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Do as I say, not as I do

Weeds in turfgrass. Photo: J_McConnell

Originally published March 12, 2017 The News Herald Celebrate Outdoors insert

You’ve probably heard the phrase “Do as I say, not as I do” and sometimes I have to admit that’s a good tactic for taking gardening advice from me. My credentials are solid: Bachelor of Science in Horticulture from Auburn, Masters of Science in Entomology from University of Florida, ten years’ experience in nursery and going on five years in Extension but sometimes I still have epic garden failures.

Just because I know what I’m supposed to do doesn’t mean I always comply, so if we’re having a conversation and you admit to doing something that’s not recommended (I won’t say foolish), please don’t feel badly because I’ve probably done worse myself and will readily admit it. Give me all the information and I can help you sort through it and come up with a solution, but if I don’t have all the facts I might not give you good advice.

So, here is my most recent horticultural walk of shame:

I’m a county horticulture Extension agent and I have a weed problem. Not just a couple of weeds in my flower bed, I’m talking the front lawn is now a combination of black medic, spurge, nutsedge, and oxalis. There are about three blades of Centipedegrass for every 5 clumps of weeds. Do I know how to fix it? Sure, but I didn’t take the time to do it before it got bad and now it’s a complete renovation or we just keep it mowed at two inches and call it a diverse groundcover. Think I’m going with the latter option unless I find a couple grand lying around.

I killed a citrus tree. Actually, this is more of an initiation rather than an admission of shame. What new Florida gardener has not planted then killed at least one citrus? I selected a Satsuma for its cold hardiness, but when we got down into the teens I let it fend for itself. Satsumas are cold hardy but not quite THAT hardy.

This last admission is not so much about a lack of gardening skills, but more about winging it when it comes to reading a plat. We have very strange shaped lots in our subdivision. Our house is in a cul-de-sac, and my best description of the shape of our property line is an elongated trapezoid with a half circle entrance. Because our neighbors have fences and the house directly next to us was empty when we moved in we assumed that the fence in the next lot ran along the fenceline. It wasn’t until we were looking to install our own fence that we took a closer look and realized that what we thought was our side yard was not ours. We had spent countless hours clearing, maintaining, and you guessed it installing about 50 trees and shrubs on the neighbor’s land. Thankfully, we figured it out before the house sold and the new owners moved in, but digging up and transplanting all those plants only a year after they were planted was not the ideal management plan. As it turns out our new neighbors would have gladly shared their side yard, but one never knows.

So, when you call for help and I ask a million questions, don’t be embarrassed to tell me what you did to your yard. After all, if it’s a gardening mistake I’ve been there and done that.

Julie McConnell is the Horticulture Agent with UF/IFAS Extension Bay County in Panama City. You can reach her at 850-784-6105 or To learn more about these topics and upcoming events please visit or follow us on Facebook UF IFAS Extension Bay County.

An Equal Opportunity Institution. UF/IFAS Extension, University of Florida, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, Nick T. Place, dean for UF/IFAS Extension. Single copies of UF/IFAS Extension publications (excluding 4-H and youth publications) are available free to Florida residents from county UF/IFAS Extension offices.