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EDIBLES FOR YOUR LANDSCAPE: GROWING BACKYARD PRODUCE WITH FLORIDA-FRIENDLY LANDSCAPING

A. Marek and M. Bailey, UF/IFAS Extension Service Marion County, Ocala, FL

Situation: Over the years, the UF/IFAS Marion County Extension Florida-Friendly Landscaping and Sustainable Agriculture Agents have been contacted by local homeowners and landowners inquiring about low-maintenance, edible ornamental plants for their landscapes. To meet that need, a demonstration landscape and online programs were developed.

Methods: In 2020, grants were awarded to install an edible ornamental demonstration landscape at the Marion County 4-H farm. The landscape is approximately 11,000 square feet and demonstrates the use of Florida-Friendly Landscaping principles of design, irrigation, mulch and plant selection. The landscape includes edible and non-edible native and non-native Florida-friendly plants that require minimal inputs to be productive and attractive. The goal was to have in-person programs at the farm in 2020, but due to COVID-19 restrictions, two online Edibles for your Landscape programs were provided instead.

Results:  564 people participated in the two Edibles for your Landscape online programs. Participants’ post-test scores improved by 20% from the pre-test, and 70% of participants three months after the program reported that they had made or started to make one or more changes to their landscape and/or the way they manage their landscape. Since the program, 61% have added edible ornamental plants to their landscape, 84% of which selected Florida-friendly plants and 70% have harvested food from their edible ornamental landscape. Likewise, participants save approximately 81,654 gallons of water per year on irrigation by eliminating high-volume irrigation in some areas entirely (28%) or by converting/installing low volume irrigation (60%) as a result of the class.

Conclusion: These online programs increased knowledge and promoted the adoption of Florida-Friendly Landscaping practices for productive edible ornamental landscapes. The amount of interest in these programs validated the need. However, learning virtually cannot replace experiential learning in the field which the new edible ornamental demonstration landscape will provide in the future.

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