation.

Rejuvenation pruning is an aggressive pruning practice to restore and reinvigorate hedging plant material. Healthy plants and correct timing are important considerations. The preferred time for rejuvenation/renovative pruning is just before bud break in the early spring. The aggressively pruned shrubs will flush and in a very short space of time take on a healthy vigorous growth habit.

I think we’ve forgotten this technique because the customers’ expectations have changed. Many homeowners who don’t know the ins-and-outs of horticulture think that landscape maintenance means keeping the shrubs the same size forever. But hedge trimming like that leads to problems – like an increasing number of dead and diseased/unproductive wood and branches.

One of the best techniques for Ligustrum rejuvenation is to remove growth gradually, also known as selective pruning. The first year, remove one third of the oldest, unproductive branches. The next year, take one half of the old, lingering stems. Finally, in the third year, prune out the remainder of the old branches. New, productive stems should quickly replace the old wood. This method takes longer to complete, but the shrub stays more attractive throughout the rejuvenation.

Another technique used to rejuvenate hedges is to cut to the ground or stubbed back to a severe degree. This looks pretty shocking, but in a few months the hedge will have flushed out full and green and with flowers, for example hibiscus and ixora. This type of “hard pruning” should be done judiciously.

If the rejuvenation approach is used more often, then it needs to be specified in the maintenance contract instead of “pruning”, landscape maintenance contracts should spell out the pruning techniques that will be used for the various hedges on that particular property.

Landscape Maintenance Practices That Protect Sarasota's Beauty and Value

The Sarasota area economy prospers when we attract visitors both seasonal and new residents. Everyone who visits our area is impressed with the amazing tropical landscapes with lush exotic plants that line the beachfront homes and neighborhoods of Sarasota and her islands.

With this in mind it's with a shared responsibility that home owners, businesses and landscape maintenance companies have to keep our landscapes not only beautiful and attractive, but sustainable. The Sarasota area environment seems hardy enough, but is actually quite sensitive. With so many waterfront homes, irrigation and storm water management is essential but with proper planning and maintenance practices we will keep our waterways blue and wildlife attracting visitors into the future.

Below are a few essential points to address during the design and ongoing landscape maintenance that will go a long way to producing a beautiful yet sustainable Florida friendly landscape.

1 - The Right Plants In The Right Places

It seems simple enough and it really is. Nothing can do more to ensure a sustainable and healthy landscape or Garden than having plants in places they will do well, without too much work. With the sheer number of plants that will grow in Florida however it can be overwhelming, the temptation for many is to rush out and grab that palm tree or fruit tree or tropical shade shrubs because they are stunning without researching the best spots.

A consequence of planting in the wrong spot could be , you have to waste money by watering a bush or tree much more frequently than you would like to keep it healthy, because that spot on your property is too hot and dry for it. This is a common mistake, and over-watering has have many negatives including, costing you more money, adding nutrient into our bays and canals, and having to either waste time watering the plant, or over-irrigate with your landscape irrigation system to keep the plant healthy.

By researching both your property's conditions, and the plant's will requirements, it's a simple thing to plant your selections in the right place.

2 - Water Efficiently

If you have chosen the correct plants for the particular spot, and grouped plantings with similar water needs together, than you have taken major steps to ensuring efficient water use. However things can go awry without a properly designed irrigation system or watering schedule. Be sure your watering at the right time of day! By running your irrigation system in the early morning hours, the water has time to soak in before the hot Florida sun comes up. By Watering in the early morning rather than evening you also reduce the chance for mold and mildew problems that can result if the plants stay wet all night.

Be sure your irrigation system is properly tuned up, and that your irrigation controller is set to adjust for daylight savings time and reduced water use during the rainy season and cooler months. Having a properly tuned irrigation system with the correct irrigation technology will not only save you money, but with more water use restrictions like in Florida's future, it's also great planning.

If you have questions about your irrigation system Grants Gardens offers a seasonal irrigation tune-up to make sure things are running as they should.

3 - Fertilizer - The Right Type, Right Amount at The Right Time

With Florida's generally poor sandy soil, most plants that are not Florida-native will require fertilizer as part of a complete landscape maintenance program, to be in top health. A well-planned fertilizer program can really make a difference in the growth rate and beauty of your plants, but a poorly designed one can cause problems for the plant and pollute the waterways that are a big reason many of us decided to come here in the first place. The soil is a living ecosystem and as such the fertilizer needs change over time and depending on the season. The goal of any fertilizer program is to deliver only what is needed by the plants and nothing more. Too much or the wrong kind, can not only be bad for plants but will eventually find it's way into Sarasota Bay causing algae blooms and even red tide.

Grants Gardens landscape maintenance technicians are experts at determining the correct fertilizer program for your land's specific conditions, and coupled with keeping the plants mowed, and pruned to the right height for the current season, we can keep your yard both stunningly beautiful and Florida-friendly.

Add a splash of color to your landscape for the holidays - but plan ahead!

Looking to add some additional color to your landscape for your holiday guests?

Grants Gardens can make your home more festive by adding some colorful plantings including beautiful flowers with your landscape maintenance service. We love to add color to landscapes, however please remember it's the season (as in snowbird season) and you should plan ahead by requesting your next colorful additions at least two weeks.

Why? Grants Gardens always uses the highest quality plants for our landscaping service and that means we do not store the plants for long periods of time, rather we get the plants for your landscape fresh from the nurseries just prior to planting in your yard. This ensures only healthy full plants are used but also means we may need additional time to procure your plants during the busy season.

Another bit of news to consider for Impatiens lovers - the Impatiens crop has been wiped out by a fungus called Downy Mildew so it will take time for growers to get resupplied with resistant strains, however fear not. Grants Gardens can still add bursting color to your landscape this holiday season, we have excellent varieties of Begonias and Geraniums.

Both Begonias and Geraniums come in several stunning colors. Sarasota area residents will find this a perfect choice for decorating this holiday season. Colorful and hardy these beautiful flowers really bring life and color to your garden.