Making your yard Florida-Friendly is all about working with Florida’s environment instead of against it. Keep the nine major principles of Florida-Friendly landscaping in mind when you are buying new plants for your yard or maintaining landscape.
Major Principles of Florida Friendly Landscaping
1. Right Plant, Right Place
Select plants based on your site. There are different micro environments throughout your property. Look at your site in sections and note the different factors your landscape will experience. Does it have full sun or shade? Is it on the north, south, east or west side of your property? Is the ground sloped or flat? Is it by a walkway or high-use area? Will heat be reflected from nearby buildings or roadways? Match site conditions to plant needs to reduce the plant’s need for water, fertilizer and pesticides. Less stress on your plant will make it more likely to thrive!
Do you have an area of your yard that you have frequently resodded or replanted but nothing seems to grow? Think about why what you are planting is not growing. Too much shade? Look for plants that love shade, not turf. Too much sun? Look for plants that love full sun. No irrigation? Look to native plants that need no supplemental irrigation, just rain.
2. Water Efficiently
Irrigate only when your landscape needs water; and when you do irrigate, make sure the water is getting to your landscape, not sidewalks and streets. Only water on your irrigation days and never between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. when the evaporation rate is at its highest. Don’t water on windy days. Watering efficiently reduces water use, encourages healthy growth, and reduces runoff. Over-watered grass has short roots, which make it hard for it to survive drought.
3. Fertilize Appropriately
Minimize the use of fertilizer - less is usually best. Over fertilization can be harmful to your yard and the environment. Limit or eliminate the use of fertilizer containing phosphorus as Florida’s soil is high in phosphorus. Prevent runoff by not fertilizing before a heavy rain or a regular irrigation cycle.
Apply 2 to 3 inches of mulch to retain moisture, prevent erosion, and suppress weeds. Look for natural mulches that add nutrients back to your site. Pine bark is an excellent alternative mulch to cypress, which is usually produced by destroying whole trees. Replace grass with mulched beds in those areas that are difficult to mow or are shaded. Avoid creating mulch teepees around trees and leave 2 inches of space around tree trunks to prevent rot.
5. Attract Wildlife
Encourage wildlife by landscaping with plants that provide them with food, water, and shelter. Protect the health of wildlife by limiting pesticide use and avoiding blanket applications.
6. Control Yard Pests Responsibly
Use pesticides conservatively. Unwise pesticide use can harm people, beneficial organisms, and the environment. Use selective rather than broad-spectrum insecticides. Learn to identify beneficial insects and let them do the work for you. Not all bugs are bad! Plants under stress are more susceptible to pests, so look for what is causing the stress.
Re-use grass clippings, leaves, and yard trimmings by adding them to plant beds. They will add nutrients to the soil and reduce waste disposal. Create and maintain a compost pile with yard waste and kitchen scraps. Coffee grounds, tea bags, egg shells all add nutrients to soils. Nutrients improve soil fertility and water-holding capacity.
8. Reduce Stormwater Runoff
Minimize water runoff from your yard into stormdrains. Runoff carries soil, debris, pesticides and fertilizers into stormdrains and local waterways. Direct downspouts into your lawn and plant beds and install rain barrels. Create dips (swales) and rises (berms) in your yard that slow runoff and allow rain to soak into the ground.
9. Protect the Waterfront
Increase your awareness of ecosystems around your property. Property that abuts a waterway (lake, river, or pond) can dramatically affect these fragile ecosystems. Keep a buffer or no-maintenance zone of 10 to 30 feet around waterways (limit mowing and no pesticides or fertilizer use). Keep grass clippings and pet waste out of waterways.
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