<span>January 2018</span>

  • Best Time to Plant Palm Trees in Florida

    Florida is known as the Sunshine State for good reason. With its subtropical climate and the most beachfront in the country, the peninsula is home to many exotic species of plants, and among the highly prevalent are palm trees. With so much sun, plenty of rainfall and miles and miles of white sand beaches running along the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Ocean, palms are part of practically every landscape in the state.

    Though there are about a dozen species which are native to Florida, many more have been introduced to the Sunshine State that hail from Asia and South America, according to the Department of Biological Sciences at Florida International University. Surprisingly, the majority of palm trees on the peninsula aren’t native to the state, but the climate is just perfect for these trees associated with tropical living. Of the native species, six are Paurotis, Needle, Cabbage, Thatch, Silver, and Royal; and, there are another half dozen which are also native, however, the transplants still outnumber these species.

    Regardless of species, these trees love the sun but surprisingly, some of them thrive remarkably in what many lay-people would believe to be too adverse. There are actually palm species which grow and survive in cold climates where temperatures can fall to 10 degrees below zero. Though these species cannot tolerate cooler temperatures, especially when the mercury falls below 50 degrees or more.

    Best Time to Plant Palm Trees in Florida

    Most people know that the best time to plant ornamental trees and shrubs is during the early fall. The reason for this is because there’s enough time for the roots to take hold and grow before the first summer, a season that’s typically most stressful. However, the quite the opposite is true for palm trees. Though palms can be transplanted during any time during the year, the best time to plant young palm trees is during the spring or early summer.

    Of the 17 nutrients that are essential for plant growth, only the 6 nutrients discussed above typically cause deficiency problems for south Florida landscape palms. Fertilizers for palms should be chosen carefully, with attention to the content of K, Mn, Fe, Mg, N, and B. Like most plants, palms can be affected by innumerable pests. There are, however, 3 key pest problems in south Florida that produce significant symptoms on mature landscape palms: Royal Palm Bug, Lethal Yellowing, and Ganoderma Butt Rot. —Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida

    Palms planted during the spring and early summer can take advantage of rising soil and air temperatures, two key components to their young health. This provides ample time for the roots to develop, take hold, and nourish the tree before temperatures begin to fall five to six month later in the late fall and early winter.

    How to Plant a Palm Tree

    Timing is important to growing a health palm, but equally so is planting in the right manner. Because these come in a variety of species, not all tolerate full sun exposure well. Some species do not thrive or even grow under direct sunlight. If you have a young palm that prefers partial shade, you can acclimate it to the sun by placing it in a pot and exposing it to sunlight incrementally over several weeks.

    When you’re ready to plant a palm tree, you should follow these steps to give it the best start and grow healthy in its first five to six months prior to late fall and early winter:

    1. Pick a spot that will accommodate your palm in its maturity. Depending on the species, your palm might grow up-to fifty feet and span out its palms several feet in each direction. So, choose a spot that’s free of erected infrastructure, like utility lines if your tree will grow to this height or more.
    2. Dig a hole that’s sized appropriately. Palms can be shocked by transplanting, particularly when being moved from a container to a hole that’s too deep. It’s important to dig a hole that’s about twice as wide as the root ball, but just deep enough to accommodate it.
    3. Scores the sides of the hole to promote growth. When you place the palm into the hole, you should score the walls of the hole with a shovel to loosen the surrounding soil so the roots have ample opportunity to grow out.
    4. Water the roots. To stimulate the tree and acclimate it to its new home, reducing transfer shock, you should wet the roots but not too much.
    5. Add soil mix to the dirt. Palms need a bit of a primer to help them get off to a great start. Add soil mix, Canadian peat moss works best, along with about 30 percent of sand. Palms thrive in well-drained soil that’s moist but not soaked.
    6. Create a barrier around the base. Use organic mulch to build a three inch barrier around the base of the tree to help trap nutrients and moisture.

    Water your newly planted palm daily for two weeks and then slowly taper-off over the next few months for best growing results.

  • Big Time Outdoor Kitchen Mistakes

    When it comes to the ultimate in outdoor living, nothing beats an outside kitchen, complete with all the amenities of a traditional interior space. It takes entertainment to a whole new level and is ideal for hosting parties around the pool and nice for family dinners on weekend evenings.

    There’s just one, actually several, problems that homeowners inadvertently invent and invite on themselves because they do not take into consideration some undeniable factors. Every home improvement project comes with its own set of challenges and just like hardscaping or implementing measures to deal with common pests, it isn’t a simple do-it-yourself proposition.

    To make the most of your existing landscape, you’ll want to expand upon the theme already in place. One thing you really want to avoid is not synchronizing your new kitchen with your existing features. If you do, it will look out-of-place and that will negatively impact your home’s value come resale time.

    Planning an Outdoor Kitchen Design

    Like any other home improvement, planning is the key to success. That starts with creating a realistic budget and taking into account contingencies for unexpected problems. Determine your budget and subtract at least 10 percent for unwelcome problems. Then, begin to plan the ebb and flow of your new outdoor kitchen and do not be unwilling to remove or move some current features.

    The outdoor kitchen takes the typical BBQ set up to the next level. It can include stovetop-style burners, griddles, roasting spits, sinks, refrigerators, storage space for dishes and cooking gear, low counters for prep work, bar-height counters for guests, stereo systems, TVs, and more. Outdoor kitchens range in cost from about $3,000 to, well, the sky’s the limit. —Desert News

    Your main focus is twofold: work space and proximity to an entrance and exit to your home, and your guests. For instance, you should place the grill in a place that’s easy to access from your home as you’ll likely be going in and out of your main kitchen. What’s more, you don’t want to put a huge space between the grill, landing space, and serving area.

    Avoid these Common Outdoor Kitchen Mistakes

    Unfortunately, too many homeowners commit serious mistakes when they install an outdoor kitchen. It’s often to do with ineffective planning and not thinking through most likely scenarios for prepping food, cooking meals, and serving them. Here are the biggest mistakes made when installing an outside kitchen:

    • Not enough light. It gets dark outside when the sun goes down. Everyone knows this meteorological fact, but for some strange reason, it goes without heeding when it comes to putting-in an outdoor kitchen. Since most homeowners do not spend much time in their backyard after sundown, it simply does not occur to them they will need plenty of lighting for preparing, cooking, and serving meals. Think about shadow-casting as, well, because such dark spots can confound cooking.
    • Isolating the cooking area. Another big mistake is to place the grill and landing space strategically out of the way from the serving and eating areas. Sure, you don’t want to wrap your guests in a shroud of smoke, but you also don’t want to cut the cook off from hungry guests. Having to shout across the yard will be disheartening and aggravating. Think carefully about where you’ll install the grill to avoid having to constantly walk back and forth to hear what you’re guests are saying.
    • Insufficient cabinet airflow. In the main kitchen, this usually isn’t much of a factor. However, outside is another matter. You don’t want to inadvertently create storage spaces which are a breeding ground for spores, molds, and fungus. Multiple vents are the answer to the conundrum of keeping stuff safely away from pests while providing adequate airflow. It’s important to remember that moisture will collect at the bottom of storage spaces, but vents should be placed low and high to mitigate the moisture factor.
    • Lack of landing space. Ample landing space is necessary for an outdoor kitchen because its intended use will be to cater to large groups. Having enough space for staging food to cook and to place before serving is essential.
    • Smoke from the grill. It seems like Murphy’s Law, but it is inevitably the case smoke will wind in the direction of the guest sitting area. A fan will be of good use here, along with an above the grill vent, minimizing the amount of smoke.

    In addition to these missteps, don’t pick the wrong materials. For instance, avoid wood, because moisture will be aplenty, wreaking havoc on the material and creating a perfect environment for mold, mildew, and pests. What’s more, be realistic by accurately assessing the amount of space you’ll actually need. Too many homeowners try to check their budget by creating a small space. That inevitably results in lack of functionality, which is a key component of any outdoor kitchen.

  • Ways to Reduce Swimming Pool Water Loss

    One of the single most confounding problems homeowners face with their pools is water loss. Often times, this is due to a leak, one which might be small enough to evade detection. It could be hidden in a place that’s not easily accessible, like at the base of the steps inside the pool, even around a submerged, interior light, or, somewhere else that’s difficult to see.

    More often that not, swimming pool water loss is due to evaporation. While this is completely normal, it can be more than just a natural phenomenon. Water evaporation is inevitable, and here in the Sunshine State, particularly along the coast of Sarasota, summer temperatures can easily rise into the mid 90’s. That amount of sun is enough to zap a pool of some water. As the months go by, water levels might begin to drop enough to be noticeable.

    You might not think this to be a big deal, but water waste will always cost you in the end. It could be as simple as having to top-off your swimming pool, or, it could mean having it completely drained and professionally repaired. Even if it doesn’t seem that your pool is losing water, it likely is, and there are steps you can take in order to minimize waste.

    Proper Swimming Pool Maintenance Tips

    About two or three times per week, you should empty the skimmer and pump basket. These can easily become clogged and stoppage is detrimental to the system. Both of these can require more frequent cleaning, depending on the proximity of your pool to trees and other debris spreaders. Leaves, twigs, and branches are not only problematic to keep out of your pool, but also, these can contaminate its water, throwing off the pH level and balance.

    Water bills can fluctuate quite a bit throughout the year and tend to peak during the summer when people water their lawns, turn up air-conditioning systems that use water, wash cars and even fill swimming pools. The good news is that there are reliable ways to reduce your water consumption, which in turn means lowering your expenses. As an added bonus, using less water also means reducing your energy consumption and lessening your environmental footprint.–U.S. News and World Report

    In addition to routine pump basket and skimmer cleaning, you should also brush the sides and bottom of your pool. Even pools equipped with an automatic pool cleaner, this device does not remove all contaminate particles, however, it does loosen debris, which can be cleaned from the pool by brushing. About once a week or more, a leaf scoop ought to be used, along with adding a sanitizer, and a check of the water level to ensure the pump operates correctly. In addition to these, test and adjust alkalinity, oxidizer, and stabilizer levels.

    Ways to Reduce Swimming Pool Water Loss

    Your pool is certainly a wonderful and fun feature of your home. It’s where you go to cool off during those hot summer days and makes a great gathering place for cooking out and entertaining guests. However, it does require regular maintenance, but this can be reduced, in-part, by limiting water evaporation loss:

    • Adjust the water temperature, if possible. If your pool is equipped with a temperature control, turn it down. During the summer months, when outdoor temperatures are high, this should be turned off. Warm water evaporates at a faster rate than cool water, which is an advantage that rainwaterprovides in lowering the temperature.
    • Turn waterfalls and other features off when not in use. Though waterfalls and other features certainly add to the appearance of a pool, they also add something else — surface area. The more water surface area a pool has, the more evaporation will occur. So, turn off any water features when you’re not using your pool.
    • Put a cover over your swimming pool. The single best step you can take to curtail evaporation and reduce water waste is to cover your pool. Manufacturers estimate that a cover can reduce evaporation by as much as 98 percent. In addition to this, a cover also reduces chemical and energy consumption up to 50 percent.
    • Keep pets out of the water. You’d probably be surprised by just how much water loss occurs with dogs going in and out of a pool. The amount, if measured, is nothing short of stunning. Keep the canines out of the pool when you can to reduce water loss.
    • Find and seal any leaks. This bears repeating and if you notice the water level drops by a quarter inch or more daily, you probably have at least one leak. These only worsen over time and should be found and sealed to reduce water waste.

    In addition to these steps, you should only backwash your pool filters when it’s necessary — this process uses extra water.