Monthly Archives: July 2021

Lawn and Garden Damage from Heavy Rain

The signs of damage from heavy rain and over-watering can take weeks to appear. Some damage in the form of fallen limbs and trees occurs quickly and is easy to see. And we don’t need a hurricane or tropical storm in our area to experience torrential rainfall. Extended periods of rainfall reduce the stability of tree root systems that result in fallen trees and property damage.

Chad Lakin, Earth Works Lawn Care Operations Manager recommends that your lawn should receive a half-inch of water three times per week from rain and/or irrigation. During weeks when it rains for three or more days dropping an accumulated weekly total of 1.5 inches of rain or more you should consider turning off the automatic timer on your sprinkler system and only water as needed. And be aware that irrigation regulations in Duval County restrict sprinkler system operation to twice per week. Be sure to check and abide by your county guidelines.

SEVEN FACTORS AFFECTING LAWN AND GARDEN DAMAGE FROM HEAVY RAIN include elevation, grade, soil composition, percentage of impervious area, drainage system, landscape design, and fungal pathogens.

Elevation: Much of Northeast Florida is at or slightly above sea level with a high water table. “Almost 25,000 kilometers of Florida’s coast is below 3.5 meters in elevation,” according to the US Environmental Protection Agency. “The northeastern region of Florida is one of varied natural, geographical, and topographical environments. The region is a part of the Atlantic Coastal Plain and contains an assorted mix of land cover types that span from coastal marshes to upland hammocks and scrub areas.”

Grading: Proper site grading requires a slope of the landscape away from home and other structures and into drainage systems that include swales and retention ponds. “The ground immediately adjacent to the foundation shall be sloped away from the building at a slope of not less than one unit vertical in 20 units horizontal (5-percent slope) for a minimum distance of 10 feet measured perpendicular to the face of the wall,” according to Florida Building Code 1804.4 [Excavation, Grading and Fill] Site Grading. “If physical obstructions or lot lines prohibit 10 feet of horizontal distance, a 5-percent slope shall be provided to an approved alternative method of diverting water away from the foundation. Swales used for this purpose shall be sloped a minimum of 2 percent where located within 10 feet of the building foundation. Impervious surfaces within 10 feet of the building foundation shall be sloped a minimum of 2 percent away from the building.” These measures reduce the threat of flooding and erosion from rainwater that doesn’t percolate into the soil.

Soil Composition: Our Northeast Florida soils tend to be sandy, allowing better percolation of water than clay soils. Heavy rains can saturate soil that can’t absorb additional water resulting in increased flooding, erosion, and runoff. “When soils become saturated from heavy rainfall, loss of nitrogen (N) becomes a major concern,” according to Kruger Seeds. “After soils are saturated, the two processes that can reduce the amount of available N are denitrification (microbial conversion of nitrate to nitrogen gases) and leaching.”
Leaching of nutrients from the soil during heaving rains can change soil pH. “Rain leaches alkaline elements including calcium, magnesium and potassium from the soil into runoff water, leaving acidic elements like hydrogen, aluminum and manganese to replace the bases,” according to SFGATE. “This means that areas with high annual rainfall amounts, such as parts of New England, generally have more acidic soil than the arid deserts of Arizona.”

Impervious area: Impervious areas include driveways, walkways, decks, and patios. Municipalities in Northeast Florida have restrictions on the percentage of impervious surfaces allowed. Coastal communities have the most strenuous rules. Atlantic Beach limits impervious area to 45% and requires onsite water retention storage. Hardscaping projects must take into consideration all sources of water conveyance to comply with the city code. “The downspouts from the house they are all connected underground and run to the swale,” said John Cacchione, Earth Works landscape designer. “So all of the water from the roof is collected. Nothing is going out into the street.” Make sure your landscaping company understands and readily complies with applicable regulations.

Drainage system: The wide variety of drainage system designs available require routine maintenance to work effectively. Clogged gutters, French drains, and storm drains won’t function as designed. Standing water over time becomes lethal for turf and many varieties of plants.
“During a flood, the greatest danger to your grass is suffocation,” according to the Turfgrass Group. “Grass needs sunlight, water, air—CO2, to be precise—and nutrients to grow. When your turf is submerged, the grass cannot get the CO2 it needs. It can survive this way for a day or two, but after four of five days, the chances of survival drop significantly. Generally, cool water and cool temperatures are the least destructive. If the air temperature is above 80 degrees and the water is shallow enough to be warmed, even a day or two could kill the grass.”

Landscape Design: Your choice of plants can have a significant impact on whether your lawn and garden are damaged or flourish after heavy rains. Native plants evolved in the local environment doing better in native soil and weather conditions than many non-natives. A professional landscape designer takes rainfall, soil composition, and drainage into consideration when establishing your landscape plan. Xeriscaping is popular but could require bringing in soil and regrading the landscape if the ground holds a lot of water during raining season. Alternatively, cannas, hostas, Japanese maple, and taro are a few examples of plants well suited for moist soil. Plant choices should be appealing to your taste and be in conditions to succeed and not succumb to damage from heavy rain.

Fungal Pathogens: Fungus thrives in wet conditions above and below the soil surface, growing on wet leaves while attacking roots. “Although the upper plant parts can deal with rainy periods pretty well, the roots are where most problems occur,” according to The Times-Picayune. “Excessively wet soil (especially combined with warm temperatures) can create stressful, and potentially destructive, conditions for the roots of bedding plants, perennials, vegetables, shrubs and even trees — especially newly planted ones.”
Two serious fungal diseases are Gray leaf spot, Pyricularia grisea and Take-all root rot Gaeumannomyces graminis var. graminis. Gray leaf spot can infect blades when they are wet for less than a day at temperatures between 70F and 95F. “This fungus slows grow-in, thins established stands and can kill large areas of St. Augustine grass turf,” according to the University of Florida. “In Florida, St. Augustine grass is the only warm season turf grass affected by this important disease.”

Take-all root rot commonly attacks stressed lawn turf that destroys turf root systems over weeks leading to yellowing and irregular brown patches. “Take-all root rot is a stress-related disease, and the following stresses may trigger the disease: soil compaction and poor drainage, drought, excessive irrigation, improper mowing height, excessive thatch buildup, improper fertilization, excessive shade and the overuse of herbicides,” according to Louisiana State University.

Earth Works offers regular aeration that prevents soil compaction and top dressing for improving percolation and replenishing nutrients.  For comprehensive solutions to your specific lawn, garden and landscaping need and to minimize the lawn and garden damage from heavy rain, contact Earth Works of Jacksonville online and at 904-996-0712. Earth Works operates a retail Garden Center/Plant Nursery in Jacksonville and provides landscaping, hardscaping, water features, lawn care service, lawn spraying, and drainage solutions. Contact us with your questions and to book design consultations.

We proudly serve clients in Northeast Florida, including Jacksonville, Ponte Vedra Beach, Atlantic Beach, Neptune Beach, Jacksonville Beach, Nocatee, St. Johns, Fleming Island, Orange Park, Middleburg, Green Cove Springs, Amelia Island, Fernandina, and St. Augustine.

Happy Gardening!


Sun-Loving Evergreen Ground Covers

It can be difficult to identify rugged ground covers when looking through all our abundant plant options. Sedum and Aptenia are a few succulent sun-loving evergreen ground covers we recommend here in Northeast Florida.
Yellow Bouquet Sedum, Sedum sediforme is a great choice that doesn’t aggressively run and spread like some vining-type ground covers. They are more of a mounding plant with an interesting soft spiking foliage texture and appearance. They provide a showy bright blend of yellowish-green color. In the heat of Summer sedum is one of the most rugged ground covers with both heat and drought tolerance. Their range per USDA hardiness zones includes 6 thru 9 and cold tolerant to below freezing temperatures. Create vivid contrasting colors in flower beds, along waterfalls and walkways mixing sedum’s brilliant green foliage with the flowers of Blue Daze ‘Blue My Mind’.

If you are looking for a runner that provides more ground coverage Variegated Aptenia, Aptenia cordifolia ‘Variegata’ and the standard green Aptenia are good choices with their fleshy stems and leaves with flowers that continue to bloom throughout the warm months of the year. The flowers vary in color including red and yellow that provide eye-catching contrast against the lighter foliage. Both these varieties of Aptenia grow well here in Northeast Florida in full to partial sun, blooming best with full sun exposure. They form a mat low to the ground, which is of benefit if you are layering different varieties of plants in your landscape design.

Besides succulents when looking for sun-loving evergreen ground covers in Northeast Florida consider the linked list by the University of Florida that includes many other types of ground covers that we carry seasonally.

Regardless of your choice of sun-loving evergreen ground covers make sure they are suited for your area, landscape, and preferably non-invasive. Protective barriers such as metal edging or edge work with boulders will contribute to the aesthetic beauty of your project and aid in preventing the ground cover from spreading into unwanted areas of your landscape.

For comprehensive solutions to your specific lawn, garden and landscaping need contact Earth Works of Jacksonville online and at 904-996-0712. Earth Works operates a retail Garden Center/Plant Nursery in Jacksonville and provides landscaping, hardscaping, water features, lawn care service, lawn spraying, and drainage solutions. Contact us with your questions and to book design consultations.

Proudly serving clients in Northeast Florida including Jacksonville, Ponte Vedra Beach, Atlantic Beach, Neptune Beach, Jacksonville Beach, Nocatee, St. Johns, Fleming Island, Orange Park,  Middleburg, Green Cove Springs, Amelia Island, Fernandina, and St. Augustine.

Happy Gardening!

July Lawn And Garden Tips 2021

Last month’s weather and typical July trends impact our recommendations for the lawn and garden in Northeast, Florida.
On July 2, Elsa became the first hurricane of 2021 to threaten Florida with tropical storm wind and rain causing us to lead the July lawn and garden tips with an emphasis on the importance of hurricane preparedness. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) predicts 6-10 hurricanes in the 2021 season that started June 1 and ends on November 30. Florida receives the majority of these weather event impacts between mid-August and late October, according to NOAA, although it is currently past time to prepare for the worst and hope for the best.

Check your hurricane supplies, including provisions for your lawn and garden. Stake newly planted trees to prevent them from falling and causing personal injury or property damage—pruning of older trees and damaged ones before a storm can be a lifesaver. Cleaning leaves and debris from your roof gutters and assessing your drainage systems’ working order and effectiveness should be done to prevent flooding. Earth Works Landscaping Department can fix whatever drainage issues you have and do so in creative ways that provide beauty to the landscape and meet local codes designed to protect your property and the environment. Our “Hurricane Season Landscape Preparation” blog has more detailed, helpful tips focused on your landscape during tropical storms and hurricanes.

Rainfall for June in the Jacksonville area was heaviest on the Northside as reported by the National Weather Service (NWS) station at Jacksonville International Airport (JIA). June 24 alone saw nearly 3 inches of rainfall at JIA, contributing to 8.7 inches total, up one inch from the June average. By comparison, Craig Field in Jacksonville’s Southside saw a .63 inch deficiency from its June average for a monthly total of 5.65 inches. Jacksonville is expected to see about a half-inch increase in rain July over June totals and an additional inch in August and September based on monthly averages. With 20 rain days in June, the associated cloud cover kept high temperatures capped at 95F with a 55F degree low on June 1, the lowest recorded in June since 1984. Look for more of the same in July.

Northeast Florida is a large area, and rainfall totals per area can vary greatly. July lawn and garden tips recommend installing a rain gauge in your yard as an inexpensive tool that accurately measures the amount of rainfall your landscape receives. Consider using a smart sprinkler controller such as the Rachio 3 and Orbit B-hyve XR, which can automatically adjust watering schedules based on weather station data and hyper-local conditions.

What Can We Plant in July?
July lawn and garden tips encourage use of heat-loving cacti and succulents in your garden. Matt Barlow, Earth Works Garden Center Manager, showcases in a recent Earth Works youtube video these easy care plants for Summer planting in Northeast, Florida.
Flapjack Succulent, Kalanchoe luciae has an interesting texture and color. They will get several feet tall and flower while adding architectural interest to your cacti and succulent garden.
Crown of Thorns, Euphorbia milii, and Euphorbia Milii Var. splendens are two varieties we offer. These are a rugged option that can bloom non-stop year-round. There are very few plants I can say that about. Get them in plenty of sun, and they will bloom repeatedly.
Yucca Cane, Yucca guatemalensis, these guys can take a range of sun conditions outdoors or as a houseplant.
Ponytail Palm, Beaucarnea recurvata, is not a palm, but succulent that needs little to no care.
Queen of the Night, Cereus peruvianus are show-stopping night bloomers that bring a lot of interest to the garden and are very easy to grow.
Hedgehog aloe, Echinocereus engelmannii is one of many aloe varieties we carry. They put up a flower spike covered with coral-covered tubular flowers that attract pollinators, hummingbirds, and even small birds will perch on the stems and drink the nectar.
Desert Rose, Adenium obesum I have a special place in my heart for. I have one that’s been in my collection for almost 20 years. They are slow growers requiring protection from frost in the Winter and provide plenty of sunshine in Summer while protecting from overwatering.
Twin-Flowered Agave, Agave geminiflora looks completely different than the other agaves that people are accustomed to seeing. They have spaghetti-strapped leaves with a slow to moderate growth rate and easy to grow without much care.
Pencil Cactus, Euphorbia tirucalli, Pencil-like tubular leafless stems with a texture that’s different from everything else you’ll have in the garden. Protect from frost and freezing, though, as they are not cold hardy.
-Prickly Pear Cactus, Opuntia, are paddled cacti with varieties native to Florida. They flower and produce edible fruit. They make an excellent garden focal point.

Additionally, the heat of our Summer is a good time to consider adding tropical plants such as hibiscus, Ixora, Bird of Paradise, and Mandevilla. Those tropicals will be featured each week of July as Plant of the Week wherein we offer a 10% discount on those purchases.

What lawn care concerns are there for Northeast Florida in July?
During the Summer months, be aware of any county Fertilizer Blackout prohibitions and restrictions on use of nitrogen and phosphorus on your lawn. Duval & St. Johns counties have restrictions on fertilizer use to protect against algae blooms and mass fish kills. The City of Jacksonville recommends that “Fertilizers shall be applied to Turf and/or Landscape Plants at the lowest rate necessary. Nitrogen shall not be applied at an application rate greater than 0.7 lbs of readily available nitrogen per 1000 ft 2 at any one time based on the soluble fraction of formulated fertilizer, with no more than 1 lb total N per 1000 ft 2 to be applied at any one time and not to exceed the annual nitrogen recommendations below:

Bahia grass, 2—3 lbs. N/1000 ft 2 /year.
Bermuda grass, 3—5 lbs. N/1000 ft 2 /year.
Centipede grass, 1—2 lbs. N/1000 ft 2 /year.
St. Augustine grass, 2—4 lbs. N/1000 ft 2 /year.
Zoysia grass, 3—5 lbs. N/1000 ft 2 /year.”
To learn more about fertilization regulations in Duval County see City of Jacksonville Chapter 366 Ordinance Code Section 366.600. St. Johns County fertilizer regulations can be viewed under Fertilizer Guidelines & Restrictions.

Suppose you fertilized your lawn in Spring and it appears to still be suffering. In that case, we recommend aeration and top dressing as cultural practices that alleviate compaction and replenish soil fertility that can better provide for the beautiful lawn you expect. Chad Lakin, Earth Works Lawn Care Operations Manager can have your property measured to exclude flower beds, patios, and impervious areas not to be treated and provide a quote upon request.

What Pests are we seeing in June and July?
Where there is stagnant water there are mosquitos. So be sure to empty any standing water to ward off the mosquitos during rainy season. Southern chinch bug, Blissus insularis were well established in untreated lawns of Northeast Florida due to drought conditions in May, a month when most of Jacksonville received only about a half-inch of rain. However, chinch bugs persist during wet months, as do other pests and some experts fear pests adaptations and increased prevalence due to the Florida climate. “Chinch bugs are known to be more of a residential lawn pest, but the past couple years, we’ve seen more incidences of chinch bugs damaging golf course turf,” says Adam Dale, Ph.D., assistant professor of entomology and nematology at the University of Florida. “Drought and full sun conditions promote chinch bug abundance and damage, and proper irrigation and maintaining proper soil moisture and turf health are the best practices to keep the bugs at bay. Fertilization is also a factor to consider. “Research has shown that nitrogen fertilization rates are positively correlated to chinch bug abundance — so I would tell superintendents to be mindful of how much nitrogen they’re putting out,” Dale says.” That’s all the more reason to limit lawn fertilization in summer.

Sod webworms are likewise being seen around Northeast Florida at this time. Bifenthrin is a pyrethroid insecticide that’s available and widely recommended for controlling sod webworms and fire ants. Bifenthrin applications target sod webworm larvae, which cause damage as they feed on the grass blades. “The moths are not the issue, and there is no practical way to control them,” according to Dan Gill, The Times-Picayune garden columnist. “It’s the sod webworm caterpillars that damage lawns. Any insecticide treatments to the lawn are meant to deal with them — not to control the adult moths. They’re a nuisance at best.”

Bacillus thuringiensis (BT) is a biological control for the caterpillar stage of sod webworms and other pest caterpillars such as Datana major, Azalea moths that were seen on area azaleas the first week of July. Mealybugs and aphids are defoliating plants protected by ants that farm them in our gardens. Insecticidal soaps, neem oil, and systemic insecticides can be used effectively against them. For more detailed treatment protocols see our Preventing Mealybug Infestation blog, call or visit the garden center and bring photos of the affected area and/or pests. July lawn and garden tips encourage regular inspection of your plants between rain events checking for these pests that can quickly destroy your plants and all your hard work.

Datana major, Azalea moth caterpillars

For comprehensive solutions to your specific lawn, garden and landscaping need contact Earth Works of Jacksonville online and at 904-996-0712. Earth Works operates a retail Garden Center/Plant Nursery in Jacksonville and provides landscaping, hardscaping, water features, lawn care service, lawn spraying, and drainage solutions. Contact us with your questions and to book design consultations.

Proudly serving clients in Northeast Florida including Jacksonville, Ponte Vedra Beach, Atlantic Beach, Neptune Beach, Jacksonville Beach, Nocatee, St. Johns, Fleming Island, Orange Park,  Middleburg, Green Cove Springs, Amelia Island, Fernandina, and St. Augustine.

Happy Gardening!


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