Hydrilla costs us $$.
Garden To Do List-2007
by Ginny Stibolt
Yes, it's the beginning of the year and like all good gardeners I'm
adjusting my gardening strategies for the year.
Kill More Invasive Aliens
This year, for me, it's time to kill more aliens. Last year
around this time I harvested a goodly number of water hyacinths
from our finger of the lake-they were a great addition to my compost.
This year a few more have floated in, so I'll remove those on a
warm day* when it's comfortable to jump in the water.
There's another alien in the lake this year, that's going to need
attention-it's hydrilla (Hydrilla verticillata). Even
though the lake association has paid for special herbicide
applications and has brought in grass carp that eat hydrilla, some of
it has taken root in
the bottom under our boatlift. I'll pull it out along with its tuberous roots so it won't grow back so
quickly. I'll be sure to compost every scrap so it doesn't add to
the population. Each piece can become a new plant.
Hydrilla's shameful history: Once upon a time, hydrilla, a
native of the warm waters of Asia (probably Korea), was sold to aquarium owners.
It grew very well and produced dissolved oxygen in any type of tank
for the benefit of the fish. At least two people dumped their aquarium contents into
the waters of Florida, and in 1960 it was growing wild in the Crystal
River on the Gulf coast and in a canal near Miami. It grew just
as well in Florida waters as it had it all those aquaria. Boaters did the work of spreading
hydrilla to almost every lake and river in the state by chopping it up
with their propellers, and not washing
the pieces from their boats before re-launching in another body
of water. Now many millions of dollars have been spent to keep it under
control because it has clogged our waterways.
Those carp that were bought for our lake, at a cost of $6 to $10 apiece,
are sterile, so we have to keep buying more as they die
off. The herbicide treatment is an annual expense that puts a
big dent in the lake management budget. Unfortunately, we
can never turn back the clock and have Florida's waterways unfettered
by this pest, so we all have to do what we can to keep it under
The beautiful invader: Creeping daisy or wedelia (Sphagneticola
trilobata) was widely planted in this region as a ground
cover; now it's on the invasive plant list for Florida and nurseries
are not supposed to sell it any more. There are two invasive
lists, the most widely invasive are on list #1, and regional invasives
like wedelia are on list #2.
It has crawled all over the shady back meadow, into the wooded area,
and out in the mowed lawn areas. The diversity of this meadow area is
quite low compared to our other meadows without this fast-growing invader.
It had also started to grow out front, but I caught it in time and have kept
it under control. Of course it keeps sprouting anew. Oh the
weeder's work is never done in Florida.
This year I vow to continue working on pulling it out, especially in
wooded areas where it's covered ferns and other native plants. Last year I pulled it out at the edge of
a wooded area, and now rattlesnake ferns (Botrychium
virginianum) are growing there. I'd never noticed them before-I guess
their spores were waiting for more light. I love ferns and welcome this
new addition to our collection. See my column on ferns.
Another invader that I'm working on is the Chinese tallow or popcorn
trees (Sapium subiferum).
I'm sorry to kill them, because they are nice-looking trees with
heart-shaped leaves, good fall color, and the birds love those white
puffy seeds. But they have to go-they are on the number one
list of invaders, and they are sprouting everywhere in our neighborhood.
I've girdled the trunks with a saw and have sprayed herbicide on
the bare wood underneath. I won't know until spring if I've
killed them or not. I'll leave most of them where they stand
as dead wood to provide habitat for wood-boring birds.
Remove More Lawn
Our mostly St. Augustine lawn is dormant-my husband hasn't mowed since early November. I've been de-thatching
the lawn during
its dormancy. It's not an easy task, so I've been working one small area at a time and have completed most of the lawn at this
point. As an experiment, I've left a sizable section of the front yard
alone-it's in full sun and a good distance away from trees where grass should
do well. I'll let
you know what differences I can see between that experimental area and rest of
the de-thatched lawn.
There are a number of ways to de-thatch, but here's what I've done. I hold my flexible metal leaf rake vertically and use short strokes to pull up the
thatch, and then I rake it again perpendicular to the first pass. I try
also to rake left handed half the time so I'll be a more balanced person.
It was also time to rake the leaves from the lawn, but de-thatching is more
intense than just raking the leaves. Now we have lots of new compost and
Our lawn is its own ecosystem. After more than two years without fertilizer or pesticides, there
are some bad spots in our lawn; but the bluebirds, blue jays, brown thrashers, moles, and armadillo have
been working on the grubs, mole crickets, and other critters. They've also
done a good job of aerating the soil under the grass. I pat the divots
left by the armadillo back in place and they re-root quickly. Also, the
sod that I've transplanted to these dead spots has done very well. My
un-poisoned lawn is its own ecosystem. The more lawn I cut away, the more
sod I have to fill in the holes and the less I'll have to do when I de-thatch
the lawn the next time.
Another part of our lawn removal will be replacing the grass at the edge of the
lakeside bulkhead with mulched
gardens and with pavers for access to the boat lift shed and dock
area. This will make the area easier to mow and it will reduce the likelihood
of our grass trimmings falling into the water. The lake doesn't need
any more organic matter to absorb. If we all did just a little for our
waterways, the health of our whole region would improve.
Try Tomatoes Bred for Florida's Heat
This last year we had a successful batch of tomatoes, but they petered out
well before the end of summer. There are some tomatoes bred for Florida's heat,
and we'll try some of those this
let you know what we find out.
Finish Writing the Book
"Sustainable Gardening for
Florida," to be published by University Press of Florida, is an exciting
project. I've learned so much from expert and amateur gardeners and
property managers across
the state as I've worked on my research. My goal is to get the whole first
draft done by May. It will cut into some of my gardening time, but I knew
that when I started this project. Look for some previews later this year.
I trust that you are working on your 2007 garden plans. Let me know
how your garden grows. Happy New Year to you!
Ginny Stibolt would like to hear from readers who have suggestions
and questions. After all, there are more than a few transplanted
gardeners here in northeast Florida trying to figure out what works
and what doesn't in planting zone 8/9. She's in the process of writing
a book, "Sustainable Gardening for Florida," to be published
by University Press of Florida. You may contact her or read extra
details on her articles and other information posted on her website:
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