If you live in Florida, you know that the weather is hot and dry most of the time. How can you keep your yard beautiful all of the time and be economically friendly, even through the dry seasons? Florida-Friendly landscaping is the easiest and most sensible answer. There are three tiers of Florida-Friendly landscaping which ranges from little to no money or labor, to considerable investments of money and time. It is all up to you, and your wallet, how far you want/can go.
A Florida-Friendly landscape is attractive, functional, and ecologically sound. Even the simplest practice can have significant, positive impacts on the landscape and the environment. The better we are to our environment now, the better our future will be.
Practices to Incorporate Florida-Friendly Landscaping
Little to No Money and/or Labor
- Mow grass at the right height to encourage deeper, more drought and pest resistant root system.
- Leave grass clippings on the lawn to recycle nutrients back into the soil.
- Use fallen tree leaves and pine needles on-site as mulch.
- Avoid shearing shrubs, topping trees, and over-pruning palms.
- Schedule a free irrigation system inspection. Contact your local Extension Office for availability of this service.
- Manually operate your irrigation system on an as-needed basis.
- Properly schedule irrigation run times.
- Use a rain gauge to measure rainfall and irrigate only during prolonged dry periods.
- Irrigate in the early morning hours when temperature and wind are low.
- Establish a 10-foot-wide low-maintenance zone around any bodies of water on the property.
- Use pesticides only when needed, not as a routine.
- Tolerate some insect damage on plants.
- Make sure landscape maintenance personnel have the required certifications.
- Prevent grass clippings, fertilizer, and other debris from going into storm drains.
- Avoid planting invasive plants into your landscape.
Some Money and/or Labor
- Calibrate irrigation system to apply 1/2-3/4 inch of water per application.
- Install a rain shut-off device or soil moisture sensor to automatic irrigation systems. It is required by law.
- Separate irrigation zones for lawn and landscape, both have different requirements.
- Repair broken and leaking sprinklers.
- Maintain a 2 to 3 inch layer of organic mulch over tree roots, shrubs, plant beds.
- Use slow or controlled release fertilizers.
- Reduce mowing and raking by removing grass beneath tree canopies and creating large “self-mulching” areas.
- Make a rain barrel to collect and store rainwater for use on plants.
- Create a habitat for Florida’s wildlife to bring your yard to life.
- Compost yard and kitchen debris.
- Rotate chemical classes of pesticides to reduce pesticide resistance.
- Choose the right plant for the right place in your landscape.
Considerable Investments of Money and/or Labor
- If free irrigation inspections aren’t available, hire a Florida Irrigation Society “Water Auditor” to inspect your system.
- Install micro-irrigation in plant beds.
- Install a cistern for non-potable water use.
- Replace problem lawn areas and landscape plants with more appropriate choices.
- Plant deciduous trees on southern exposures.
- Plant shade trees on the east and west sides of buildings and around air condition compressors.
- Use Mulch and other porous surfaces to reduce storm-water runoff and pollutants.
- Create swales, berms, terracing, and/or garden to capture and filter storm-water runoff.
- Plant native aquatic plants along the shoreline of water bodies.
- Remove evasive exotic plants.
Florida-Friendly landscaping is not only good for the look of your home landscape, but it is also good for the ecosystem of your yard and surroundings. To learn more about Florida-Friendly landscaping, visit edis.ifas.ufl.edu for many informational publications. You can also contact your local Extension Office.
Chris Vann- Extension Agent- Agriculture/4-H