Thursday, December 4, 2014

Everyone's "Favorite" Invasive Plant

Tradescantia spathacea

Moses-in-the Cradle, Oyster Plant, Tradescantia spathacea

is by any name a plant the Urban Conservation Unit and I often find growing in all types of landscaped properties, including government and school grounds. Folks are just not aware of the invasive potential of this plant and also not aware the leaves are poisonous and the sap can cause a mild to severe dermatitis reaction for many who touch it.

Unquestionably Oyster plants  are attractive with a rich green topside and purple under leaf and they grow in a neat compact form.
However Tradescantia spathacea is listed as a Category II by the Florida Exotic Pest Plant Council. While not as serious a threat to natural areas as Category I plants, Category II plants are defined as " Invasive Exotics that have increased in abundance or frequency but have not yet altered Florida plant communities". This plant has been determined to be invasive by the Invasive Species Compendium and is under review by the Florida Exotic Pest Plant Council to be included as a Category I invasive plant.

Why do we see this plant in so many landscapes? It can sprout by wind blown seed  or seeds and stem pieces carried by water from other areas. Once a plant establishes itself it will rapidly multiply and monopolize all available space. Attempts at removal result in new plants sprouting from seed when the plants are disturbed by removal.  It is easily pulled out of the ground by hand or weeding hoe, gloves should be worn and care taken to avoid having sap splash into your eyes. Once removed, bag these, do not attempt to compost as new plant will grow from broken pieces of stems and roots. You will need to monitor and remove new seedlings as they sprout.

OK.... now you know you should remove these plants, what can you replace them with? Good news! There are lots of Florida-Friendly Landscape plants you can chose from that will thrive in our Zone 10a - 10b growing area with little to zero need for irrigation once established.

Some of my favorites "purples" are noted below:

Native porter weed is described as blue porter weed, 
however, I see purple. This native has a smaller, 
more delicate flower and is pale blue-purple.This plant may sometimes grow a bit raggedy in the winter especially if it's location  in the garden has become more shady as the earth tilts more towards the southern horizon. Remove them if needed and watch them sprout out and grow thick with blue flowers once  rainy season beings in late-May. Stachytarpheta jamaicensis is also a butterfly larval host plant for our mangrove buckeye/ Junonia genoveva. This is what native "plant people" call a "twofor", beautiful plant and beautiful butterfly!




Growing awareness of sustainability and how it relates to the concept of eating fresh and eating local brings us to another great choice. An edible groundcover! You can have a beautiful groundcover and eat it too. Okinawa spinach likes a bit of shade and will sometimes wilt on the hottest summer day but it quickly recovers especially with a sip of water from your rain barrel. The photo below is saturated with color on a rainy day growing outside our shadehouse. This planting faces south. Gynura crepioides is easily grown from cuttings.


Eating purple is delicious too. A quick internet search finds several interesting and simple recipes using Okinawa spinach.
Additional beautiful and Florida-Friendly choices include Mexican Heather, Purple Heart and the spectacular bromeliad, Aechmea Malva
  Contact us for lots more information, we will be happy to
share resources, books and data base information on plants that grow well, use little water and bring beauty and life to your Florida-Friendly Landscape!

Barbara McAdam
Program Outreach, Rain Barrel & Water Conservation Workshops

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Passing the savings on to you: Miami-Dade’s Landscape Irrigation Evaluation Program resets for 2015

Everyone likes an attractive, welcoming landscape, and you can have this while still being efficient with your water-use outdoors. Miami-Dade Water and Sewer and UF/IFAS Miami–Dade’s Urban Conservation Unit are here to get you on your way to water savings.


For 2014-2015, the Landscape Irrigation Evaluation Program (LIEP) has retained many of the incentives that homeowners and large properties throughout Miami-Dade are benefitting from. Just recently a large property in Brickell Key reported a 67% reduction on its irrigation bill! How were these savings achieved?

Right idea, wrong delivery: Planters can sometimes be an invitation to waste water
Participation in the LIEP for large properties translates to rebates of up to $2850 - a portion of which can go to repairs,  the bulk of which targets efficiency upgrades (such as the spray heads to drip line retrofit pictured below).

From risers above to micro below: drip irrigation delivers water slowly and directly to the root zone 
To complement those incentives, large properties are also assigned a weather-based timer to replace the current timer. These cutting-edge, smart devices use weather and landscape specifics to calculate irrigation run times daily, while also abiding by our local watering restrictions. Watch the video below to learn how the LIEP helped other properties bring their water expenses under control.


Single family homes are still very much the LIEP’s bread and butter. Nothing satisfies the UCU more than landing on your doorstep, running your irrigation system and telling you about the wide spectrum of water saving, rebate-worthy opportunities available for residential systems. Florida-friendly plant installs, large rainwater capture systems, even the latest Wi-Fi based, remotely accessible smart timers - the LIEP rebates all of these water saving attitudes.

Outdoor water-saving practices: a top 7 tips list
And if you’re anxious to preview how a smart timer can work for you, download UF’s free smart irrigation turf app. It’s programmed similar to a smart device and recommends adjustments to your watering schedule based on weather conditions just like a smart device does.

Get started saving water today. Find more information about participating in the Landscape Irrigation Evaluation Program here, print and mail/email a program contract below. or contact us at the office directly.

Single Family Home Contract                    Large Property Contract 

Jesus Lomeli
305-248-3311 ext. 246


By Guest Blogger

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Rain Barrel/Water Conservation Workshop in Spanish /Barriles de Lluvia y Conservación de Agua!

Continuing a great conservation partnership with our friends at Citizens for a Better South Florida, we are excited to present our first Rain Barrel/Water Conservation Workshop in Spanish on Saturday, September 13th. And since it is getting closer to our prime vegetable gardening season we will share cuttings from our shadehouse garden with folks at this workshop. Click on the plant photos for additional information on these simple and easy to grow drought tolerant plants that will thrive all year in South Florida.

Cuban Oregano
Okinawa Spinach
Red-Leafed Hibiscus
For additional information on the Barriles de Lluvia y Conservaci√≥n de Agua contact Lize at (305) 248-3311 EXT. 242

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Award winning team!

Our very own Florida Yards and Neighborhoods/ Urban Conservation Unit  is very honored  and proud to announce that the National Association of Counties (NACo) awarded our program with a “2014 Achievement Award” for Innovative Approaches to Conserve Water and Create Sustainable Landscapes in the category of ­­­­­­­­­Environmental Protection and Energy.
Our goal is to educate homeowners, school children, landscape maintenance staff, property managers, builders, developers, irrigation contractors, government, and private entities about the importance of water conservation and sustainable landscape practices. The following three arms at work help foster an ethic of conservation in our Miami-Dade community.
The three arms at work
Team FYN/UCU

With an amazing and hard working team, greater accomplishments are yet to come. We enjoy our work and appreciate the recognition.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Citizens for a Better South Florida Cistern Preparation Project Phase 2- Drip line irrigation

The cool breeze of Miami in early March was definitely a good time to complete the second phase of the Cistern project at the Citizens for a Better South Florida Bungalow. Once again the Urban Conservation Unit(UCU) joined forces with the University of Miami’s (UM) Engineers without Borders volunteers. The day's goal: install the drip line irrigation for the cistern-based system.
UF-UCU talks with UM Engineers without Borders!
We had the opportunity to listen to certified professionals Kevin Cavioli and Spencer Phillips explain different aspects of working with drip line.
Kevin talks drip!
Spencer lays out the plan
Drip irrigation is by far the best way to water shrubs, ornamental or trees because the water is dispensed at the root of the plant which is exactly where we want it.
Drip line
Though not as intense as digging trenches and cutting pipe, the day's labor was worth it. After the drip irrigation was installed, the lines were tested to check for clogs and also to ensure that all connections were correctly attached.
Drip line test
The UCU is excited to be part of this project, not only did we get to learn a few new skills in drip installation from the pro's but we also enjoyed very much working alongside great groups like Citizens for a Better South Florida and the UM Engineers without Borders. We'll definitely return to do our part for the final phases of work.

(images: Michael Gutierrezwater resources technician with UF/IFAS in the Ag & Bio Engineering Dept.)

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Citizens for a Better South Florida Cistern Preparation Project

In January I put down my clipboard and picked up some PVC pipe for an innovative irrigation project at the Citizens for a Better South Florida Bungalow located in Little Havana. When finished, this effort is going to be a monument to conservation for all of Miami to enjoy. Work is currently underway and of course the Urban Conservation Unit (UCU) is assisting every step of the way. 



The project is centered on an old, underground rainwater collection cistern. The cistern will be used as the main water source for irrigation at the site. 

Cistern located at the Citizens for a Better South Florida Bungalow 
The irrigation layout includes a weather-based irrigation timer, the landscape grouped into hydro-zones, and temporary, low-volume irrigation. Initially, the system will be used to establish new, low-maintenance and native plants and later only in the event of extreme drought. It will also serve to demonstrate for visitors and the community that, with a little planning, re-used water can fuel an efficient irrigation design.

Jesus Lomeli (UCU tech) talks smart irrigation
After a half-day of trenching and pipe-laying, phase one of the cistern preparation project is complete. All of this was only possible thanks to the large volunteer turnout from University of Miami’s Engineers without Borders and help from a water tech from UF

Volunteers trenching it up!
We'll definitely keep you posted as the project moves forward.


Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2014: The Year of Watering Efficiently

Smart irrigation controllers have grown in popularly in the recent years. The Urban Conservation Unit (UCU) believes that new technology like smart irrigation controllers can not only reduce water-use significantly but also maintain a wonderful, stress free landscape.
Weather based irrigation controller
However, many are still on the fence on whether to upgrade their irrigation timers to a smart controller. Well, if that’s you, UF's new mobile smart irrigation turf app will make you a believer. Available free at your favorite app store, the smart turf app allows you to mimic a smart controller with a mobile device by sending you alerts on how much time to set on your irrigation timer as well as when to turn it off, just like having a smart controller in the palm of your hand! Once you note the water savings for yourself using the smart turf app, you may be more willing to install an actual smart controller at your property.

The UCU can help you decide which smart controller suits your property best as well as recommend other ways to maximize water savings. If you live in Miami-Dade County and are considering installing a smart irrigation controller for your property, contact the UCU right now. Phone, twitter, facebook or email, we're here to help!