For those of you that haven’t committed to staying in Florida for our steamy Florida summers with frequent rain and lots of bugs, your lawn and landscape will miss you. There are things you should do to prepare your lawn and landscape for your extended absence. You should get to know your neighbors. Ensure yoru lawn and landscape is maintained while your out of town. Check on your irrigation system and rain sensor to save water and money, and eliminate water collecting in your landscape to prevent mosquitoes.
Get to Know Your Neighbors
Form good relationships with your neighbors. Exchange your phone numbers and/or emails with them so you may contact each other. While often it is said that fences make good neighbors, several things can go awry when you are not at your Florida home, and good neighbors can help to notify you when those landscape calamities happen. Palms, landscape plants and turf can have several issues from nutrient deficiencies to diseases to water problems. Your neighbors can notify you of landscape issues letting you contact UF/IFAS Extension in your county if needed, or your landscape professional to visit and determine the problem.
Your Landscape Professional
If you are using a landscape professional who maintains your lawn and landscape, ensure that maintenance continues during your absence. If for some reason your lawn becomes overgrown, your neighbor can contact you. You don’t want to have the appearance of an overgrown lawn, and even more do not want to have the appearance of a home not lived in. That will be a sign to intruders that you are out of town.
Checking on your Irrigation
Another issue with landscapes which can pose problems is the irrigation system. Ensure that before you go out of town for an extended period you inspect your system. Run each zone looking for leaks, geysers, clogged or dribbling heads. You will want to ensure that you are getting good head-to-head coverage which means that the water from each head will reach the other heads it is intended to reach. Consider calibrating your system to deliver one-half to three-quarters inch of water per irrigation application (up to two times per week). Never water your lawn more than two times per week. Test your rain sensor annually so that you can depend on your irrigation not running after an adequate rain. If you find that it is not working, ensure that it is replaced before you head out of town. This saves water and saves you money. Checking your irrigation and rain sensor earlier in the Spring allows time for repairs before you leave.
Standing Water Leads to Mosquitoes
You should eliminate the mosquitoes that will descend upon your neighbors’ blood supplies by managing any water “catchers” that collect water in your landscape. The places that you look for water in your landscape can be birdbaths, plant containers that don’t have drainage holes or dishes below potted plants, pet dishes that are left out, bromeliads, leafy-filled gutters, leaky faucets or anything that holds only one tablespoon of water which is enough for a mosquito to lay eggs. A rice-sized mosquito egg raft can hold 200 eggs, and most eggs are smaller than a grain of ground pepper. Mosquitoes in Florida are vectors for many diseases including dengue and chikungunya viruses, St. Louis encephalitis virus, Eastern Equine encephalitis, West Nile virus, Zika and dog heartworm (dogs and cats). For protecting yourself when you are out and about, you may use repellants which include DEET, Picardin, Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus and IR3535. Wear on your skin and on top of your clothing, but not under your clothing. Follow the product label.
For More Information
For information on best management practices for your lawn and landscape, check with your county’s Extension agent. In Sumter County, contact Lisa Sanderson, Residential Horticulture Agent, or Norma Samuel, Ph.D., the Urban Horticulture/Florida-Friendly Landscaping Agent.