2013 – The Economy Continues to Improve

EconomyWord of mouth from landscape companies, personal observations and numerous news stories indicate the economy is improving. That means better times ahead for the horticulture industries. Here is a sample of the evidence.

Watching the traffic coming down to Manatee from Tampa each morning tell me things are changing. Two years ago, there were virtually NO contractor or building supply trucks to be seen. No concrete trucks, no flatbeds carrying building materials, etc. Recently I’ve seen many different kinds of contractor vehicles, concrete trucks, flatbeds carrying trussed, pavers, lumber, etc.

A number of news stories concerning the economy have caught my eye recently. All these reports have both good and bad news. In my opinion, the bad news appears mostly temporary. The good news shows more continuing and long-lasting trends.

Here’s one from the Washington Post (http://ow.ly/h8J1E):

On Thursday, the Department of Labor reported that the number of new people filing for unemployment benefits fell to just 330,000, a huge drop from the previous week and a new five-year low. This is usually a good indicator of the state of the labor market, so that’s a healthy sign. What’s more, initial jobless claims have been dropping far faster than economists have expected all January.

Here’s one from Bloomberg (http://ow.ly/h8HJJ). It says new home sales are growing:

The real-estate agents’ report in the U.S. showed a total of 4.65 million homes were sold last year, up 9.2 percent from 4.26 million in 2011 and the most since 2007. The annual advance was the biggest since 2004.

The supply of existing homes is dropping:

The number of previously owned homes on the market dropped to 1.82 million, the fewest since January 2001, according to today’s report.

A shrinking supply of existing homes is causing prices to rise:

The median price of an existing home rose to $176,600 last year, up 6.3 percent from 2011. It was the biggest year-over- year gain since a 12.1 percent jump in 2005.

Stuart Miller, chief executive officer of Lennar Corp. (LEN), the largest U.S. homebuilder, says:

“After seven years of navigating an unprecedented market downturn, we finally saw stabilization and recovery [in the housing market] in 2012,” “While there have been and still are economic and political uncertainties ahead, we feel that this housing recovery is fundamentally based and driven by a long-term demographic need for housing,” Miller said. “2012, therefore, we believe is just the beginning of the recovery.”

Why is this good news for the horticulture industries?
More people are finding jobs, more people are buying homes, more people have extra money to fix up and landscape their homes and to pay for landscape maintenance.

Posted in News

It’s Time for a Change…

This is a difficult post for me to write, but it’s time to spread the news.

I’ll be reretirement2tiring soon – March 14th is my last day officially, but I have some vacation to use up, so after the middle of February I’ll only be in the office to teach a few classes and clean up some details.

Until then I’ll be in the office and available.

I really have mixed emotions about retiring. On the one hand it’s time for a change and I’m looking forward to the next phase of my life. On the other hand, I will really miss working with everyone in the horticulture industry and in Extension.

I’ve deeply enjoyed my time in both the industry and in Extension. I will miss those in Extension in Manatee, Hillsborough, Sarasota and around the state. I will also miss those I’ve worked with in the industry – the newbies, the real pros and everyone in between.

Thanks for all your support.


p.s. I’m planning on becoming a cranky old fart. My wife says I’m well on my way.

Posted in News

Affordable Health Care Act – Resources for Growers

Affordable Healthcare ActI’ve recently been following a national online conversation between Extension Agents concerning the Affordable Health Care Act. They have uncovered a number of resources that I’d like to share:

First here’s the original bill.

The part that deals with small business starts with “Part II – Small Business Tax Credit” Sec. 1421. on page 119 and goes to Sec. 1515 on page 140. There is also an intro that starts with sec. 2711 on page 13 and goes to sec. 1004 on page 22.

Here’s a factsheet prepared by Kaiser Family Foundation:

Here’s another prepared by Rutgers Extension: http://ow.ly/flF50

And one more from New Jersey Farm Bureau:

Posted in Business, News

Alternatives to Synthetic Herbicides for Weed Management in Container Nurseries

Alternatives to Synthetic Herbicides for Weed Management in Container Nurseries (ENH1203/EP464)

Alternatives To Herbicides

Permeable disk-type mulches composed of coconut fiber (upper left and lower right) and hair (upper right and lower left) Credits: James H. Aldrich

Weed management is one of the most critical and costly aspects of container nursery production. This is most effectively achieved through preventative practices, primarily with preemergent herbicides. But there are valid reasons for managing weeds with alternatives to synthetic herbicides, including sanitation, exclusion, prevention, hand weeding, mulching, and the use of cover crops, heat, and nonsynthetic herbicides. This 6-page fact sheet was written by Gary W. Knox, Matthew Chappell, and Robert H. Stamps, and published by the UF Department of Environmental Horticulture, September 2012.

Posted in Growers

Two Sterile Lantana Camara Varieties

UF-T3 and UF-T4: Two Sterile Lantana camara Varieties (ENH1202/EP463)

Sterile Lantana

Photo courtesy of UF/IFAS

Lantana camara plants are valued for their bright flower color, butterfly attraction, tolerance to harsh environmental conditions, low maintenance requirements, and ease of propagation and production. But many existing varieties can be weedy or invasive when grown in tropical and subtropical regions. So in 2004, UF/IFAS started a program to develop sterile L. camara varieties with little to no invasive potential. This 8-page fact sheet introduces the recently released UF-T3 and UF-T4 lantana varieties that have resulted from these breeding, selection, and testing efforts. Written by Zhanao Deng, David M. Czarnecki II, Sandra B. Wilson, Gary W. Knox, and Rosanna Freyre, and published by the UF Department of Environmental Horticulture, August 2012.

Posted in Growers

NRCS Funding Programs For Growers

The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service has announced their deadline for Farm Bill funding programs.  For 2013 funding, the cut-off date to apply for EQIP, WHIP, and CSP is November 16, 2012. By the cut-off date you must submit a program application.

The primary program that offers assistance to growers with resource concerns is the Environmental Quality Incentive Program (EQIP).  Incentive payments are being offered to permanent tree and bush crops (e.g. blueberry, grape), sod, and nursery crops for Irrigation Water Management. If you have irrigated a minimum of two of the last five years, you irrigate for a minimum of 9 out of 12 months, and you are willing to install soil moisture monitoring devices and keep records then you could earn up to $16 per acre per year.  In greenhouses, conversion to ebb and flow irrigation systems and capillary mats can be cost shared. Irrigation Storage Reservoirs bring $3,693/acre-foot.

The Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) is a program that encourages agricultural producers to maintain existing best management conservation activities and adopt additional enhancements on their operations. If you are accepted into the nationally competitive program you may receive base payments of up to $15 per acre for 5 years.

For more information visit:  www.fl.nrcs.usda.gov/programs or call Jack Creighton, USDA-NRCS District Conservationist, Manasota Service Center at 941-907-0011.

Posted in Growers

Citrus Mealybug

Citrus Mealybug Planococcus citri (Risso) (Insecta: Hemiptera: Pseudococcidae) (EENY537/IN947)

citrus mealy bug

Citrus Mealybug
Photo courtesy of UF/IFAS

The citrus mealybug is a common pest of citrus primarily in greenhouses, and of several ornamental plants in Florida. It has been recognized as a difficult to control pest in Europe since 1813, where it is called the greenhouse mealybug and in the United States since 1879. This 4-page fact sheet was written by Harsimran Kaur Gill, Gaurav Goyal, and Jennifer Gillett-Kaufman, and published by the UF Department of Entomology and Nematology, September 2012.

Posted in Growers