While the rest of the country is preparing for colder weather, we in Florida are fortunate to have a much longer growing season–actually, two seasons, fall and spring.
Not only does our state have a rich agricultural community, we as individuals can grow our own food in small containers, on patios or even in our yards. We can also grow beautiful lawns and landscapes just about all year long. And we can care for our yards using a practice called “Florida Friendly.”
What does that mean?
That means we can create outdoor spaces that adhere to what the experts call a “Florida Friendly Landscaping Plan.” It’s basically a guide to help Floridians develop their yards using common sense ecological principles while protecting our state’s precious water resources. And by the way, the plan saves you money!
The smart plan was hatched by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the University of Florida Institute of Food & Agricultural Science, in cooperation with the state’s water management districts.
I became familiar with the Florida Friendly concept during my Master Gardener training. I love the idea and have found it to be very helpful as I strive to develop and enhance my Florida yard.
The Florida Friendly Landscaping Plan adheres to seven basic principles that are easy to follow and good guidelines for planning your yard.
Principle No. 1: Right Plant, Right Place
It’s common sense that certain plants are more suited to areas of your yard than other places. Think about it. If a plant is properly placed, getting the proper amount of sunlight, irrigation and soil conditions, it will require less from the surrounding ecosystem, and will inevitably thrive. Just ask your local nursery to help you choose the right place for your plantings.
Principle No. 2: Water Efficiently
Properly watering plants when needed is not only smart, but saves you money. It’s common for many of us to over water, which hurts the plants and ultimately costs more. Knowing how much water your plant varieties require is key. Also, during the rainy season checking and adjusting your irrigation system is especially wise.
Principle No. 3: Fertilize Appropriately
Fertilize your garden at the correct time of year and with the right amount. Pretty simple. This also helps to prevent fertilizer runoff and environmental leaching which gets into our water supply and disturbs the ecosystem.
Principle No. 4: Mulch
Mulching your yard when appropriate prevents soil runoff, reduces weeds, and retains soil moisture. Consider using natural mulch - pine straw or leaves will protect your plants, while retaining moisture. Another no-brainer.
Principle No. 5: Attract Wildlife
What could be better than having nature in your yard? Certain practices attract birds and butterflies, and other innocent critters. Plant berry bushes and flowers, install birdbaths and use certain plants, thereby encouraging nature to enjoy our yards while we admire them.
Principle No. 6: Manage Yard Pests Responsibly
Taking a more cautious, holistic approach to pest management assures that toxic materials do not hurt the environment, nature and humans. This careful approach pays off for all living things.
Principle No. 7: Recycle
Recycling yard waste from mowing, pruning and raking will save money and enrich your yard. When possible, use a compost pile that provides a perfect place for recycling your yard waste. Then, use the compost as a soil additive for your plants, again saving you money.
It all really does make sense, and when you apply all the principles to enhancing your yard, you’ll see the difference. Happy Florida gardening!
For more information on developing a Florida Friendly Yard, contact your nearest County Extension Office or visit the website http://fyn.ifas.ufl.edu.