Plan a rotation for colorful annuals
Q: Can you recommend the best annuals for a sunny flower bed for each of the seasons (spring, summer, fall and winter) here in Palm Harbor? I had good luck with Vinca one year, but they have developed root fungus the last two times I planted them. I would really appreciate your best choices. Chris Littrell, Palm Harbor
A: The sky is the limit when adding color to your plant beds, so I'll refer you to a great publication, "Gardening With Annuals In Florida" at edis.ifas.ufl.edu/mg319.
It discusses everything from preparing the beds, how to fertilize, prune, dead head, irrigate, control pests, but best of all it gives you a planting date and take-out date for each selection. If you don't feel industrious, you may only want one takeout: caladiums (April-November) and petunias (November-April).
To add a little pizazz, try a three-plant rotation: salvia (March-June), wax begonia (June-November) and snapdragons (November-March).
If you're feeling spunky, really go wild starting off with angelonia (March-May), marigolds (June-August), New Guinea impatiens (September-November) and calibrachoa (December-February)
The three examples only show one-plant per rotation, however, you can go Disney and use two, three or four plants for each rotation based on height and size and absolutely electrify your front yard. With a little planning, your plant beds will be the envy of your neighborhood, a whole lot more attractive than boring grass.
Basket grass takes over the neighborhood
Q: We have a weed that is growing all over our property and the adjoining neighbors' properties. It has long pointy leaves and gets to a height of about 12 inches. It spreads quickly as a vine and chokes out everthing else including grass. The only thing that seams to kill it is Round-up, but that also kills everything else. Is there anyway to control or eliminate this plant? Louis Di Girolomo, Valrico
A: You have a groundcover version of Kudzu. You have been invaded by basket grass, Oplismenus setarious, which makes a great shady ground cover until it escapes and grows as mat covering everything in sight.
To selectively control the grass while not killing your ornamentals, you need to use a selective herbicide containing fluazifop such as Greenlight Bermudagrass Killer, Ortho Grass-B-Gon or Bayer Bermudagrass Killer. For extreme problems, Fusilade II is a commercial product that contains a much higher percentage of the active ingredient and can be purchased at John Deere Landscapes. Be sure to follow label directions carefully for rates so you don't kill your ornamentals.
Pretty shape, stinky fungus
Q: While mowing the grass yesterday I saw this beautiful, intricate formation. It was about 3 inches by 5 inches in size with dark worms inside. It disintegrated into a puddle by this morning. Do you know what it was? Blanche Tuxhorn
A: The little alien that you have pictured that you found while mowing is called a "stink horn" fungus, which causes no harm. The fungus starts out as an egglike structure, commonly in mulch or other organic base with most of the structure underground. When enough moisture is present it ruptures, exposing the mushroom (fruiting body), which takes on one of three basic shapes, stalklike, globular or latticed, such as the one that you found, commonly pinkish to orange in Florida. They can smell pretty bad, like rotting meat, which attracts flies, which explains the worms that you saw inside, most likely maggots (the larval stage of flies).