Backyard cuttings

Briefs: Can gardening make you sick?

Another reason to drink coffee: grounds for the garden

Coffee grounds are a good ingredient in the compost pile, and some gardeners sprinkle them on garden beds or work them into the top inches of soil to help boost acidity. Some experts are finding coffee grounds may even help control a new soft scale insect that's attacking crotons in Florida. Scale insects suck the life out of plants. Before yours succumb, inspect the leaves and stems of crotons for the tiny greenish-yellow female bugs and males that look like orange and white gnats. If your plants are infected, prune off and discard the infested branches or leaves and treat with a horticultural oil spray (check with your local extension service for details). Apply coffee grounds regularly to nearby soil. Some gardeners are even feeding coffee to perfectly healthy crotons to possibly prevent scale infestation. Not a coffee drinker? You can pick up free bags of coffee grounds at Starbucks.

Turfgrass, RIP

If you've noticed plenty of classified ads for lawnmowers lately, there's a good reason. Many homeowners are fed up with mowing, watering, fertilizing and chemicals. There are several ways to remove turf, including digging it out or smothering it with newspaper and landscape cloth. You'll learn the best ways to go grass-free and see the plants to replace it with at the Suncoast Sierra Club's Florida Friendly Garden Tour from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Oct. 11 in St. Petersburg. A professional horticulturist and native plant specialist will lead the free tour. Registration is required. Call (727) 896-3130 or email ellengthompson@yahoo.com.

Cut energy costs with plants

By strategically placing trees and other plants in your yard, you can lower heating and cooling costs by as much as 20 percent, reports the Florida Nursery, Growers and Landscape Association in Orlando. Just one tree shading an air conditioning unit will increase its efficiency by 10 percent, and three trees added to the landscape to provide shade results in up to $250 in energy savings annually.

Another reason to go green

If you're picking more weeds than ever, blame it on global warming. A government study found weeds grow up to four times higher in cities where air temperatures are warmer and there's more carbon dioxide than in the country. The USDA predicts weeds will be more difficult and costly to control. You can slow weeds in garden beds by top dressing with up to 3 inches of mulch. A layer of landscape fabric, newspapers or cardboard underneath mulch also helps. Keep ground covering away from the home's foundation and around the base of trees and plants.

Can gardening make you sick?

Yes, if you haven't had a tetanus shot in more than 10 years or never had the childhood tetanus vaccines, reports the CDC. The bacteria that causes tetanus, sometimes known as lockjaw, is found in soil, dust and manure and enters the body through open cuts and scratches. Symptoms of tetanus include painful muscle spasms throughout the body. Do yourself a favor — get a booster tetanus shot and always wear garden gloves when working with compost and soil.

Yvonne Swanson, Times correspondent

Briefs: Can gardening make you sick? 10/03/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, November 3, 2010 2:34pm]

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