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Spring Cleaning in the Florida-Friendly Landscape

Spring is a good time to clean up, plan and prep your landscape for planting.  Even though we don’t experience winter in the same way they do “up north”, plants may be damaged and there is still work to do in the yard to clean up after winter.  Where should you start?

  1. When the danger of frost and freeze has past, prune back all the damaged plants in your landscape. Don’t dig them all out of the ground as most of them will come back as the temperatures begin to warm.

    Freeze damage palm and jasmine

    Freeze damaged plants. Photo credit: Anne Yasalonis, UF/IFAS Extension

  2. After the pruning is complete, there will be more visible mulched areas in the landscape. Take the time to remove weeds and replenish mulch as needed.  A clean, mulched landscape is a great way to start fresh! Remember to keep the depth of your mulch to 2-3 inches. If you have a lot of fallen leaves, you may even need to remove some to maintain a proper depth.

    Pull mulch away from the tree trunk until the root flare is visible.

    Pull mulch away from the tree trunk until the root flare is visible. Photo credit: Anne Yasalonis, UF/IFAS Extension

  3. If you want to replace damaged plants, now is the time to start researching what to replace them with. Remember to take the time to make sure you are choosing the Right Plant for the Right Place.  Download a copy of The Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ Guide to Plant Selection & Landscape Design here to help you make the right choice.
  4. This is also a great time of year to make sure your sprinkler system is functioning properly. Routine maintenance and basic repairs will ensure a properly functioning system.  Check your rain shut-off device and make sure it works.  The devices need periodic maintenance and need to be replaced every few years.  Check with your local water utility provider to see if they are offering any incentives or rebates for rain shut-off devices.  Also, turn on your system and go through each zone to ensure that filters and emitters are not clogged, irrigation heads are not spraying impervious surfaces, and that they rise high enough to effectively water the plants.
  5. While you are maintaining your sprinkler system, take this time to calibrate it as well. Do you know what it means to calibrate your sprinkler system?  It means that you measure the water being applied and then make necessary adjustments to apply the correct amount.  For each zone, distribute uniform cans (6-8 tuna cans will work perfectly) throughout the zone. Turn on the zone for 15 minutes.  Turn the water off, and use a ruler to measure how many inches are in each can.  Take an average of those measurements to determine how many inches are applied in 15 minutes.  Do this for each zone.  Then, change your timer so that ½ inch is applied in each zone.  If you need some assistance, we have an easy-to-use worksheet that can be downloaded here.
  6. Clean out bird feeders and birdbaths. If you haven’t been vigilant about these over the winter, make sure your bird feeders are cleaned out and refilled.  Scrub birdbaths and refill them.  Never use soap or bleach to clean them.

    Birdbath

    Birdbath. Photo credit: Anne Yasalonis, UF/IFAS Extension

  7. After your yard is ready for spring, you can start planning for new plants and other garden updates, Consider planting for pollinators, locate a spot for growing your own vegetables and herbs, add a shade tree, install a piece of garden art, or, add a bench in a shady spot where you can sit and enjoy your yard. There are so many ways to incorporate the principles of Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ into your yard. If you need assistance, ideas or tips consider attending a free informational workshop to help you make your yard Florida-Friendly!

For more information, contact UF/IFAS Extension Polk County at (863) 519-1041 or visit us online at http://sfyl.ifas.ufl.edu/polk.  The Plant Clinic is open Monday-Friday, 9:00 am-4:00 pm to answer your gardening and landscaping questions. Visit us in person, give us a call, or email us at polkmg@ifas.ufl.edu.

If you are not in Polk County, Contact your local UF/IFAS Extension Master Gardener Volunteer Plant Clinic.

The Florida Master Gardener Volunteer Program is a volunteer-driven program that benefits UF/IFAS Extension and the citizens of Florida.  The program extends the vision of the University of Florida/Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, all the while protecting and sustaining natural resources and environmental systems, enhancing the development of human resources, and improving the quality of human life through the development of knowledge in agricultural, human and natural resources and making that knowledge accessible.

An Equal Opportunity Institution.

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