Tag Archive: Alternatives

Tired of Turf? Try Groundcover Alternatives Instead!

If you’re like me, growing turfgrass is often more of a hassle than anything else.  Regardless of the species you plant, none tolerates shade well and it can seem like there is a never-ending list of chores and expenses that accompany lawn grass:  mowing (at least one a week during the summer), fertilizing, and constantly battling weeds, disease and bugs.  Wouldn’t it be nice if there were an acceptable alternative, at least for the parts of the lawn that get a little less foot traffic or are shady?  Turns out there is!  Enter the wonderful world of perennial groundcovers!

Perennial groundcovers are just that, plants that are either evergreen or herbaceous (killed to the ground by frost, similar to turfgrass) and are aggressive enough to cover the ground quickly.  Once established, these solid masses of stylish, easy to grow plants serve many of the same functions traditional turf lawns do without all the hassle: choke out weeds, provide pleasing aesthetics, reduce erosion and runoff, and provide a habitat for beneficial insects and wildlife.

The two most common turfgrass replacements found in Northwest Florida are Ornamental Perennial Peanut (Arachis glabra) and Asiatic Jasmine (Trachelospermum asiaticum); though a native species of Mimosa (Mimosa strigillosa) is gaining popularity also.  All of these plants are outstanding groundcovers but each fills a specific niche in the landscape.

  Perennial Peanut Lawn

Perennial Peanut is a beautiful, aggressive groundcover that spreads through underground rhizomes and possesses showy yellow flowers throughout the year; the show stops only in the coldest winters when the plant is burned back to the ground by frost.  It thrives in sunny, well-drained soils, needs no supplemental irrigation once established and because it is a legume, requires little to no supplemental fertilizer.  It even thrives in coastal areas that are subject to periodic salt spray!  If Perennial Peanut ever begins to look a little unkempt, a quick mowing at 3-4” will enhance its appearance.

   Asiatic Jasmine

 

Asiatic Jasmine is a superb, vining groundcover option for areas that receive partial to full shade, though it will tolerate full sun.  This evergreen plant sports glossy dark green foliage and is extremely aggressive (lending itself to very rapid establishment).  Though not as vigorous a climber as its more well-known cousin Confederate Jasmine (Trachelospermum jasminoides), Asiatic Jasmine will eventually begin to slowly climb trees and other structures once it is fully established; this habit is easily controlled with infrequent pruning.  Do not look for flowers on this vining groundcover however, as it does not initiate the bloom cycle unless allowed to climb.

Sunshine Mimosa

For those that prefer an all-native landscape, Sunshine Mimosa (Mimosa strigillosa), also known as Sensitive Plant, is a fantastic groundcover option for full-sun situations.  This herbaceous perennial is very striking in flower, sending up bright pink, fiber-optic like blooms about 6” above the foliage all summer long!  Sunshine Mimosa, like Perennial Peanut, is a legume so fertility needs are very low. It is also exceptionally drought tolerant and thrives in the deepest sands.  If there is a dry problem spot in your lawn that receives full sun, you can’t go wrong with this one!

As a rule, the method of establishing groundcovers as turfgrass replacements takes a bit longer than with laying sod, which allows for an “instant” lawn.  With groundcovers, sprigging containerized plants is most common as this is how the majority of these species are grown in production nurseries.  This process involves planting the containerized sprigs on a grid in the planting area no more than 12” apart.  The sprigs may be planted closer together (8”-10”) if more rapid establishment is desired.

During the establishment phase, weed control is critical to ensure proper development of the groundcover.  The first step to reduce competitive weeds is to clean the site thoroughly before planting with a non-selective herbicide such as Glyphosate.  After planting, grassy weeds may be treated with one of the selective herbicides Fusilade, Poast, Select, or Prism.  Unfortunately, there are not any chemical treatments for broadleaf weed control in ornamental groundcovers but these can be managed by mowing or hand pulling and will eventually be choked out by the groundcover.

If you are tired of the turfgrass life and want some relief, try an ornamental groundcover instead!  They are low-maintenance, cost effective, and very attractive!  Happy gardening and as always, contact your local UF/IFAS County Extension Office for more information about this topic!

PG

Author: Daniel J. Leonard – d.leonard@ufl.edu

Horticulture Agent, Walton County

Daniel J. Leonard

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2017/05/18/tired-of-turf-try-groundcover-alternatives-instead/

Challenges for Use of Glyphosate Alternatives in Urban Landscapes

Challenges for Use of Glyphosate Alternatives in Urban Landscapes

Florida home and yard. Home, house, stone pavers, walkway, yard, landscaping. UF/IFAS Photo: Tyler Jones.

Florida home and yard. Home, house, stone pavers, walkway, yard, landscaping. UF/IFAS Photo: Tyler Jones

Dr. Ramon Leon, Extension Weed Specialist, West Florida REC, Jay

Last year the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) of the World Health Organization (WHO) classified glyphosate as “probably carcinogenic to humans.”  This generated a lot of controversy because the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the European Food Safety Authority, and recently a joint report between the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and WHO concluded that glyphosate is unlikely to be carcinogenic in humans.

As a University of Florida/IFAS Weed Specialist, I have been receiving multiple phone calls and e-mails from homeowners, homeowner associations (HOA), lawn care companies and contractors, municipalities, and county managers requesting a list of herbicides that are “safer” than glyphosate. When I ask them the reason for this particular preference, all of them acknowledged that their concern originated from hearing about the IARC report.

The first point that I always explain to people concerned about this issue is that most of the scientific evidence indicates that glyphosate does not have a higher carcinogenic risk compared to many other substances that they are normally exposed to in their daily activities. The second point is that it is important to continuously monitor how chemicals we use affect our health and the environment in the long run.  The IARC report is a reminder that we should keep a close eye on glyphosate, the most widely used herbicide in the world, but it is not necessarily a call to stop using it, because at this point there is no direct evidence that it causes cancer in humans.

Very frequently, regardless of the technical details, many homeowners and citizens in urban areas are considering not using glyphosate in their gardens and landscapes, and they would like to use “safer” herbicides.

What do you mean by “safer?”

If you mean lower risk as a carcinogen, then most herbicides registered for use in urban areas would be acceptable because none of them are considered “probably carcinogenic” by IARC or any other regulatory agency. Therefore, you have multiple options to choose from. However, many of the conversations have lead to the statement, “No, I want something that is less toxic than glyphosate!

Toxicity in pesticides is predominantly assessed using the lethal dose 50 (LD50), which indicates the amount of a chemical that kills 50% of a reference population of test animals (e.g. mice, rabbits, rats). When the LD50 is high, this means that the chemical has low toxicity, and when the LD50 is low it is considered that toxicity is higher because small amounts of the chemical can cause mortality.  Glyphosate has one of the highest LD50s for herbicides. In other words, glyphosate is one of the least toxic herbicides available based on the LD50 standard. Therefore, if we want an alternative herbicide that is less toxic, we do not have any options for urban areas.

What about organic herbicides?

Many people associate “organic” with “safer.”  This can be misleading because it depends on how safety is measured. For example, there are multiple organic herbicides that are considered to have the same or even higher toxicity when compared with glyphosate, because many of them have irritant and corrosive properties. Furthermore, organic herbicides have dramatically different herbicidal properties that make them unlikely alternatives to effectively replace glyphosate.

Glyphosate has one of the broadest spectrums of control, so it kills many different weed species effectively. Also, glyphosate works systemically. This means that it is absorbed by leaves and then moves inside the plant to growing points, roots, and other propagating structures. This systemic effect increases the ability to kill relatively large plants. In contrast, the majority of organic herbicides have a contact effect, so they only kill the tissue they touch without being able to move inside the plant. Therefore, they are effective at killing very small plants (<2 inches tall). Large plants can suffer leaf burning after treatment with organic herbicides, and if the application is done properly, the user will see a lot of control shortly after the application (Fig. 1). However, the plants will soon recover and the control level will decrease because, unlike plants treated with systemic herbicides, they can produce new growth from tissues that were not directly expose to the herbicide.

Figure 1. White clover (4 inches tall) control after treatment with glyphosate and twelve different organic herbicides based on natural oil extracts from plants. The green bars represent the level of control 7 days after treatment (DAT) and the yellow bars indicate control 21 DAT.

Figure 1. White clover (4 inches tall) control after treatment with glyphosate and twelve different organic herbicides based on natural oil extracts from plants. The green bars represent the level of control 7 days after treatment (DAT) and the yellow bars indicate control 21 DAT.

 

Considering the lack of alternatives to replace glyphosate, if you want to stop using this herbicide, and you do not want to use any other synthetic herbicides, because their toxicity might be higher, then you need to recognize that weed management will be more challenging. It is unfair to ask lawn care companies or members of HOAs to stop using the tools they have to control weeds and yet expect “weed free” lawns, gardens, and landscapes. Controlling weeds in these scenarios without glyphosate and other synthetic herbicides will require more intensive use of mechanical control approaches and hand weeding. Also, if relying on organic herbicides, these herbicides will have to be frequently applied (probably once or twice a week) in order to kill the weeds at the right time (before they get too big). Also, all these activities will increase weed control costs and the results will likely be not as satisfactory. Thus, you might end up paying more to have lawns and landscapes that will have more weeds escaping control. If this is not acceptable to you, then you probably should be more open to consider the weed control tools we have available. Also, you should be more vigilant about what are the appropriate ways to use them to minimize their risks to humans and the environment, while obtaining the benefits that you are seeking. Otherwise, you should get used to seeing more weeds in the landscape, and to be fair… this might not be as bad as some people think.

 

PG

Author: admin – webmaster@ifas.ufl.edu

admin

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2016/07/20/challenges-for-use-of-glyphosate-alternatives-in-urban-landscapes-2/

Challenges for Use of Glyphosate Alternatives in Urban Landscapes

Challenges for Use of Glyphosate Alternatives in Urban Landscapes

Glyphosate UF/IFAS Photo: Tyler Jones.

Glyphosate has been a primary tool for controlling weeds in urban landscapes due to the systemic control it provides on a broad spectrum of weeds.  UF/IFAS Photo: Tyler Jones.

Dr. Ramon Leon, Extension Weed Specialist, West Florida REC, Jay

Last year the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) of the World Health Organization (WHO) classified glyphosate as “probably carcinogenic to humans.”  This generated a lot of controversy because the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the European Food Safety Authority, and recently a joint report between the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and WHO concluded that glyphosate is unlikely to be carcinogenic in humans.

As a University of Florida/IFAS Weed Specialist, I have been receiving multiple phone calls and e-mails from homeowners, homeowner associations (HOA), lawn care companies and contractors, municipalities, and county managers requesting a list of herbicides that are “safer” than glyphosate. When I ask them the reason for this particular preference, all of them acknowledged that their concern originated from hearing about the IARC report.

The first point that I always explain to people concerned about this issue is that most of the scientific evidence indicates that glyphosate does not have a higher carcinogenic risk compared to many other substances that they are normally exposed to in their daily activities. The second point is that it is important to continuously monitor how chemicals we use affect our health and the environment in the long run.  The IARC report is a reminder that we should keep a close eye on glyphosate, the most widely used herbicide in the world, but it is not necessarily a call to stop using it, because at this point there is no direct evidence that it causes cancer in humans.

Very frequently, regardless of the technical details, many homeowners and citizens in urban areas are considering not using glyphosate in their gardens and landscapes, and they would like to use “safer” herbicides.

What do you mean by “safer?”

If you mean lower risk as a carcinogen, then most herbicides registered for use in urban areas would be acceptable because none of them are considered “probably carcinogenic” by IARC or any other regulatory agency. Therefore, you have multiple options to choose from. However, many of the conversations have lead to the statement, “No, I want something that is less toxic than glyphosate!

Toxicity in pesticides is predominantly assessed using the lethal dose 50 (LD50), which indicates the amount of a chemical that kills 50% of a reference population of test animals (e.g. mice, rabbits, rats). When the LD50 is high, this means that the chemical has low toxicity, and when the LD50 is low it is considered that toxicity is higher because small amounts of the chemical can cause mortality.  Glyphosate has one of the highest LD50s for herbicides. In other words, glyphosate is one of the least toxic herbicides available based on the LD50 standard. Therefore, if we want an alternative herbicide that is less toxic, we do not have any options for urban areas.

What about organic herbicides?

Many people associate “organic” with “safer.”  This can be misleading because it depends on how safety is measured. For example, there are multiple organic herbicides that are considered to have the same or even higher toxicity when compared with glyphosate, because many of them have irritant and corrosive properties. Furthermore, organic herbicides have dramatically different herbicidal properties that make them unlikely alternatives to effectively replace glyphosate.

Glyphosate has one of the broadest spectrums of control, so it kills many different weed species effectively. Also, glyphosate works systemically. This means that it is absorbed by leaves and then moves inside the plant to growing points, roots, and other propagating structures. This systemic effect increases the ability to kill relatively large plants. In contrast, the majority of organic herbicides have a contact effect, so they only kill the tissue they touch without being able to move inside the plant. Therefore, they are effective at killing very small plants (<2 inches tall). Large plants can suffer leaf burning after treatment with organic herbicides, and if the application is done properly, the user will see a lot of control shortly after the application (Fig. 1). However, the plants will soon recover and the control level will decrease because, unlike plants treated with systemic herbicides, they can produce new growth from tissues that were not directly expose to the herbicide.

Figure 1. White clover (4 inches tall) control after treatment with glyphosate and twelve different organic herbicides based on natural oil extracts from plants. The green bars represent the level of control 7 days after treatment (DAT) and the yellow bars indicate control 21 DAT.

Figure 1. White clover (4 inches tall) control after treatment with glyphosate and twelve different organic herbicides based on natural oil extracts from plants. The green bars represent the level of control 7 days after treatment (DAT) and the yellow bars indicate control 21 DAT.

Considering the lack of alternatives to replace glyphosate, if you want to stop using this herbicide, and you do not want to use any other synthetic herbicides, because their toxicity might be higher, then you need to recognize that weed management will be more challenging. It is unfair to ask lawn care companies or members of HOAs to stop using the tools they have to control weeds and yet expect “weed free” lawns, gardens, and landscapes. Controlling weeds in these scenarios without glyphosate and other synthetic herbicides will require more intensive use of mechanical control approaches and hand weeding. Also, if relying on organic herbicides, these herbicides will have to be frequently applied (probably once or twice a week) in order to kill the weeds at the right time (before they get too big). Also, all these activities will increase weed control costs and the results will likely be not as satisfactory. Thus, you might end up paying more to have lawns and landscapes that will have more weeds escaping control. If this is not acceptable to you, then you probably should be more open to consider the weed control tools we have available. Also, you should be more vigilant about what are the appropriate ways to use them to minimize their risks to humans and the environment, while obtaining the benefits that you are seeking. Otherwise, you should get used to seeing more weeds in the landscape, and to be fair… this might not be as bad as some people think.

 

PG

Author: rglg – rglg@ufl.edu

rglg

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2016/05/27/challenges-for-use-of-glyphosate-alternatives-in-urban-landscapes/

Disposing Of Grass Clippings Can Be A Pain But Alternatives Exist

IMG_4398As if mowing the lawn wasn’t trouble enough, dealing with and disposing of grass clippings is a major pain.

Clumps of grass clippings left on the lawn are unsightly and cause the grass beneath them to turn yellow due to a lack of sunlight as well as oxygen.

That problem is somewhat eliminated if you have a bag attachment on your mower, but handling the grass clippings extends the chore of mowing by taking extra time and effort to repeatedly empty the bag. Then, once clippings are put in garbage bags and placed on the curb, our municipal waste handlers must deal with them.

What to Do?

On the other hand, if we manage our lawns correctly and use proper cutting practices, we can have nice lawns without bagging clippings.

Properly managed, grass clippings will not contribute to thatch buildup or other problems. As they decompose, grass clippings also can supply much of the nutrients needed by your lawn.

Since you’ve already got it, why throw it away?

Bag-free Lawn Care Plan

IMG_4397You can follow this bag-free lawn care plan using a traditional lawn mower:

 

  • For an established lawn, cut at the lower recommended cutting heights for your grass and use the lowest recommended amount of fertilizer. Mowing grass at a lower height will discourage thatch build-up.
  • The rule of thumb for when to mow is to remove no more than about one-third of the leaf area at a time. If this practice is followed, the clippings will be small enough to sift into the turf and naturally decompose near the soil surface.
  • To be successful, you will need to mow frequently enough so that the clippings are not too large. This may mean that the lawn can’t necessarily wait until Saturday morning. You must also mow at the recommended height. To ensure that your blade is set at the recommended height, set the mower wheel height on a concrete surface.

Here are some recommendations on various grasses and the heights at which to mow the grass:

  • Common Bermuda: mow at approximately 1½ inches.
  • Hybrid Bermuda: mow at approximately 1¼ inches.
  • Zoysia: mow at approximately 2 inches.
  • St. Augustine: mow at approximately 3 inches.
  • Centipede: mow at approximately 2 inches.

Under the bag-free plan, you may apply a second application of fertilizer to your lawn this month (The first application should have been done in late April.). But remember that fertilizing grass increases its rate of growth. Reducing the amount of fertilizer you apply to the lawn will reduce the amount of clippings you will have to deal with. However, the one turf I would completely eliminate from a second fertilizer application annually is centipede. Too much fertilization in centipede can cause many more problems than any benefits that may arise from it.

A complete turf fertilizer is recommended for the average lawn. The best is a blend with more nitrogen, little phosphorus and some potash. Fertilizers with nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium ratios of 3:1:2 or 4:1:2 are good for turf. Choose a blend that contains some controlled-release nitrogen for longer feeding.

Don’t forget that recycled clippings also add nutrients, so fertilize at one-half the recommended rates – or not at all – if the grass color, growth and general appearance are acceptable.

Other practices will add to your success. First, don’t over water your lawn. During the hottest summer period lawns don’t need more than about an inch of water a week. Water as needed for weather conditions, and wait until the grass actually shows some stress before watering. Drought-stressed lawns often appear slightly faded, and the grass blades may be folded or rolled up.

Cut your grass when the leaf blades are dry (wait for the dew to dry). The clippings will sift down to the soil better. Make sure your mower blades are sharp, and keep the mower housing clean for best cutting and movement of clippings. You may need to have your mower blade sharpened once or twice in the growing season to properly cut your grass rather than having a dull blade  ear your grass.

If you own or are thinking of buying a mulching mower, you’ll find they do an excellent job of chopping grass clippings and fit very well into this kind of program. Because these mowers are designed specially to chop grass clippings finely and return them to the lawn, they are a bit more forgiving if you wait slightly longer than recommended before mowing. Always avoid letting the grass get excessively tall before you mow.

 For more in depth lawn care information, consult “Your Florida Lawn” or contact your County Extension Agent.

 

PG

Author: Robert Trawick – rob.trawick@ufl.edu

I’m the horticulture extension agent in Jackson County, Florida. I received my B.S. and M.S. degrees at Auburn University in Auburn, Alabama. Previously I was the residential horticulture extension agent for Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, LA and Lafayette, LA.

Robert Trawick

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2013/08/19/disposing-of-grass-clippings-can-be-a-pain-but-alternatives-exist/