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  • Author or Editor: Geoffrey C. Denny x
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Recent concerns over the environmental impact of peat harvesting have led to restrictions on the production of peat in Florida and other areas. The objectives of this study were to evaluate the use of composted dairy manure solids as a substitute for sphagnum or reed-sedge peat in container substrates on the growth of Solenostemon scutellarioides L. Codd ‘Wizard Velvet’, Tagetes patula L. ‘Safari Queen’, and Begonia ×hybrida ‘Dragon Wing Red’ and to examine the nutrient content in leachate from pots. Plants were grown for 5 weeks in a greenhouse in 15-cm plastic pots with seven substrates containing various proportions of sphagnum peat (S) or reed-sedge peat (R) and composted dairy manure solids (C), each with 20% vermiculite and 20% perlite. Substrate composition had no effect on plant quality ratings, number of flowers, or root dry mass for any of the plant species evaluated. Substrate composition did not affect the growth index (GI) or shoot dry mass of S. scutellarioides ‘Wizard Velvet’ or the GI of T. patula ‘Safari Queen’. However, growth of B. ×hybrida ‘Dragon Wing Red’ (GI and shoot dry mass) and T. patula ‘Safari Queen’ (shoot dry mass only) was highest in the 3S:0R:0C substrate. The substrates containing sphagnum peat and/or composted dairy manure solids (3S:0R:0C, 2S:0R:1C and 1S:0R:2C) had the highest NH4-N losses through the first 7 d of production. The 0S:3R:0C substrate had the highest initial leachate NO3+NO2-N losses and this trend persisted throughout most of the production cycle. Significantly more dissolved reactive phosphorus was leached from substrate mixes containing composted dairy manure solids than mixes containing only sphagnum or reed-sedge peat materials through 19 d after planting. All substrates tested as part of this study appeared to be commercially acceptable for production of container-grown bedding plant species based on plant growth and quality. However, nutrient losses from the containers differed depending on the peat or peat substitute used to formulate the substrates.

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The urban soil environment is usually not conducive to healthy root growth and function, leading to problems with plant establishment, growth, and aesthetic quality. The objective of this study was to determine if the addition of compost with or without the application of shallow tillage or aeration will improve soil physical and chemical properties and plant growth compared with an unamended control in simulated new residential landscapes. Twenty-four mixed landscape plots were established in a randomized complete block design to simulate new residential landscapes. Each plot was constructed using 10 cm of subsoil fill material over a compacted field soil and planted with Stenotaphrum secundatum and mixed ornamental plant species. Composted dairy manure solids were applied as an organic soil amendment at a depth of 5 cm (≈256 Mg·ha−1) in combination with two mechanical soil treatments (tillage to 15 cm and plug aeration) for a total of five soil management treatments plus an untreated control. Soil physical and chemical properties, plant growth, and quality and plant tissue nutrient concentrations were assessed periodically to determine the effect of soil treatment on soil and plant quality. Applications of compost to soils significantly reduced soil bulk density and pH and increased soil organic matter, electrical conductivity, and Mehlich-1 phosphorus and potassium concentrations. All ornamental plant species, with the exception of Raphiolepis indica (L.) Lindl. ex Ker Gawl., exhibited more growth when grown in soils amended with composted dairy manure solids. In most instances, plant tissue nitrogen and phosphorus concentrations were higher for plants grown in soils receiving compost. Results of our study suggested that the addition of composted dairy manure solids to soils can improve soil properties and enhance plant growth in residential landscapes when sandy fill soils are used. In contrast, shallow tillage and aeration had little effect on soil properties or plant growth.

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Current nitrogen (N) fertilizer recommendations for landscape-grown ornamentals are based on limited research. The objective of this research was to evaluate plant response of selected warm- and cool-season annuals to N fertilizer applied at five rates in the landscape. Three warm-season annual species [‘Profusion Cherry’ zinnia (Zinnia elegans ×angustifolia), ‘Cora White’ vinca (Catharanthus roseus), and ‘Golden Globe’ melampodium (Melampodium divaricatum)] and three cool-season annual species [‘Telstar Crimson’ dianthus (Dianthus chinensis), ‘Delta Pure Violet’ pansy (Viola wittrockiana), and ‘Montego Yellow’ snapdragon (Antirrhinum majus)] were transplanted into raised beds containing subsoil fill in U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) hardiness zone 9a. Slow-release N fertilizer was applied over an 18-week period at an annual N rate of 0, 2, 4, 6, and 12 lb/1000 ft2. Trials were replicated a second year. Plant size index (SI), tissue chlorophyll (SPAD), and plant quality were determined every 6 weeks. Shoot biomass and tissue total Kjeldahl N (TKN) were determined at 18 weeks. Regression analysis indicated that all species required N inputs at annual rates exceeding 8 lb/1000 ft2 to achieve maximum size, shoot biomass, or SPAD. However, acceptable quality plants were produced at much lower N rates. We suggest application of N fertilizer at a rate of 4 to 6 lb/1000 ft2 per year to landscape-grown annuals to maintain acceptable plant quality and growth. We expect fertilization at lower rates (based on aesthetics) can reduce the amount of fertilizer applied and the potential for nutrient losses in runoff or leachate. Future research should address N fertilization needs in higher fertility soils as well as the response of other plant species.

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Recent research suggested that the nitrogen (N) fertilizer rates needed to maintain high-quality landscape plants was lower than rates needed to grow the largest size plants. Our objective was to evaluate the effect of N fertilizer rate on the aesthetic quality of various landscape-grown annual and perennials species. Nineteen cool-season annuals, 20 warm-season annuals, and 4 perennials were planted into raised beds containing subsoil fill material in a completely randomized design in west-central Florida (U.S. Department of Agriculture hardiness zone 9b). Plants were fertilized every 12 weeks with polymer coated, slow-release N (42N–0P–0K) fertilizer at annual N rate of 3, 5, or 7 lb/1000 ft2 (annuals) or 1, 3, or 5 lb/1000 ft2 (perennials). Plants were rated for aesthetic quality every 6 weeks for a period of 18 weeks (annuals) or 54 weeks (perennials). For most species, quality ratings of plants fertilized with 3 lb/1000 ft2 of N per year (annuals) or 1 lb/1000 ft2 of N per year (perennials) were not significantly lower than plants receiving higher rates of N annually. Previously reported N fertilizer recommendations for central Florida of 2 to 4 lb/1000 ft2 per year should be adequate for maintaining acceptable quality landscape-grown annual and herbaceous perennial plant species.

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Research supporting recommendations for fertilizer needs of landscape-grown vines and groundcovers is lacking. The objectives of our study were to (1) evaluate the quality response of selected vine and groundcover species to nitrogen (N) fertilization at five rates and (2) validate the recommended N fertilizer rates (from the initial evaluation) by monitoring quality of additional landscape-grown vine and groundcover species. Three vine species and two groundcover species were planted in west-central Florida into raised beds containing subsoil fill material in a completely randomized design. Plants were fertilized every 6 weeks with a controlled release fertilizer (20N–0P–0K–23S) at an annual N rate of 0, 2, 4, 6, or 12 lb/1000 ft2. Plant aesthetic quality (0–5 scale) was assessed every 6 weeks for 30 weeks after planting. Although quality of some species increased significantly as N rate increased, all plants supplied with at least 4 lb/1000 ft2 per year N fertilizer had acceptable quality ratings of 3 or better. Screening of three additional vines and four additional groundcovers fertilized with controlled release fertilizer (42N–0P–0K) at an annual N rate of 3, 5, or 7 lb/1000 ft2 confirmed that fertilization with 2 to 4 lb/1000 ft2 per year should be adequate to maintain acceptable vines and groundcovers grown in the landscape in west-central Florida.

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There is limited research regarding proper fertilization rates and timing for landscape-grown herbaceous perennials. Most current nitrogen (N) fertilizer recommendations for landscape-grown perennials are based on rates for woody landscape plants or on rates for greenhouse-grown perennials. In addition, most fertilizer guidelines are defined to achieve peak growth, which may not be the best indicator of desirable plant quality. Basing fertilizer input rates on plant quality levels rather than maximum growth may result in a lower fertilizer application rate and a reduction in excess fertilizer available for leaching. The objective of this research was to evaluate the response of landscape-grown herbaceous perennials to N fertilizer applied at five rates. Five herbaceous perennials [bush daisy (Gamolepis chrysanthemoides), ‘New Gold’ lantana (Lantana ×hybrid), ‘Mystic Spires’ salvia (Salvia longispicata ×farinacea), ‘Evergreen Giant’ liriope (Liriope muscari), and ‘White Christmas’ caladium (Caladium bicolor)] were transplanted into raised landscape beds containing subsoil fill in U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) hardiness zone 9a. Controlled-release N fertilizer was applied at an annual N rate of 0, 2, 4, 6, and 12 lb/1000 ft2 for 96 weeks. Plant size index (SI), tissue chlorophyll, and plant quality were measured every 6 weeks for 96 weeks. Flower cover was determined every 6 weeks from 42 to 96 weeks. Shoot biomass and tissue total Kjeldahl N (TKN) were measured at 96 weeks after planting (WAP). Regression analyses suggested that some species required in excess of 12 lb/1000 ft2 N to reach maximum size, chlorophyll content, and shoot biomass. However, plants exhibited quality ratings of good to excellent at annual N rates of 2 to 4 lb/1000 ft2 N per year. We suggest that these low to moderate levels of N fertilization (2 to 4 lb/1000 ft2 N per year) will provide sufficient N to produce acceptable size and quality herbaceous perennials in the landscape.

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