Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Does your yard measure up?

It may seem like a tremendous task to think about making changes to your yard. You may be thinking, where do I begin? What plants do I need? Will it take forever and break the bank? The great news is that it does not necessarily take much to transform your yard into a "Florida-Friendly Landscape." In Miami-Dade County 59 yards have been certified as Florida-Friendly.

How to Qualify
One of our most recent Florida-Friendly yards received a Golden Oak certification (the highest level possible, 78 total points). This landscape is an ideal example of the Right Plant, Right Place principle and is full of low maintenance, drought tolerant plants. Following this principle can earn you up to 14 points.

Self Mulching Areas
This landscape design utilizes self mulching areas; locations where fallen leaves are left in place to breakdown and form a mulch layer. This prevents the need to buy mulch and reduces the need for raking and hauling yard waste to the dump. Further, this type of mulch decomposes faster, and is high in nutrients. Mulching keeps the ground moist (which means less need for irrigation) and helps prevent the growth of weeds. This principle can earn you 3 points.

Protecting Our Water
Being aware of water quantity (irrigating efficiently) and water quality (applying pesticides and fertilizers properly), with respect to your landscape is important. Every yard is connected to our groundwater and in order to protect this resource we need to make smart decisions in our landscapes. Instead of a concrete pathway, this homeowner opted to install a gravel pathway, which allows water to drain into our groundwater rather than evaporate or run off. In addition to the gravel pathway, the homeowner is participating in the Water Use Efficiency Program with the UCU. This program provides the homeowner with a free irrigation assessment and a free soil moisture sensor which prevents unnecessary irrigation from occurring. Following this principle can earn you up to 14 points.

Enjoying the View
After putting hard work into your landscape it is important to be able to sit back and enjoy it. One important aspect that can make sitting in the yard more enjoyable is the presence of wildlife to watch. In order to attract the type of wildlife you're interested in observing (butterflies, hummingbirds, etc.) it is critical to know what plants will draw in these critters. For some birds this can be as easy as providing a water source or a bird feeder. Allowing your grass and plants to go to seed is another great way to attract birds. If you are interested in butterflies, it is a good idea to plant a mix of both larval and nectar plants. This principle can earn you 4 points.

With all these simple and inexpensive ways to transform your landscape into a Florida-Friendly yard and with the start of the rainy season, you are sure to be our next recognized Florida-Friendly Landscape. Learn more at the Florida Yardstick Workbook. This book will show you how to begin taking simple steps toward Florida-Friendly certification! Keep an eye out for our Yard of the Month recognitions.

For more information on Florida-Friendly landscaping or how to get your yard certified please contact the author of this blog post:
Laura Vasquez
lavasquez@ufl.edu
305-248-3311 ext. 239

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