As the warm weather returns each spring we all start to get out in the yard more and want to make changes and additions to our landscape.  Here are some plant suggestions and basics for planting, mulching and watering.
  • Dwarf Allamanda
  • Amaranthus
  • Cassia Tree
  • Pink Tabebuia Tree
  • Golden Duranta​​​​​​​
  • Knock-out Roses
The biggest mistake people make when putting plants in the ground is that they are planted too deep, so if you follow these instructions you shouldn’t have this problem. For containerized plants dig a hole 6” wider than the root ball and make sure the hole is not deeper than the root ball, in fact you want the root ball to be slightly higher out of the ground also make sure the bottom of the hole has been compacted to prevent future settling. When you pull the plant out of the container, check to see if it is root bound. I if it is you may need to make a few cuts and or loosen the root ball. After you place the plant in the ground check the depth again and then start to back fill in the hole with an amended soil mixture of 1/3 potting soil, 1/3 manure, 1/3 existing (native) soil. W, water as you do this until you reach ground level. Now its time to add a Slow Release even blend fertilizer like a 10-10-10 around the root ball - usually no more that a hand full for smaller plants. By doing this it will help the plants establish quicker.
Mulching does several things. I it helps hold in the moisture, it helps with weed control and it improves the overall appearance of your landscape. There are several types of mulch and but they as they are all similar in function, about the same what it basically boils down to be personal preference in appearance. When installing the mulch it is best to have a 2” to 3” depth. M make sure you avoid putting it on or directly against the base or the crown of the plants this will cause crown rot.
Watering: The most common mistake people make when watering is that they over water. The following is a basic rule of thumb when watering your grass and plants. Water less often but for a longer period of time, what we mean by this is the spray zones should be set at 15 to 20 minutes and the rotor zones should be set at 45 to 60 minutes. In the cooler months once a week in the hot summer mouths twice a week (in the absence of rain). I if we are getting frequent rain then shut off the irrigation system but don’t forget to turn it back on when the rain stops. You also need to inspect your irrigation system monthly to make sure you are getting proper coverage and that the sprinkler heads aren’t missing or broken.
Happy Gardening!
-J. Robbin Bigelow
Servello & Son Landscape Solutions
(landscaper for Vista Lakes)


Conserving energy and protecting our environment are not things that can be left to the government or everyone else to do for you. We can all make a contribution by following the nineteen simple suggestions outlined in this article, many of which are taken from the Orange County Climate Change Summit.
  1. Pay your HOA Dues Online - Instead of mailing a check with your coupon to pay your quarterly assessments, you may set up online payments through your bank. Just use the payment details and account number as printed in your coupon book.
  2. Receive the Vista Lakes Quarterly Newsletter Electronically - Save trees, as well as printing and mailing costs! Subscribe to the Vista Lakes e_newsletter
  3. Stop Delivery of Unwanted Telephone Directories - is helping municipalities and local governments around the country establish ordinances to mandate Yellow Pages and White Pages only be delivered to home and offices that ask for them. Municipalities and local government that provide trash services are extremely concerned about the landfill cost and why they have to absorb the cost of handling the telephone directories.
  4. Switch to Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs (CFLs) - These bulbs can be a huge energy saver. Replace some (or all) of your incandescent bulbs with fluorescents and enjoy reductions in heat production, energy use, and electric bills! Changing five of the most frequently used light bulbs in your home can save you $100 per year on electric bills.
  5. Program Your Thermostat - When you are at home, keep the thermostat at 78º F or higher in the summer and 62º F or lower in the winter. Programmable thermostats allow you to program the systems to reduce output when it is not needed (e.g. when no one is home during the day, or in the evening when everyone is sleeping). Reduce your energy bill by $100 per year or more!
  6. Plug Air Leaks - Common leaks occur around windows, doors, and other wall penetrations. Plugging those leaks with weather stripping and caulk can be a simple task for anyone!  Reduce your energy bill by $100 per year or more!
  7. Tune Up Your Heating and Cooling (HVAC) System - Have a checkup for your system every 2 years to make sure it is running efficiently. Be sure to clean the filter monthly during times of peak usage; a dirty filter can significantly reduce the efficiency of your HVAC. Reduce your energy bill by $100 per year or more.
  8. Choose ENERGY STAR® Appliances - ENERGY STAR® qualified products meet a high level of energy efficiency, which can translate into savings on electric bills. When considering the price of a new appliance, take into account not only the purchase price, but also the long-term savings associated with an energy-efficient appliance. Reduce your energy bill by $50 per appliance per year or more!
  9. Reduce Water Use - Use less water by adding aerators (available for a few dollars at your local home supply store) to your sink faucets and changing to low-flow shower heads. Incorporate native plants in your landscape plan and minimize high maintenance landscaping such as turf grass to conserve water, while still maintaining a beautiful lawn. For more information see - Reduce your water bill by as much as $100 per year!
  10. Switch to Green Power - Green Power is an optional utility service for customers who want to expand the production and distribution of renewable energy technologies. With green power, you do not have to change your electricity provider. Instead, customers choose to pay a premium on their electricity bill to cover the extra cost of purchasing clean, sustainable energy. More info on green power can be found at:
  11. Buy Local - Buying local produce reduces the amount of fossil fuels required for the transportation from other parts of the country or the world. It also reduces the amount of plastic and paper products consumed in the packaging of such products. Buying local reduces consumption of valuable resources.
  12. Use Low-VOC Products - Improve your indoor air quality by switching to products that don’t give off “volatile organic compounds” (VOCs) including: Paint: A low-VOC paint is available from most major paint brands. Cleaning Products: Low-VOC cleaning alternatives are available for sale, or you can make your own VOC-free cleaning products using simple household materials like baking soda, vinegar and borax.
  13. Use Wood Alternatives or FSC-certified Wood Products - The type of flooring and cabinetry materials you use can have a positive effect on your health and pocketbook while reducing your environmental impacts. Consider using environmentally preferable and rapidly renewable products such as linoleum, bamboo, recycled content tile or non-VOC carpet. Choose wood products from sustainable managed forests, such as those certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). Use locally sourced products when possible to reduce carbon emissions associated with the transportation of those products.
  14. Use Rapidly Renewable Flooring Materials - Now there are affordable, durable, and rich-looking flooring options made from grasses and trees that mature in roughly half of the time (or less!) than it takes hardwoods to reach market size. Bamboo, cork, and eucalyptus flooring products are a sustainable alternative to traditional hardwoods.
  15. Plant Trees to Provide Shade and Wind Protection for Your House - This simple step can help you save money on heating and air conditioning bills while providing beautiful views around your home.
  16. Use Native Plantings - Native plants have been growing and evolving in your area for thousands of years and as a result, have adapted to local soils and climate. They are more likely to thrive with minimal care, unlike exotic plants. That can mean less need for water, fertilizer and pesticides.
  17. Use Nontoxic Gardening Techniques - Many gardeners over-apply or improperly apply pesticides, putting themselves, their families and pets at increased health risk. Our clean air and drinking water are affected by pesticides and garden equipment emissions.
  18. Carpool, Use Public Transportation, Walk or Bike When Possible - Green transportation means can greatly reduce your energy expenditures and carbon emissions from your daily routine. When you do drive, reduce emissions and save money by not idling.
  19. Buy a High-efficiency Car - See the US Department of Energy’s list of most fuel-efficient cars at

Public Health

  • Drain standing water to prevent mosquitoes from multiplying
  • Empty and clean birdbaths and outdoor pet water bowls at least once per week
  • Maintain the correct chemical balance in swimming pools, and empty inflatable swimming/paddling pools when not in use
  • Keep mosquitoes out of your house by repairing broken screens on windows, doors, porches and patios
  • Remove food and water sources, seal access points, and remove clutter
  • Do not leave pet food out for an extended period of time
  • Monitor and minimize the use of bird feeders
  • Maintain shrubs and vegetation to limit harborage
  • Do not leave food from gardens and fruit trees on the ground
  • Follow Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommended guidelines for clean up at
Dog Bite Prevention
  • Never approach or corner an unfamiliar dog, instead, allow it to come to you
  • Be sensitive to cues of fear or apprehension in a dog. Many dog bites are the result of fear, not aggression. Signs of fear include hand-shyness, difficulty leashing, avoidance of eye contact, backing away or "freezing" when approached or trembling.
  • Similarly, be aware of dominance in a dog. Jumping, pulling on the leash, food and toy protectiveness, and direct or fixed eye contact are signs of possible dominance
  • Spay/neuter your dog
  • Never leave young children alone with a dog
  • Properly socialize and train any dog entering your household. Start early and reinforce often
  • Immediately seek professional advice if your dog develops undesirable behaviors
Snakes are a natural part of Florida wildlife. Florida is home to 44 species of native snakes, but only 6 of them are venomous - the chance of being bitten by a venomous snake is very low.
Florida's snakes play important roles in our ecosystem, not only as predators that help to control rodent populations, but also as important prey for other wildlife. Sadly, the survival of many of our snakes is threatened by development, road mortality, and persecution by humans.  By learning to safely deal with and even "get along" with snakes, you can reduce your risk of being bitten and can allow Florida's snakes to play their role in our environment without fearing for your safety.
The information provided in these links (courtesy of the Orange County / University of Florida - IFAS Extension Education Center) are intended to make you more informed about Florida's snakes, assist with identifying and learning the benefits or dangers associated with each breed.