Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Creating a Florida-Friendly Landscape                                      

 by Guillermo Salazar

Florida is a wonderful state to live and many people move to Florida from northern states just to be close to the water and to enjoy the warm weather and beautiful tropical landscapes that surround us. However, Florida can be a very challenging environment for the unaware gardener. Florida is very unique in many ways and gardening in South Florida is no different. It presents many challenges! Florida soils are extremely poor, sandy and highly alkaline with a higher pH than what plants really appreciate, summers are brutal and too hot for many plants to perform well and pest problems can be abundant with a new pest arriving to our area almost every year.

That is why creating a Florida- Friendly Landscape can help. But what constitutes a Florida- Friendly Landscape? Florida-Friendly Landscape is a term that was developed by the University of Florida as part of the Florida Yards & Neighborhoods program, a program that is available state wide at the UF-IFAS Extension Offices in all Florida counties.

The Florida Yards & Neighborhoods program is an educational outreach program that was developed to help protect Florida’s natural resources thorough environmentally friendly landscaping and landscape  maintenance practices. The program teaches us how to create a Florida- Friendly Landscape following a set of nine essential principles. Creating a Florida- Friendly Landscape helps Florida residents and visitors reduce pollution, save time, energy and money...

The nine essential principles associated to creating a Florida-Friendly Landscape are: Right Plant, Right Place, Water Efficiently, Fertilize Appropriately, Mulch, Attract Wildlife, Manage Yard Pest Responsibly, Recycle Yard Waste, Reduce Stormwater Runoff, and Protect the Waterfront. A true Florida -Friendly Landscape is not only beautiful, it is also environmentally friendly, it amends soils, prevent soil erosion, avoids harmful chemical and fertilization from leaching into our ground water and surrounding bodies of water and  it creates an inviting area for native wildlife like butterflies and birds..

The principle of Right plant, Right place is the number one principle for creating a Florida-Friendly Landscape but is often the one that people forget or misunderstand the most and consequently is the one that affects the most when trying to achieve successful gardening. The right plant in the right place means exactly that… and this will prevent future serious problems in your garden or death of the plants in question. For example if you know that live oaks can get  up to 60’ height by 60’ wide why are you or your landscaper planting it 5’ away from the foundation and the roof of your house? This will pose a very serious issue later for your house and will compromise the tree. Why are you planting winter annual impatiens flowers in a dry sunny area? Impatiens flowers require constant irrigation and prefer shade. The above mentioned scenarios are just examples of why is important to educate ourselves about the uniqueness of the Florida environment and where the concept of Right Plant, Right Place can be useful and come into to play.

Another important aspect to consider when creating a Florida Friendly Landscape is the wise and conscious use of rainwater and irrigation systems. New irrigation technology is now available for homeowners and home owner associations to use, replacing old timers for digital ones and the installation of new rain sensors and Evapo-Transpiration (ET) controllers to prevent irrigation systems from activating during rain events will ensure that we not only save money in most instances but also protect our most vital element.

Recycling Yards waste is another important principle that helps you in many ways using your landscape residual debris like leaves and twigs and using a composter to create your own compost to enrich your existing garden soil.

Having a Florida-Friendly Landscape starts at your own yard with the use of environmentally conscious practices that we can all apply while we enjoy our gardens. 

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