Monthly Archives: July 2021

Knowledgeable & Passionate Employees Educating the Public

What company doesn’t want employees that are knowledgeable and passionate about their products and services? We salute our knowledgeable and passionate employees educating the public every day about our products and services. We also celebrate and recognize outstanding performance at our monthly employee meetings and support our employee’s professional development.

Our marketing department consists of Terri McGregor, Kevanie Counts, and John Hawley. They together produce and distribute Earth Works media content. Employees from all our divisions are the familiar faces and voices for their departments in that content. What you see on camera is what you get when you visit the garden center or when they roll up to complete an assignment at your property.

Earth Works phone message is the voice of Christina Lowe, a professional deejay who spends her days sharing her love of plants with garden center clientele.

Matthew Barlow speaks masterfully about all-things-plants along with Rhonda King representing the garden center.

With an unquenchable passion for their craft, Michael Quatromoni, Jason & Sean Duffney cover our water feature construction projects.

Chad Lakin provides lawn tips on camera and blogs supported by Mark Fechtel who likewise speaks for all aspects of company operations with Doug McGregor.

Mike Oaks as hardscaping foreman, discusses paver patios, retaining walls, driveways, and outdoor kitchen construction.

Every member of the design team makes it on camera, most frequently being John Cacchione and Patti Sanders, to discuss showcase projects they design and implement.

You can watch all the Earth Works landscape foremen discussing what they encounter implementing those landscape and landscape lighting designs. They include Chris Cooprider, Nick Scott, David Arthur, Tim Gipson, and Glenn Stanza.

On any given day, a camera is in their face without warning for the purpose of employees educating the public about plants, landscaping, landscape lighting, hardscaping, water gardens, drainage, and lawn care. In doing so, our audience gets to know more about our products and services and the individuals that make up the Earth Works family that serve you here in Northeast Florida.

We don’t have staff on camera to strictly focus on saying nice things about the company. Instead, they are encouraged to share their knowledge and expertise as employees educating the public about our brand as part of their everyday experience. In turn, our audience gets information directly from who they would be speaking with if they become Earth Works clients. Via this process, our staff members sharpen their verbal skills while being shown trust and recognition by Earth Works, which serves as further professional development.

While companies expect employees to perform their jobs well, most don’t make them the company’s voice. It works for us in various ways, such as seen when staff is informed by new clients that they feel like they already know them from having watched them in video content on “A study in 2019 found that majority of professionals (70%) did consider their jobs a reflection of their identity, with 87% saying they’d want to work somewhere where they feel like they’re a part of something and “part of a family,” according to Human Resources Director (HRD). “Sadly, only half of professionals said they actually knew what their company stood for or represented.”

Our core values at Earth Works are integrity, teamwork, excellence, and fun. Besides being a business operating here in Northeast Florida for over thirty years, we are family and welcome like-minded people interested in growing with us. And thank you to our loyal followers for watching and sharing our content!

For comprehensive solutions to your specific lawn, garden, pond, and landscaping needs 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, Hilliard, Nocatee, St. Johns, Fleming Island, Orange Park, Middleburg, Green Cove Springs, Amelia Island, Fernandina, and St. Augustine.

GYO Greens: Ponte Vedra Aquaponics Farm

Close to the Tournament of Players Championship (TPC) at Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, nestled among the homes of PGA & NFL players is the one-acre GYO GREENS Ponte Vedra aquaponics farm. “We grow specialty petite greens, microgreens, petite veggies, and edible flowers,” says the owner Helga Tan Fellows. “Our variety of petite greens is large and we offer those in seasonal arrangements. Our microgreens include various young vegetable leaves like broccoli, carrots, Pac Choi, celery, and the likes. We grow other items like petite radishes in the outdoor planters, more mature vegetables like tomatoes, eggplants, peppers, okra, etc.”   

GYO Greens Ponte Vedra Aquaponics Farm

Education coupled with sustainable farming is at the core of the GYO Greens mission. They have been serving as an educational resource for area elementary, high schools, and universities since opening in 2014. “It is wonderful to be able to share this place for those who want to learn,” says Fellows. “I have been fortunate to live in a few countries in Asia and Europe and visit and learn from other colleagues and farmers. Of course, many local farmers have been very supportive and shared a lot. I figure if I could do this, then I must share it. When the student is ready, they are welcome to visit and learn. Our mission is straightforward: To grow fresh, natural, and delicious specialty products while educating our community about Aquaponics and Sustainable farming.” 

GYO translates from Japanese to the English word fish. The farm has two 3000 square foot greenhouses with 4500 planting pots per greenhouse producing organic greens and herbs for chefs in the area’s high-end restaurants. Fellows published “The GYO Greens Cookbook, Recipes from First Coast Chefs and Friends,” featuring dishes that include her greens, herbs, and flower garnishes.  

Upon entering the property, visitors cross over 100% reclaimed material walking over recycled granite pavers under cover of a solar array that supplies approximately 75% of the facility’s power. 

GYO Greens Ponte Vedra Aquaponics Farm

GYO Greens Ponte Vedra aquaponics farm system design consists of three fish tanks containing approximately 1000 koi in one of their two greenhouses. The system pumps 10,000 gallons of water and effluent pumped through an Aquaponics solids filter (swirl filter). Then the water passes through an up-flow filter followed by a biofilter that then goes through 2 Pentair UV lights with an easy-to-monitor inline Milwaukee pH Meter. The filtration separates solids with the remainder flowing through plant tables using the dynamic root floating (DRF) technique for plants to pick up nutrients from the water that recirculates through this closed system. The system installation and their ongoing quality auditor and consultants are Aquaponics Engineering and Design. “The simplicity of the system makes it very easy to maintain as long as you follow consistently and properly the operating tasks,” says Fellows. “Like any process, it is important to be trained and knowledgeable. We are constantly learning about the plants and water parameters. Monitoring the water quality parameters to prevent issues and adjust as needed is essential to ensure a healthy system.”   

The nitrogen cycle, fundamental to pond science is at work in the aquaponics system. Fish waste is converted to nitrogen that fertilizes the plants, which, in turn, cleans the water that cycles back to the fish. The GYO Greens team has scheduled weekly fish health checks along with constant monitoring of the aquaponics system chemistry. They have a quarantine tank for isolating fish prior to introducing them into the system as well as treating sick fish. The only consistent supplementation is Iron, which is often lacking in aquaponics systems. Iron is a necessary plant micronutrient that, when deficient, can cause yellowing of leaves and when available improves plant quality and yield.   

Portions of the system go through regular maintenance but the system is never entirely shut down. “It is busy here,” says Fellows. “We have a rigorous weekly schedule dictated by our procedures and farm requirements. We tend to the plants and fish every day, of course. But typically, on Mondays, we are making sure plants are Ok and preparing orders while also calling customers. Then we have two days dedicated to water testing and fish management and another day for pest management. Then, two days dedicated to deliveries. During the weekend, we sort of “reset” the farm with some extra mandatory maintenance, cleaning, etc., and we take time off to reenergize!”   

The farm has grown, but as for the future, “Right now, it is the right size for us,” says Fellows. “We were smaller, and in 2018 we expanded to the second greenhouse. No plans to do further expansion as this is the perfect size for the current business and education.” She sees her aquaponics system as akin to any other farm. “At the end, we are all passionate farmers trying to promote this process,” says Fellows. “We may have unique processes that set each farm apart, but in the end, we are all farmers. For instance, we use our aquaponics water to grow our microgreens. We also use the fish water runoff to fertilize our planters outdoors.”    

Being that Fellows has an engineering background, some might question their ability to take on such a venture as this, but she dismisses those concerns. “It helped, of course, when planning and understanding the process and eventually running it,” says Fellows. “However, initially, the decision was pure out of convenience and a bit of having a hobby to spend “free time.” It is a great way to grow plants beautifully in a natural closed-loop without adding many nutrients. Urban farming, in my opinion, will play a big role in the future to supplement traditional farming as the population continues to grow and space is very limited.”    

There were a few problems initially that required adjustments. “We lost power failure due to extreme weather conditions before we were able to have our power back up system,” says Fellows. “Very early in our journey. We lost a lot of fish. Lots of tears. We love our fish!”    

Fellows credits their success to “Genuine public interest for healthy and local food and of course learning about farming on the business side of things. We can’t keep up with the requests for tours and education. Which I am thrilled and very proud as education has always been in the forefront of GYO’s existence and mission.”    

Like all other businesses dependent on the public and especially restaurants, they were impacted by the pandemic of 2020. When asked about this, Fellows explained they shut down to the public as a safety precaution that only restarted in July of 2021. “Our main customers were only restaurants,” says Fellows. “When they closed, we went to zero sales. It was shocking, of course. However, this gave us the opportunity to evaluate our strategy. We donated some of the produce to centers in need. We began selling directly to the community that always expressed interest in buying from us. Selling to the community led to our new online store, which is now up and running and quite the tool for reaching customers beyond restaurants. We also took time to finish projects like implementing the solar array and minor improvements around the greenhouses and the grounds. I kept reminding my team of the wonderful words of Ms. Hepburn: “To plant a seed is to believe in tomorrow” – this is how we have kept moving along…. The beauty of the plants reminds us how special is the place we work. The community stepped in when the pandemic hit, so it was wonderful and quite touching to see all the support.”   

GYO Greens Ponte Vedra aquaponics farm mission focused on education has built a dedicated community. Fellows credits the community with her most cherished memories as, “It is always with students,” says Fellows. “We have kept all the thanks for having those students visit us, learn and be so excited about the process. Some of the young ones insist that the parents bring them back. They become our customers too. When the students are older, they offer to volunteer or help in special events. We have a great success story here with one of our farmers. She was a high school volunteer who is now a key member of the farm team. She is not here today as she is delivering produce and talking to customers.”   

When asking Fellows, the priorities of GYO Greens into the future, she responds, “Strictly education but to educate we need to farm and grow produce. Our customers (both restaurants and retail) keep us busy and alive! We now have the approval to become a nonprofit organization and upgrade our education offerings and even provide scholarships. We have already been collaborating and planning with local universities. We HOPE fall will be a great start of this new phase.”

To find out more about GYO Greens Ponte Vedra Aquaponics Farm, place an order or schedule a tour visit

Earth Works of Jacksonville, supports the mission of GYO Greens as their values are closely aligned with ours. For comprehensive solutions to your specific lawn, garden, pond, and landscaping needs 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!

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. In July 2021, Hurricane Elsa passed Jacksonville with tropical-storm-force wind and rain. It added to a week with more than 5 inches of rain that mostly fell on July 4th and 7th. While that amount of rain wouldn’t stop fireworks and doesn’t warrant alarm bells going off, it came during a month-long period of above-average rainfall that contributed to bringing down part of a tree that crushed one of our owner’s automobiles. We scurried about during the last week of September 2022 as Hurricane Hermine was approaching to hopefully avert similar damage from high winds and rain.

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 lawn and garden damage from heavy rain, contact Earth Works of Jacksonville 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!


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