For an easy-to-implement approach to create and maintain an attractive and healthy landscape that protects Florida’s natural resources, follow the nine steps listed below.
- Right Plant, Right Place – Select plants that require minimal amounts of water, fertilizer and pesticides. Consider soil type and pH, sun and shade, wet versus dry and mature size.
- Water Efficiently – Irrigate only when your lawn and landscape need water. Use a rain gauge to track rainfall. Install a rain shut-off device which is required by law for all in-ground irrigation systems. Calibrate your inground system to apply ½ to ¾ inch of water per watering event. Attend a UF/IFAS Extension Hillsborough County microirrigation workshop to learn about this water conservation method for landscape beds.
- Fertilize Appropriately – Use time release fertilizer, and do not fertilize before a heavy rainfall. Use iron in the summer to green-up your lawn. You can order your personal copy of A Do-It-Yourself Guide to Florida-Friendly Fertilizing at: org.
- Maximize Mulch – Maintain a 2-3 inch layer of mulch after it settles to retain soil moisture, prevent erosion and suppress weeds. Use organic mulches, such as Pine bark, Pine straw, Eucalyptus and Melaleuca (Punk tree). As mulch decomposes, organic material is added to your soil. Create self-mulching areas under trees.
- Attract Wildlife – Plants that provide food, water and shelter are beneficial to Florida’s diverse wildlife. Vines, shrubs and trees provide cover/shelter, nesting areas and/or food.
- Control Yard Pests Responsibly – Unwise use of pesticides can harm people, pets, beneficial organisms and the environment. Less than 1 percent of all insects are pests. When we kill the bad bugs, we also eliminate good bugs. Check your plants regularly. Avoid routine applications of pesticides and treat only affected areas. Use non-chemical approaches to pest control and/or environmentally-friendly pesticides.
- Recycle – Convert kitchen scraps and yard waste into nutrient-rich organic matter. Want more information about composting? Attend a UF/IFAS Extension Hillsborough County Compost Happens Workshop and turn your kitchen and yard waste into garden treasure.
- Reduce Stormwater Runoff – Sweep fertilizer, pesticides and grass clippings into your landscape and off your sidewalk and driveway to prevent nonpoint source pollution. Create swales, terracing or rain gardens to catch, hold and filter stormwater. Direct downspouts and gutters onto plant beds or turfgrass. Use pervious surfaces in your landscapes. Attend a rain barrel workshop at the UF/IFAS Extension Hillsborough County and learn to harvest rainwater for landscape use.
- Protect the Waterfront – Remove invasive exotics. Establish a 10-20 foot “no fertilizer/no pesticide” zone along shoreline. Plant native aquatic vegetation in front of seawall or along shoreline. Eliminate sources of pollution and protect our natural treasure, Florida’s water bodies.
For horticultural assistance, contact the UF/IFAS Extension Hillsborough County, 813-744-5519, or visit at 5339 County Road 579, Seffner, FL 33584. Our website which contains our calendar of events is located at: http://hillsborough.ifas.ufl.edu/calendar.shtml.