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IFAS News

University of Florida

Alachua County Extension agent named Statewide Master Gardener Coordinator

Topic(s): Announcements, Extension, Florida Friendly, Honors and Appointments, IFAS, Lawn & Garden

Wendy Wilbur 032015

Wendy Wilber

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Wendy Wilber believes Florida’s immensely popular Florida Master Gardener Program can be the best in the country.

The veteran UF/IFAS Extension Alachua County environmental horticulture agent and master gardener coordinator has been named as the statewide master gardener coordinator for the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

Wilber, who has worked as a county master gardener coordinator for 15 years, said in her cover letter for the position that her experience working with volunteers made her an ideal candidate. She coordinates about 140 volunteers.

Michael Dukes, a professor in the UF/IFAS Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering and director of the UF/IFAS Center for Landscape Conservation and Ecology, announced Wilber’s appointment. The center promotes the protection and preservation of Florida’s natural resources and quality of life through responsible landscape management.

Wilber starts her new position April 10.

“This position is important to the Center for Landscape Conservation and Ecology as well as to IFAS,” Dukes said. “With 4,000 volunteers, it’s a great way to disseminate scientific-based information. We are excited about bringing Wendy on board to lead this program.”

(more …)

UF/IFAS Lawn and Garden Fest slated for Saturday, March 14

Topic(s): Agriculture, Families and Consumers, Florida Friendly, IFAS, Landscaping, Lawn & Garden, Vegetables

Landscaping, ornamentals, gardening.  UF/IFAS Photo by Tyler Jones.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Just in time for spring’s arrival, Lawn and Garden Fest returns to the University of Florida campus on Saturday, March 14, to offer residents free advice and information to help them beautify their yards.

It takes place from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Extension Soil Testing Laboratory on the corner of Mowry Road and Hull Road, in the southwest quadrant of the UF campus. The public is invited to the event, which will take place rain or shine, and is presented by the Soil and Water Science Department, part of UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, or UF/IFAS.

Faculty members from several UF/IFAS departments will be available for consultations at information booths set up under a large tent, said organizer George Hochmuth, a soil and water science professor.

“No matter what questions or problems you may have with your plants, soils or lawn, our experts can help,” Hochmuth said. “Even if you’re happy with the state of your yard, you can probably learn a thing or two just by attending.”

Topics covered at the event will include landscape design, plant variety selection for Florida conditions, establishing new plants, soil chemistry, plant nutrition, fertilization, irrigation, plant diseases, insect and nematode pests, fruit and vegetable gardening, organic production and keeping your lawn in tip-top condition.

The event also offers door prizes and tours of several facilities, and visitors are invited to bring samples of sick or pest-infested plants for diagnosis. Visitors may also bring one soil sample for free pH testing, a procedure that determines the degree of acidity or alkalinity in the soil.

Soil pH testing has been one of the event’s most popular features in previous years, said lead organizer Rao Mylavarapu, director of the Extension Soil Testing Laboratory and a soil and water science professor.

“Soil pH is a very important factor in plant health, and it’s often overlooked by homeowners,” Mylavarapu said. “The pH can vary from one part of your yard to another, and the pH needs of ornamental plants vary from one species to another. You want to make sure you have the right plant in the right place.”

Instructions for collecting the soil sample are posted on the Lawn and Garden Fest Facebook page, http://on.fb.me/1ajNDbB. Tests can be completed for visitors while they wait, but those who plan to stay on-site only a short time can receive results by e-mail. Faculty experts can also explain how to correct pH problems.

For those interested in learning more about pH testing and other chemical analyses, the Extension Soil Testing Laboratory will offer guided tours approximately every 20 minutes. The nearby UF Plant Diagnostic Center will offer tours on the hour, and visitors can also drive to the Natural Area Teaching Laboratory for walking tours of UF’s largest on-campus tract of wildland.

All visitors will be eligible for door-prize drawings, which will happen every 30 minutes, Hochmuth said. Winners will receive everything from free full-range soil chemistry testing to merchandise from the UF/IFAS Extension book store.

Representatives of the book store will be on hand throughout the event with a selection of books, DVDs, identification aids and other items available for sale. Complimentary refreshments will be available as well.

“This is our fourth year and we believe this will be the biggest and best Lawn and Garden Fest yet,” Hochmuth said. “Come on out and get yourself ready to spruce up your yard this spring!”

By Tom Nordlie, 352-273-3567, tnordlie@ufl.edu

Sources: Rao Mylavarapu, 352-294-3113, raom@ufl.edu

George Hochmuth, 352-294-3114, hoch@ufl.edu

UF/IFAS Photo by Tyler Jones.

UF survey shows Floridians want to conserve water, but not if it costs too much

Topic(s): Conservation, Environment, Florida Friendly, IFAS, Landscaping, Lawn & Garden, Research

PIE Center water photo 021815

Cutline below

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Floridians remain concerned about water and are willing to make changes to conserve it, at least until their efforts cramp their lifestyles, according to an annual University of Florida study on state residents’ attitudes about this precious resource.

For the second consecutive year, an annual online survey conducted by UF’s Center for Public Issues in Education shows that water ranks third on a list of 10 topics people consider important — behind the economy and healthcare and ahead of public education and taxes. Eighty-three percent of 749 respondents indicated water is an important or extremely important issue.

Yet while three-quarters of them said they were likely to vote to support water conservation programs and nearly as many said they would support water restrictions issued by their local government, only 42 percent were willing to take action to conserve water if it meant their lawns would suffer.

(more …)

UF/IFAS researchers build searchable database of non-native plants

Topic(s): Agriculture, Environment, Families and Consumers, Florida Friendly, Landscaping, Lawn & Garden, New Technology, Uncategorized
The air potato vine is an  invasive species prohibited by the state

see caption below

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Ever wonder what that plant is in your yard that seems to be taking over? The University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences has a new website designed to help you figure it out.

Researchers with UF/IFAS’ Center for Aquatic and Invasive Plants spent more than a year developing a searchable website and database to help Floridians assess problem— or just plain puzzling —non-native plants. (more …)

UF/IFAS Florida-Friendly Landscaping program releases new mobile app

Topic(s): Florida Friendly, Landscaping

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — With home gardens in the “Land of Flowers” stretching from the panhandle to the keys, Florida gardeners have so many choices for beautiful landscaping plants that it can be a dilemma to know what to plant where.

Planting decisions are now easier with the release of a mobile web application from the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.  The new app features more than 400 Florida-Friendly plants that can be selected by their type, shape, and sun tolerance.  Each plant is accompanied by a color photo.

(more …)

Turfgrass alternatives offer residents additional groundcover choices, UF/IFAS experts say

Topic(s): Environment, Extension, Florida Friendly, Green Living, IFAS, Landscaping, Lawn & Garden

Perennial peanut

Click here for high-res image. Cutline at bottom.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Spring is right around the corner, and for some residents it may be time to think about sprucing up the yard with new landscaping.

Covering more than 5 million acres in Florida, turfgrass is the state’s most popular groundcover – but it may not be the ideal choice for every situation, say experts with the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

Emphasizing the Florida-Friendly Landscaping principle “right plant, right place,” UF/IFAS Extension faculty members suggest that residents who are considering groundcover options start by assessing their needs and site conditions.

“We need turf for recreation, for that open front-yard spot in your landscape, and to give us that green look,” said Wendy Wilber, an Alachua County environmental horticulture Extension agent. “A good-looking Florida-Friendly Landscape can have a mix of plants and features, if the conditions call for it.”

(more …)

Establishing healthy shrubs not the water-consuming task many think, UF research shows

Topic(s): Extension, Florida Friendly, Green Living, Lawn & Garden

Caption at bottom. Click here for high resolution image

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Good news for your utility bills and the environment: New University of Florida research shows that landscape shrubs need much less water to establish healthy roots than you might expect.

“We finally have our irrigation recommendations for establishing shrubs backed up with science. We need less irrigation than many people think,” said Ed Gilman, a UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences environmental horticulture professor who led the research study.

The six-year study’s objective was to determine how best to irrigate shrubs during “establishment” — the 20- to 28-week period when shrubs’ roots grow until the plant can survive without irrigation.

The research examined irrigation frequency and volume on the quality, survival and growth rates of three-gallon, container-grown shrubs. Plants were examined in Fort Lauderdale, Balm, Apopka and Citra, locations that span three water management districts in Florida and have varied growing conditions.

Some of the state’s most popular ornamental shrubs were evaluated, including both native and non-native species, such as yaupon holly and gardenia.

“One of the results that we noted was that there are no differences between native and non-native species for amount of water required for establishment, “Gilman said. “This often surprises people, but it emphasizes that the Florida-friendly principle — right plant, right place — is worth following.”

Florida-friendly gardening means planting that accounts for site conditions, maintenance needs and local climate. Such landscapes may use both native and non-native plants, as long as the non-native plants aren’t an invasive species. (more …)

New public television show aimed at Southern gardeners hits the air May 9

Topic(s): Agriculture, Extension, Florida Friendly, Green Living, IFAS, Landscaping, Lawn & Garden, Vegetables

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Southern gardeners will soon have a new tool to help them in the garden. “Your Southern Garden” with Walter Reeves is an educational television show created to help gardeners of all levels learn new tricks, get fresh ideas and visit interesting sites.

“This show provides the opportunity to really educate Floridians and others in the region about landscaping and outdoor water conservation,” said Millie Ferrer, interim extension dean for the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. “Watering in the landscape is such an important issue right now and the faculty at UF and UGA can provide great tips and information to help conserve water.”

The show, produced by University of Florida IFAS Extension and the University of Georgia’s College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, is a one-of-a-kind program specifically for the Southeast.

The 2009 season of “Your Southern Garden” premieres May 9 on public broadcast stations in the Tampa Bay and north central Florida areas. Beginning in April 2010, it will air throughout most of north and central Florida area and the Georgia Public Broadcasting viewing area. (more …)

UF Studies Show Home Buyers Like ‘Green’ Features but May Not Understand Green Living

Topic(s): Conservation, Finances, Florida Friendly, Green Living, Landscaping, Lawn & Garden

Mark Hostetler poses in a suburban neighborhood in Gainesville, Florida
View Photo

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Home buyers appreciate the benefits of “green” communities, but residents don’t necessarily lead more eco-friendly lives than their neighbors in traditional homes, according to two University of Florida studies conducted in the fast-growing state.

The findings could mean some homeowners in green communities don’t know enough about how to reduce their environmental impact, said Mark Hostetler, an associate professor with UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. (more …)

Soil-moisture Sensors May Produce Big Water Savings for Homeowners, UF Study Shows

Topic(s): Conservation, Florida Friendly, Green Living, Landscaping, Lawn & Garden

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Soil-moisture sensors hooked to sprinkler systems could put a huge dent in homeowners’ utility bills – and help conserve much-needed water, a new University of Florida study says.

Researcher Michael Dukes found that for three of four soil-moisture sensors tested, water savings ranged from 69 percent to 92 percent, compared to grass watered without the help of sensors. (more …)

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