Sally Scalera: Schedule a My Brevard Yard site visit now for a healthier lawn this summer
Sally Scalera For FLORIDA TODAY
With the end of winter near (I hope) and the plants still not actively growing, now is a great time to learn how to care for your yard without causing harm to the environment.
The health of the Indian River Lagoon is in bad shape, and improper fertilization and cultural practices can lead to nutrients leaching or being carried to the lagoon or the St. Johns River in stormwater runoff.
If you are new to Florida, having problems in your yard, or you would like to learn how to maintain your yard properly, a My Brevard Yard site visit could be just what you are looking for.
A trained UF/IFAS Extension Brevard County Master Gardener will come to your yard and help you with your lawn, ornamentals and edibles, all for just $50.
Prior to the site visit, a survey needs to be completed to let us know the past fertilization and irrigation practices used. In addition to help with fertilization and irrigation, many homeowners are also interested in receiving information on how to grow edible plants, attract wildlife, set an irrigation timer, identify plants and get suggestions for problem areas.
All site visits include a soil test, which we collect and mail to the UF/IFAS Soil Testing Laboratory in Gainesville. For homeowners who have a lawn care company fertilizing their lawn, the soil test results will inform the company which nutrients need to be applied.
For those who fertilizer their own lawn, we can teach you how to add the biology (in the form of the soil food web) back to the soil so it can supply your yard with the required nutrients. If nutrients are needed at the beginning, until the soil food web is established, an organic fertilizer is recommended.
Testing the soil is extremely important before fertilizing, for many reasons. Applying phosphorus to a soil that already has enough can lead to the excess phosphorus leaching through the soil and into our groundwater. When phosphorus and nitrogen reach the groundwater, they become pollutants.
Soil tests that come back showing a low phosphorus level are perfect for inoculating the lawn with beneficial mycorrhizae. Mycorrhizae establish a symbiotic relationship with many plants, including grasses, and high levels of phosphorus inhibit this relationship from forming.
Research at the University of Florida found that the mycorrhizae Glomus intraradices forms a symbiotic relationship with St. Augustinegrass.
Another important nutrient to test for is potassium, which is important for the roots and water regulation in a plant. A potassium deficiency is a common problem for non-native palms growing in Florida.
After the soil test results are received, a fertilizer recommendation is created for the resident.
In addition to soil testing, we also test irrigation water that comes from a well, pond or surface water. We test for conductivity to determine the salt content. The result of the water test is emailed shortly after the site visit.
An irrigation zone is also calibrated, using the catch-can method, to check the irrigation output and determine if the run-time is adequate.
After the soil and water are collected for testing and an irrigation zone has been calibrated, it is the homeowner’s turn to get the answers to all their questions. It’s a good idea to write your questions down before the site visit so you don’t forget any of them.
Now is a great time for a site visit because there is plenty of time to get the test results back and provide a fertilizer recommendationfor fertilizing in April or May, before the fertilizer ban goes into effect on June 1.
When the correct fertilizer is applied, at the right time, in the proper amount, and watered in correctly, both the soil and plants benefit, without harming the environment.
If a plant that is suffering from insects and diseases is receiving the correct light conditions and water supply, nutritional deficiencies will be the likely cause of the pest problem. This is true for both non-native and native plants.
There are two very important components of a healthy soil that are lacking in most landscapes, and those are organic matter and the presence of beneficial soil microbes (especially mycorrhizae) that make up the soil food web.
If all the soils within the watershed of the IRL contained at least 5% organic matter and were supporting a thriving soil food web, the IRL would be much healthier. Organic matter increases both the nutrient and water-holding capacity of the soil.
This would result in the nitrogen and phosphorus staying in the soil and not leaching into the groundwater. Plus, with the increased nutrient-holding capacity, less fertilizer would be needed.
One of the many benefits of a healthy soil food web is their nutrient cycling, which would also decrease the need for fertilizers. Organic matter absorbs rainfall like a sponge, keeping it out of the groundwater and available for the plants to use later.
As it is now, the IRL must contend with both stormwater runoff from all the impervious surfaces throughout the county and the large amounts of rainfall that flow straight through our sandy soils and eventually into the watershed’s basin.
If you are interested in a My Brevard Yard site visit, email me at [email protected].
Gardening is a fun and rewarding hobby, especially when the plants are growing well. Let us help you learn the gardening practices that can achieve the results you want. It is possible to grow healthy plants while improving water quality.