Spring is in the air, flowers are blooming, grass is growing and many of us are heading outdoors to spruce up our gardens and home landscapes. Yardwork is different from most home improvement projects—there’s more to it than fixing what’s broken, adding something new or redecorating. When you think about it, each home landscape is an ecosystem, with plants and animals, water and soil, sunlight and chemistry interacting in a complex web of physical and biological exchanges. The way you care for this ecosystem affects its balance, its health, and the resources needed to maintain it. Spring is the perfect time to rethink our approach to the ecosystems we build in our backyards, and the Florida Friendly LandscapingTM Program (FFL) has some great ideas to help us do that.
For over 30 years, FFL has been redefining what it means to have a beautiful Florida landscape, saving homeowners millions of gallons of water and protecting our water quality.
FFL is a wholistic approach to landscaping, based on nine principles that encompass everything about planning, planting and maintaining a sustainable home landscape.
The principles are commonsense and easy-to-follow, but they’re also backed by years of scientific research. FFL began 30 years ago in partnership with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to reduce the nutrient load entering our water supply from Florida’s population and development boom. The program has been refining itself ever since to meet the needs of homeowners for beautiful Florida landscapes with minimal impact on the environment.
Watering less and following proper fertilizer rates may seem like small steps, but they really add up. Last year, 105,000 homeowners participating in the FFL program saved a total of more than 340 million gallons of water. And in 2021, the program was estimated to have saved 119,564 pounds of nitrogen from entering Florida’s waterways.
FFL makes it easy to visualize, plan and establish a Florida-friendly landscape. Their website (https://ffl.ifas.ufl.edu/) provides examples of beautiful home landscapes that have been certified by the Florida Yards and Neighborhoods program. Need to find the right plant to grow in your climate zone? There’s an app for that, as well as apps for avoiding toxic plants, local fertilizer ordinances, and constructing bee and butterfly gardens. You’ll also find webinars and publications that can guide you through the steps of creating a Florida-friendly landscape. If you tune in to your local public radio station, you can listen to Florida-Friendly LandscapingTM in a Minute, a daily segment where assistant director of FFL Tom Wichman offers practical tips based on UF horticultural research. Then there’s Flip My Florida Yard. Now in its third season on the Discover Florida Channel and local public television, each episode documents an 8-hour yard makeover engineered by a team of Florida DEP, Extension horticulture agents and professional landscapers, who transform family’s Florida yard into an FFL paradise.
Your questions about FFL can be answered in person by UF/IFAS Extension agents in all of Florida’s 67 counties, as well as by Extension-trained Florida Master Gardener Volunteers. FFL also works with schools, HOAs, developers, and local governments to bring Florida-Friendly landscaping principles to communities throughout the state. We even train landscape professionals in FFL, so that you can have an FFL-certified professional design and maintain your yard.
There’s never been a better time to take the FFL pledge to have a home landscape that blooms in harmony with Florida’s natural beauty.