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S. Christopher Marble, Andrew K. Koeser, and Gitta Hasing

Weed control continues to be one of the most expensive and time consuming aspects of landscape maintenance. Many homeowners are becoming more interested in nonchemical pest-management strategies due to increasing concern over the environmental impact of pesticide use. Nonchemical landscape weed control can be achieved using mechanical disruption (e.g., mowing, hand-pulling, hoeing, and tilling), physical barriers, or cultural control methods (e.g., mulching and plant selection). However, the best results are almost always achieved when employing a variety of methods (often involving chemical control methods). In adopting a weed control strategy, client expectations and weed tolerances must be addressed. While a virtually weed-free landscape is possible without the use of herbicides, this goal often requires a significant amount of time and money, and requires more planning to be successful. The goal of this manuscript is survey the literature pertaining to nonchemical weed control in landscape planting beds and determine: 1) the most effective strategies; 2) the advantages and disadvantages of common practices; and 3) highlight areas where research is needed or improvements could be made.

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S. Christopher Marble, Andrew K. Koeser, and Gitta Hasing

Use of preemergence and postemergence herbicides is the most effective and economical method of weed control in landscape planting beds. When used correctly, herbicides can provide satisfactory weed control, reduce labor costs, and cause little or no negative environmental impacts. Major factors in herbicide efficacy include choosing the correct herbicide for the weed species present, following proper calibration procedures, and applying herbicides at the correct timing. The objective of this review is to provide a comprehensive analysis of the research pertaining to herbicide use in landscape planting beds and present 1) the advantages and disadvantages of common chemical weed control strategies, 2) the most effective preemergence and postemergence herbicides in various landscape scenarios, 3) potential environmental concerns pertaining to improper application of herbicides, and 4) highlight knowledge gaps where additional research is needed or improvements could be made.

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Kimberly A. Moore, Amy L. Shober, Gitta Hasing, Christine Wiese, and Nancy G. West

Previous research indicated that acceptable quality annual and perennial plant species can be grown in the landscape with low nitrogen (N) inputs. However, information on the impact of soil conditions and N use by ornamental plants grown in central Florida is lacking in the literature. Our objective was to evaluate plant growth and quality response of eight warm-season annuals, seven cool-season annuals, and four herbaceous perennial species to a range of N fertilizer rates when plants were grown in landscape beds containing native field soil or subsoil fill. A slow-release N source (42N–0P–0K) was applied every 12 weeks at annual N rates of 3, 5, or 7 lb/1000 ft2 for a period of 18 weeks (annual species) or 1, 3, or 5 lb/1000 ft2 for a period of 54 weeks (perennial species). Plants were evaluated for aesthetic quality every 6 weeks and shoot dry weight was measured at completion of the experiment. Dry weight production and aesthetic quality of most species evaluated was unaffected by N rate. For several species, shoot dry weight was higher when planted in the field plots containing native soil [alyssum (Lobularia maritima) ‘Bada Bing White’ wax begonia (Begonia ×semperflorens-cultorum), dahlberg daisy (Thymophylla tenuiloba), ‘Survivor Hot Pink’ geranium (Pelargonium ×hortorum), gomphrena (Gomphrena globosa), ‘Blue Puffs Improved’ (‘Blue Danube’) ageratum (Ageratum houstonianum), blanket flower (Gaillardia pulchella), goldenrod (Solidago chapmanii), ‘Mystic Spires’ salvia (Salvia longispicata ×farinacea)]. Quality response to soil condition was mixed over the course of the study. Several species performed as well (or better) in the field as when planted in the subsoil fill soils. These results illustrate that some landscape plant species are able to survive and thrive under various soil and fertility conditions. These “tougher” species may be good choices for installation in landscapes with marginal native soils or disturbed urban landscape soils.

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S. Christopher Marble, Andrew K. Koeser, Gitta Hasing, Drew McClean, and Annette Chandler

Organic mulch is commonly used in landscape planting beds to improve plant growth and reduce competition from weed species. Although many different mulch materials have been evaluated in landscape, forestry, or agricultural settings, there have been no previous reports concerning the maintenance costs associated with different mulch materials from a weed control perspective. Trials were conducted at two locations in Florida to estimate the annual maintenance costs associated with pine bark nuggets (bark derived from pine species not specified) and pine straw mulch [mix of longleaf pine (Pinus palustris) and slash pine (Pinus taeda) needles] with and without the use of a granular preemergence herbicide when maintained at similar depths in schilling’s holly (Ilex vomitoria ‘Schilling’s Dwarf’) shrub beds and asiatic jasmine (Trachelospermum asiaticum ‘Minima’) groundcover beds. Weed coverage and residual mulch depth were tracked over time, with maximum and minimum thresholds (20% and 2 inches, respectively) set as triggers for maintenance activities. Results showed that the addition of herbicide (trifluralin + isoxaben) had little to no impact on weeding frequency or time when plots were mulched, but did reduce hand weeding frequency and time compared with nontreated, nonmulched plots. Both mulch materials used alone reduced hand weeding frequency and time compared with herbicide-only treatments. Although results varied by bed type and location, pine bark generally provided greater weed control compared with pine straw and required fewer mulch additions and less mulch by volume. Results from this study suggests that using pine bark nuggets as mulch may result in lower maintenance costs and weed pressure compared with pine straw when both are applied and maintained at 2-inch depths.

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Amy L. Shober, Andrew K. Koeser, Drew C. McLean, Gitta Hasing, and Kimberly K. Moore

Several Florida cities and counties ban fertilization during the summer rainy season (fertilizer blackout). Little research is available to support or contradict the underlying justifications for these policies. We used large-volume lysimeters to address the impacts of several fertilization regimes on plant growth and aesthetics of sweet viburnum (Viburnum odoratissimum Ker Gawl.) and nitrogen (N) leaching from landscape beds during shrub establishment and maintenance. Three levels of N fertilization (98, 195, and 293 kg·ha−1), two levels of application method (per plant and broadcast), two levels of fertilization timing (regular and blackout), and an unfertilized control (0 kg·ha−1 N) were applied to lysimeters in a completely randomized design with three replicates (3 × 2 × 2 factorial plus untreated control). Increasing fertilization rate increased plant growth and improved plant quality, but also increased N leaching from lysimeters. Including a summer fertilization blackout period reduced nitrate + nitrite (NO3 + NO2-N) loading from lysimeters during sweet viburnum establishment [0 to 28 weeks after planting (WAP)] compared with year-round fertilization at the same total N rate without adversely impacting plant growth or aesthetics. However, NO3 + NO2-N loads from lysimeters were higher when fertilizers were applied on the summer blackout application schedule during the shrub maintenance period. Targeted (per plant) fertilization beneath the dripline of sweet viburnum at an annual N rate of 195 kg·ha−1 can maintain plant health while limiting N leaching losses on a year-round or blackout fertilization schedule.

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Amy L. Shober, Kimberly A. Moore, Nancy G. West, Christine Wiese, Gitta Hasing, Geoffrey Denny, and Gary W. Knox

Despite inconsistent reports of nitrogen (N) fertilization response on growth of landscape-grown woody ornamentals, broad N fertilization recommendations exist in the literature. The objective of this research was to evaluate the growth and quality response of three landscape-grown woody shrub species to N fertilizer. Three ornamental shrub species, ‘Alba’ indian hawthorn (Raphiolepis indica), sweet viburnum (Viburnum odoratissimum), and ‘RADrazz’ (Knock Out™) rose (Rosa) were transplanted into field soils in central Florida (U.S. Department of Agriculture 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 100 weeks. Plant size index measurements, SPAD readings (a measure of greenness), and visual quality ratings were completed every month through 52 weeks after planting (WAP) and then every 3 months through 100 WAP. Plant tissue total Kjeldahl N (TKN) concentrations and shoot biomass were measured at 100 WAP. Results of regression analysis indicated little to no plant response (size index, biomass, SPAD) to N fertilizer rate. Shrub quality was acceptable for all species through 76 WAP regardless of the N fertilization rate. However, quality of rose and sweet viburnum fertilized with N at the low rates (<2 lb/1000 ft2) was less than acceptable (<3 out of 5) after 76 WAP. Results suggest that posttransplant applications of fertilizer may not increase plant growth, but that low-to-moderate levels of N fertilization (2 to 4 lb/1000 ft2 per year) may help plant maintain quality postestablishment.

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Kimberly A. Moore, Amy L. Shober, Gitta S. Hasing, Christine L. Wiese, Geoffrey C. Denny, and Gary W. Knox

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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Amy L. Shober, Kimberly A. Moore, Gitta S. Hasing, Christine Wiese, Geoffrey C. Denny, and Gary W. Knox

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.