The term weed has a broad, negative connotation that may sometimes cast an unfair shadow over some useful and desirable species. In some native settings, invasive varieties of plants are removed to let the desirable species flourish in their environment. Many homeowners have embraced this approach of weed control. Lets look at five different means of weed control that can be used in different situations.

Create Shade 

Although there are some exceptions, generally speaking, weeds are going to have less tendency to grow in shaded areas because the photosynthesis process is interrupted and weed seeds may not be able to germinate. And although a more shaded area will typically have more moisture which can provide more suitable conditions for some weeds to flourish, overall I find that shaded conditions will make for fewer weeds.

Some effective ways of shading beds are:

  • Properly placed trees
  • Plant varieties of ornamental plants at a close spacing and the plants themselves will provide the ground with some shade.
  • Pergolas and arbors can offer a respite from the sun and provide beds with shade especially with the use of shade cloth.
  • Installing a planting bed along the north side of a structure such as a exterior wall provides a built-in shade situation.

Pre-emergent Herbicides

Since I am not a licensed certified pest control operator I will refrain from giving any expert advice in this area. I have noticed that Preen®, which is a brand of pre-emergent herbicide aimed at the homeowner/retail market does advertise a lot. I have never gotten any feedback though on how well it performs in our area.

Post-emergent Herbicides

Again such herbicides are somewhat out of my area of expertise but I do want to bring out some general points of what I know. There is a common misconception about the popular herbicide Roundup®, that is if you spray weeds that are around other plants that it will kill them too. The fact is that you must make contact with the foliage for it to be absorbed and translocate through the plant and kill the roots of the plant. Once any of the Roundup® spray makes contact with the ground it actually neutralizes and is no longer effective. So as long as you are careful and spray around the shrubs without letting any overspray get on the foliage you can be confident that you will not hurt the plants no matter how many times you repeat the process. 

With that in mind if Roundup® is used on “sucker growth” such as on a Wax Myrtle it could, with repeated applications stress the tree and eventually kill it. There are other post-emergent herbicides on the market that work by a different method that is the concept of foliar burn. These work quicker than Roundup® but are not as likely to kill the roots. 

Ground Cover Plants

Ground cover plantings such as Minima Jasmine can sometimes be used to assist in controlling weeds in a certain area. But immediately after planting the area will be susceptible to weeds until the plants have a chance to grow together and cover the ground. Some preparation prior to planting the ground cover can help but you still have to be prepared for weed maintenance, often hand weeding, until the ground cover grows in. 

Here are some ground cover prep tips for Minima Jasmine and other vining ground covers:

  • Only apply a light layer of mulch, about 1” should do it. This will allow the vines to attach to the ground without growing on top of a thick layer of mulch.
  • Plant at a spacing of 12” on center in order to get the plants to grow together quicker.
  • Don’t over water which encourages weed growth.
  • When you plant apply Osmocote® granules and then after three weeks apply a liquid fertilizer one time per week for at least a month.
  • Consider a ground cover that provides maximum shade to the ground such as Giant Green Liriope or Indian Hawthorne.
  • Always limit the use of a ground cover to their preferred environment whether it is sun, shade, or partial shade, so that they will grow at their proper rate and fill in the area as soon as possible.
  • Ground covers planted under the base of a shade tree are an ideal match because often grass will not grow at the base of a tree because it is too shady and the tree competes for available nutrients. Tree roots can also make mowing at the base of the tree difficult. Conversely the shade of the tree inhibits weed growth in and around the ground cover plants. 

So there are the first four effective strategies in controlling weeds in planting beds. Another good remedy for weeds is Weed Barrier Fabric. Read our article titled “Just one weapon in ‘War on Weeds.'”

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I am convinced that if the statesman Benjamin Franklin were to coin his famous saying on inevitability today, he would have declared “In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes…and weeds.” 

With the next few posts I hope to bring a practical view on the subject of weed control from the perspective of someone who has spent more years than I care to count in the field dealing with customers’ weed concerns and literally waging war on weeds.

What is a weed?

First off I want to establish what, in my opinion, a weed is. I’m sure there are many definitions but to me a weed is any plant whose characteristics conflict with the purpose and appearance of a given area. For example, many times I’ve seen where a lone Sabal palm volunteer has grown, been trimmed, and allowed to remain and grow to maturity. This was likely because it happened to grow in a spot where it was either not degrading the appearance of an existing landscape or not being a nuisance in some other practical way like impeding pedestrian or vehicular traffic. 

At first thought, you may not consider that a weed, it is the official state tree of Florida after all. But consider this, one Sabal palm will drop a lot of seeds, which land on the ground and each seed has the potential of growing into a baby Sabal palm. Right away they grip the soil like a tent pin, sometimes they will pull up by the roots, and sometimes not. They become an eyesore in a well maintained landscape as small weeds, eventually some will grow at varying heights among the existing ornamental plants, and compete for nutrition and domination. Seems like a weed to me! 

The point is that certain ornamental plants and trees have characteristics that can cause them to become a nuisance. Some characteristics may include the dropping of seeds which easily turn into babies such as Carrotwood and Schefflera trees. Suckering growth off of root masses such as Wax Myrtle and Live Oak trees will often come up in planting beds and can fairly be called weeds. 

How Weeds Happen

If your goal is to keep weeds out of your planting beds as much as possible, you must first understand where they originate from and some of the ways they are spread. In subsequent posts I will outline some possible solutions in preventing, or at least minimizing weed problems.

  • Existing Land – One of the biggest problems people face in battling weeds is the land itself. Some properties are naturally more weed bearing than others. Sometimes it is hard to know what activities took place on your land in the past. On the other hand, many people around PinellasCounty do know. In St. Pete Beach for example, fill was dredged up from around the bay. In that case, naturally there is a lot of shell mixed in with the sand, making it a hard compacted surface, also high in calcium therefore making it a very alkaline soil. All of these factors make it a good growing medium for weeds.
  • Fill Dirt – New construction in the last couple of decades has required a lot more fill dirt to be hauled in from who knows where due to elevation requirements related to flood control. In turn the landscapers must bring in dirt or topsoil to bring the grade up to meet hardscape areas such as driveways and sidewalks. This of course introduces weeds from other locations to your yard by way of seeds and rhizomes (rootstock).
  • Neighboring Properties – Yes, blame it on the neighbors! Oftentimes interlopers are introduced by way of unwanted seeds or runners from a neighboring lawn. And of course if they make it into your lawn they can eventually migrate to your planting beds. Seed transfer is caused by wind, foot traffic, birds, and mowing, especially now that hardly anybody bags their grass anymore. Seed transfer by mower is especially common if you use a lawn service since the grass and weeds seeds from previous lawns can get trapped inside the mower deck and then deposited onto your lawn.
  • Previous Lawns – Before the St. Augustine revolution in the mid 1970′s, common Bermudagrass, Centipede, Zoysia, and Bahiagrass were the cultivars used for lawns. Bermudagrass was especially popular and since it has roots as deep as 18” you can understand why it is so difficult to eradicate from planting beds that are infested with it.
  • Mulch – In my experience bulk mulch products, especially Cypress mulch, have been a carrier of Torpedograss and Nutsedge seeds and/or rhizomes. I don’t know why exactly, although it likely is from the processing location. Fortunately, I haven’t had the same problem with bagged mulch products.

So now that you know where the weeds come from, the next step is to develop strategies to prevent or remove them that will work in your landscape. The next couple of posts will delve into this topic.

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The Areca Palm is probably the most versatile palm tree there is. This is because it can serve a variety of requirements in the Tampa Bay Area very well and with relatively little maintenance. 

We install Areca Palm Trees typically for screening. We installed or transplanted many dozens of them last year, not including the many we cleaned up or are responsible for in our bed maintenance accounts.

Areca Palms can be bought in many configurations: 

  • Container grown – 3 Gal. Typically 3  – 4′ and up
  • Ball and Burlap – typically 9 – 10′ and up
  • Cleaned out – “Babies” or “pups” are sometimes cleaned out early on leaving an essentially bare trunk area. These are considered “specimens” used as a focal point more than full screening, although they can still serve as a “statement” type of screening more than a “full coverage from top to bottom” type of screening.
  • Tall and lanky, few trunks – good for confined areas
  • Broad and numerous trunks – usually transplants – for more open areas
  • Short and full

Benefits of Areca Palm Trees

The Areca Palm, officially known as Chrysalidocarpus lutescens, is a hardy plant that’s very versatile and has many benefits:

  • Instant screening
  • Fast growers
  • 50% self-cleaning fronds
  • Can be bought in many configurations and to suit any budget
  • Lush green tropical look
  • Very few health issues – Saddleback Caterpillars, nutritional deficiencies
  • All but extreme cold tolerance, especially when mature
  • Their size can be controlled by hiring a contractor to perform a trunk reduction and/or root mass reduction
  • Well-suited to transplanting

Palm Tree Experts

We offer complete expert service of all Palm Trees: 

  • Consultation
  • Procurement
  • Installation
  • Fertilization
  • Transplanting
  • Root mass reduction
  • Pruning

Areca Palms in the Florida Landscape

This project illustrates the use of Areca Palms in three areas:

  1. To the left along the fence line – alternated with Travelers Palms for screening house on the other side and fence, variety of foliage and as a backdrop for further smaller landscape plantings to come in the spring surrounding the palms will complete this tropical shade garden.
  2. Center – New 45 Gal. Areca Palms provide an instant screening and “lagoon” feel of a Jacuzzi/hot tub and pool.
  3. Right – 20′ + tall Areca, not cleaned out entirely but thinned for semi – screening at lower levels serves several functions. Replaced a dirty leaf dropping tree to keep the pool and deck clean. Provided matching height to balance the surrounding trees in the backyard filling in a “dead” spot in the corner. Gave needed foliage in just the right area to accent all the “brick and mortar” of the two story home. Transplanted from another residential home. 

Year after year, job after job, Master Gardener has proven to have the “magic eye” to know what plant is needed where. Call us for your free consultation today!

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To all Florida Residents and our neighboring states, our family and employees of Master Gardener Landscaping want to extend our most sincere wishes for your safety. To all Pinellas, Hillsborough and Manatee County Residents, we want you to know that we have expertise in drainage, flooding and outdoor sinkhole repairs.

We have been giving priority to storm emergency needs. We will be happy to assist with cleanup and landscaping necessities. Feel free to call us with your needs and we will put you on the list. Since we are located in Pinellas County, we will have to give Pinellas residents first priority.

Drainage — To look at drainage options please see our website under drainage. In addition to that information, we can offer temporary relief by using grading and trenching to redirect water away from unwanted areas, by sump pump, and other means. We will be staffing up to handle the load as much as possible, but all projects must be viewed on site by the Owner, Eric Morrison.

Sinkholes — We are not engineers, but we do think like engineers and have experience making sinkhole repairs OUTSIDE of any structures, including driveways. We dig with an excavator to find the depth of the sinkhole, open up the cavity, and pour concrete until a few inches short of the final grade. Then topdress with soil, finish with mulch, sod, plants, and hardscape surfaces (installed by others).

General, helpful information for after the storm

Please be careful hiring “contractors”. Call us for advice if you are not sure. Even if we are too busy to help, we might know of someone reputable, or at the very least, help you to make a wise decision. We are a small company with far-reaching resources. We care about helping our fellow citizens and want to do what we can to assist in putting the beautiful state we love back in order.

Plant and lawn damage

*Salt Water Damage — To minimize salt water damage to lawns, we recommend you try to purge salt out of lawns, and off of plants and planting beds by using city water. Lightly flood the area, making sure to wash it off the surface to a place where plants are not going to be utilized, whether that be into the gutter system, etc. This will also help dilute salt intrusion and lessen the salt “burn”. Damage to plants and lawns from salt exposure often does not become evident until days or weeks later. So if discoloration on plants appear in the days to come, and you think landscape material has been exposed, that could be the reason.

*Windburn — Could affect plants as well.

*Wind damage — Can lay over the “heart” of a palm tree, which is the center fronds. If it gets damaged severely, the tree can die.

*Excessive water — Areas that are either damp or not usually damp can affect plants as they are extreme conditions that the plant is not used to and may exceed its tolerance. Sprinkler systems left to run during heavy rain can make wet conditions worse.

*There will be damage to plants from falling debris.

*Fungus — Once again, excessive water can cause fungus, with plants as discussed, but also in lawns. It gets worse when it is moist and hot and stays wet overnight. Please schedule a fungicide treatment once it has dried out as soon as possible. You may have to call for a reapplication if rain and/or fungus persists. Consult with your lawn spray specialist. Let your property dry out—but not severely dry. Extreme wet and dry conditions can drive lawns and landscape plants crazy.

Be careful walking, riding bikes, and driving after the storm. Look up and around, don’t be in a hurry. There could be many unforeseen hazards. For example: power lines that are not downed yet, signage dangling, washouts in streets, ditches, and yards, or trees and branches that have yet to topple over. Every tree and plant must be examined for compromises in its structure. Electrical components with live wires exposed must be avoided.

Also, Storm Stress can cause a person to not be as focused as usual and more susceptible to poor judgement. Sometimes, you are money ahead and better off physically by paying a professional to do the work.

Before you cut trees or plants down or have them removed, bear in mind there are situations where we can upright plants.

We are your storm-damaged landscape restoration specialists. We can also advise you on how to make your landscape more storm resistant for the future.

We urge everyone to show driver courtesy to one another and pedestrians, bicyclists, and let everyone navigate cities with caution! People may need to stop suddenly for emergency vehicles, downed trees, tow trucks, tree services, even landscapers helping people with drainage. The storm we can’t control. The damage aftermath we can to a great extent. Let’s not be each other’s worst enemies but help one another to rebuild safely!

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I recently watched a TV show on the National Geographic  network that talked about when the Europeans first set foot on this continent, they brought their cattle and horses with them and drove them westward across North America. When they beat down the native grasses with their livestock trails, what came up in its place? Why weeds, of course. So here we are centuries later, still fighting a battle with weeds. 

One weapon in the “War on Weeds” available to us today is something typically referred to as weed barrier fabric or weed block. There are many brands on the market, all claiming to save time and labor, as well as eliminate or reduce spraying of herbicides to banish weeds. Many times during the process of a landscape renovation job I get to uncover the previous attempts of weed block installation, from commercially available weed barrier cloth to garbage bags to visqueen, at all different levels of skill of installation. 

While weed barrier fabrics are a great tool to have in the arsenal they aren’t the “be-all, end-all” solution to weed prevention because they face many challenges in the harsh outdoor landscape environment. Some of these challenges are:

  • The ultra-violet rays of the sun. While it’s true, most of the time the fabric will be covered with mulch, rock, or shaded by plants, U.V. rays are know to be very efficient and can still cause slow degradation of the material over time which makes it more susceptible to tearing. Even if the fabric has U.V. protection built in there will still be some degradation over time from U.V. rays.
  • Mechanical disruption. Obviously if the fabric is compromised by a chunk of mulch getting plunged through by walk on it, working in the area on your knees, or a tool pierces though, you have an entry point for weeds.
  • Weight of aggregate materials vs. strength of fabric. Some stone products are either heavy per unit, such as a 3 ½ ” decorative river rock, or somewhat sharp, such as 3/4” marble chips. Some fabrics are only suited for mulch and if used with heavy or abrasive materials, will tear the fabric over time.
  • Noxious, aggressive weeds still penetrate fabric. In my experience certain weeds common to the Florida Suncoast have the ability to grow through even the best of the weed barrier fabrics and installation jobs. Nutsedge, Torpedograss, and Bermudagrass are especially noxious. I once conducted an experiment on a couple of beds infested with Bermuda and Torpedograss. After Roundup was sprayed twice to achieve a good kill, we doubled up on the heavy-duty ground cover fabric. Then a layer of red mulch was put down. The weeds actually grew through the fabric within six months! That is how aggressive these types of weeds are. 

Weeds grow on top of fabric. Through various environmental means, including the breakdown of mulch into finer organic material, dirt can appear on the surface of the fabric. Depending upon the species, weed seeds are also spread by various means in the landscape such as by lawnmowers, wind, birds, and walking through the planting bed. Inevitably some of those weed seeds may find their way into areas where there is a medium for growing. Most of the time the fabric does make it easier to pull these weeds since it prevents the roots from taking hold in the ground. 

Prior to installation of a weed barrier it makes sense to either mechanically remove or chemically exterminate the existing weeds. If using a herbicide like Roundup® you want to apply it, let the sun cook it in for a week, then reapply and let it set for another week. 

Even though the installation of weed blocks does not guarantee extermination of the pesky plant interlopers, when done correctly it is an environmentally friendly and labor saving tool that can greatly reduce weed growth.

When searching for an effective landscape fabric it is best to look for a stiff, heavy-duty polypropylene weave. Many of the brands I’ve seen sold at home improvements stores are too flimsy and tear easily. Professional grade geotextiles will perform better at fending off weeds. Contact your local landscaping company to see what product they recommend. 

So the good news is that even though we are still at war with weeds, our arsenal of solutions has grown with time. In future blog posts I will talk more about the different methods of weed control at our disposal. If you are in the Tampa Bay area, contact me for a FREE consultation so I can help you find the solutions to your particular weed problems.

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I have received a lot of input from customers and potential customers about projects requiring heavy equipment. I am an experienced heavy equipment operator with almost 40 years of experience operating a wide variety of equipment. Choosing the right approach to any job is the key to the key to the most efficient execution of the work and a proper end result. We do a lot of this type of work and have encountered a wide variety of different jobs over the past 14 years. What I am hearing is it is hard to find a company that does residential and small commercial land development and preparation. This is the first step to getting your project underway. People don’t know whether to hire a tree service, excavation company or a landscaper. Sometimes a combination is needed. Lets take a look at what types of jobs can be encountered and possible solutions. You’ll notice the running theme is as the old adage says: “use the right tool for the job every time”. The company you hire should be familiar with all aspects of site preparation and not be afraid of laboring as needed.

Demolition or tear out can involve the following materials and jobs:

  • Cutting and removal of concrete, removal of asphalt, gravel, dirt, roots, building materials, garbage, haul away. Different materials require different approaches. • Vegetation removal, transplanting and or cleanup of existing plant material. We do some tree work ourselves, but some we have to contract out. A stump grinder is sometimes needed for stump removal and “surface grinding” of roots. An experienced grinder will know what roots must not be ground out and which ones are not going to compromise the trees health. Pine trees are not particularly susceptible to damage from any type of disruption to their roots. For complete removal of a fresh root mass, a trackhoe excavator may be helpful. Smaller trees can be taken out with a Bobcat and a grapple attachment. Stump grinding is often not thorough the first time as the mulch from the grindings builds up and the remaining roots cannot be detected. This is where a landscaper should be involved simultaneously and pull the mulch and dirt away to reveal the remaining roots so they can be eradicated and sodding and landscaping operations can be conducted without hindrance of stumps and roots. Typically the landscaper will be required to haul the mulch away, add dirt as needed, grade and prep. Always call 811 a few days before stump grinding. Vegetation must be “released” away from various structures – buildings, fence, pavers rather than simply ripping things out or property damage can occur. Tools such as axes and chainsaws are used to do this. We provide expert advice and service for horticultural pruning and transplanting of any plant material.
  • Yard scalping – > Using a Bobcat. Depending upon the type of grasses and/ or weeds, a Bobcat can be used to “peel” the lawn up, usually on St. Augustine lawns. This can be a good technique because it does not involve digging below the surface of the ground. Therefore damage to sprinklers and utilities are avoided. It can also be helpful where there are a lot of trees roots that make it impossible to use a sod cutter, as you may damage the machine by hitting shallow roots with the cutting blade and possibly harm roots.
  • Using a sod cutter. A sod cutter is a machine that cuts the roots of the lawn up to 3” or so below ground level. It is also useful for loosening up the ground to enable crews to grade the ground easier. If steps are not taken to identify above and underground obstacles before using the machine, it can do a lot of damage. • Using a mini excavator or “trackhoe”. A trackhoe is indispensable for yard tearout when muddy conditions are encountered. They are much lighter than a Bobcat since the bucket capacity is much smaller. They are very versatile and their rubber tracks can navigate through the mud without getting stuck or making huge ruts. A good operator can perform very precise operations with one. Their long reach enables the operator to reach areas without even traveling on them. They also have a bulldozer blade on them, very useful for grading and peeling sod up.
  • Chemical removal. There are situations when using chemicals can be helpful. Areas like slopes that cannot be reached with any equipment may have to be killed chemically. In those situations the only alternative may be a trackhoe or hand work involving a pickax. A homeowner or a licensed chemical spraying contractor would have to apply the product.
  • Grading Grading can involve more than the term itself may imply. This is because of elevations. The main thing to keep in mind when contemplating a grading plan is to allow for proper drainage. Existing land may need to be regraded, dirt taken off the property or more dirt added. What type of dirt to use in any given area must be addressed in the Soil Plan. Drainage is a whole different bklog but for now it is important to know that a proper grade sometimes requires the use of a surveyors transit and the knowledge of how to use one. Also different solutions for drainage and other challenges that affect the lay of the land must be addressed at this point because after a finish grade is completed comes landscape installation. As a side note keep in mind the terms rough grade, builders grade (which means within 10% of final grade) and a finish grade meaning ready for landscape installation.
  • Hand work. Sometimes good old – fashioned hand work with a wheelbarrow, shovels and rakes are the best approach. It simply isn’t worth the risk of property damage by trying to get equipment in an area that is too tight. • Using a walk – behind or riding mini – loader. These machines provide a light footprint, some models have tracks and some wheel type. They’re very nimble and get in tight areas. The track machines can help avoid excessive rutting.
  • I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this blog. As I heard from a customer the other day regarding the renovation of a median strip for an Home Owner’s Association (HOA) entrance in Seminole; “we can find a lot of companies who can put in plants, but we need someone who can do the hard work of getting the area ready for plants and can’t seem to find anyone who knows what they’re doing in this area. You have that ability and an approach that makes sense ans is affordable. You have a real niche.” I really took that comment to heart and it inspired me to write this blog. It is the right time of year to do this type of work because putting plants and trees in can get kind of sketchy this time of year.

Feel free to give us a call for your free expert consultation and estimate. Thank you for reading!

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