What do you do? I go out to condominium and homeowners associations, and look at the horticultural problems they have and teach more environmentally friendly ways of landscaping. I also help individual homeowners and do programs and classes to educate the community.
The most common questions? We get hundreds of turf questions. Usually the problem is overwatering. People always think plants need much more water than they really need. You can do everything right, but if you overwater you still have a problem.
The most unusual questions? [What to do about] birds pecking on the house. That’s hard. You could try noisemakers or put another type of siding up, but really, it’s a territorial thing and there’s not much you can do. Sometimes people bring insects or snakes in for identification. We try to make people aware that you don’t have to scream whenever you see something, and you don’t have to spray everything you see.
A common mistake? A lot of people buy a plant because it has nice flowers, and then they put it into the yard and it dies. They don’t research what it needs. They can call us here first. We have this whole network that we can lean on. Your tax dollars pay for this resource, so take advantage of it.
What do you like most about your job? Even if you think you know a lot about plants and insects, tomorrow another insect blows in with a hurricane and you have to find out about that. It’s exciting—you’re never done. I would hate to have a job [with] nothing more to learn. And if you don’t love people [as an agent], you’re not in the right job.
The most challenging part of your job? You have to be in tune with what the public is interested in. For instance, I think fertilization is an interesting subject because most people overfertilize and don’t know how to do it right, but if I do a program just on fertilizer, nobody’s going to come. And I get a hundred people when I do a snake class.