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Two alligators lounge tail to tail on a canal bank.

Keeping Your Yard Florida-Friendly

Keeping it Green

If you are a gardener and you have lived anywhere else, you realize pretty quickly that Florida is different. The weather, the bugs and a whole lot of other gardening issues add to the difficulty. The key to these differences from other places is Florida’s unique environment. Learning to work within Florida’s specialize ecosystems takes special measures. We often look at gardening from the perspective of how it affects our outcomes and not how our cultural practices affect our environment. We can now combine those two goals and protect the environment while we keep a beautiful yard.

Not Xeriscaping in Florida

In Florida we call it Florida-Friendly Landscaping.  Part of the University of Florida’s Yards and Neighborhoods program; it was developed to address environmentally safe methods to landscape and maintain your yard. In 1981 the State of Colorado developed Xeriscaping based mostly on using drought resistant plants and conserving water. Seven princiiples were developed and they suited the rocky terrains of Colorado and other western states.  In Florida, xeriscaping soon became associated with cactus like plants and rocks and sometimes misrepresented as Zeroscape which sounded like xeriscape. The need to separate Florida’s specialized issues from the term Xeriscaping brought about the development of Florida-Friendly landscaping. The name is always spelled with a hyphen is now trademarked by the University of Florida.

9 Priciples of Florida-Friendly Landscaping

Florida-Friendly Landscaping is based on 9 principles; most of which deals with protecting water. Although it may seems that Florida has a lot of water, it’s mainly water quality that gives us concern. You’ve probably heard of the water problems to the south in Lake Okeechobee and other coastal tributaries. Most of these problems involve algae blooms which come from nutrient overloads. These nutrient come from a lot of sources and Florida-Friendly Landscaping is designed to minimize these impacts while you create a beautiful yard. The 9 Priciples are as follows:

Colorful Flowers and less turf are markings of a good Florida-Friendly Landscaping. Photo from IFAS Commuinications. 

Colorful Flowers and less turf are markings of a good Florida-Friendly Landscaping. Photo from IFAS Commuinications.

  • Right Plant, Right Place.
  • Water Efficiently.
  • Fertilize Appropriately.
  • Mulch.
  • Attract Wildlife.
  • Manage Yard Pests Responsibly.
  • Recycle Yard (and kitchen) Waste.
  • Reduce Stormwater Runoff.
  • Protect the Water Front
Right Plant Right Place

The core of the nine principles is Right Plant, Right Place. This first principle is the heart of many types of gardening. You may choose the right plant for your yard but you place it in the wrong place. You may place a plant in the right spot as far as growth habit and size but not realize the plant grows better in a totally different soil. How a plant performs will rely on how well it grows in heat or cold, how much water, or even how much light it requires. Ignoring any of these factors may give you the wrong results. Plants in the wrong spot may become unhealthy plants. Unhealthy plants do not utilize water and fertilizer effieciently.

Water Efficiently

Florida-Friendly is mostly about protecting our valuble resource, water. For those of you that wateryour yards, things like annual irrigation checkups and maintaining sprinklers is very important. Having a rain sensor connected to your irrigation timer is necessary and it’s the law.  Most people don’t know that in Florida the law requires rain shutoff devices like these. Broken sprinklers that over spray onto hard surfaces waste water. For more information on these first two Principles of Florida-Friendly Landscaping and the other seven you can download and read this free helpful booklet The Florida Yards & Neighborhoods Handbook. You may also want to vist the Florida-Friendly Landscaping program Website for lots of great landscaping tips!

A Large Orange Butterfly called a Julia rests on some tropical milkweed.

Florida-Friendly Landscaping Principal #5 is to Attract Wildife. Here a Julia butterfly enjoys a sip of this Tropical Milkweed. Photo by David Austin

Keep in touch!

Do you have a plant question? Email me at davidaustin@ufl.edu.  Like my page on Facebook at Hometown Gardener

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Don’t miss this year’s Highlands County Master Gardener Volunteer Garden Festival and Plant Sale on November 21st, 2020
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