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Water Wednesday Recap – Florida-Friendly Landscaping

You may hear some myths that Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ means “you plant it and you forget it” or it looks wild and untamed. This is not the picture we want anyone to paint of a Florida-Friendly landscape.

Florida Friendly Yard sign. Shrubs, yard, landscaping, Florida Friendly Yard. UF/IFAS Photo: Tyler Jones.

What is Florida-Friendly Landscaping™?
Florida-Friendly Landscapes are attractive, low-maintenance landscapes that protect our natural resources by conserving water, reducing pollution and waste, creating wildlife habitat and preventing soil erosion. Implementing FFL practices saves you time, money and energy. In last Water Wednesday, Dr. Norma Samuel, the Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ Agent in UF/IFAS Extension Sumter County, gave us a brief introduction of the nine principles of Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ (FFL).

1. Right Plant, Right Place
When selecting plants for your yard, select those that are zoned for this area. Consider plant size at maturity, both in height and width. Putting a plant that grows large in a small area or too close to your house will result in constant pruning, or even cracked foundations. Also consider the shade and moisture requirements. Plants that require full sun need at least six hours of full sunlight each day and vice versa for plants requiring full shade. The FFL Guide to Plant Selection and Landscape Design provides plenty of options of plants that are adapted to Central Florida.

2. Water Efficiently
Water your lawn when the leaf blades of the grass begin to fold or your footprints remain on the lawn when you walk on it and apply 3/4 inch of supplemental irrigation per week. Avoid overhead watering, especially in the late evening as it keeps your plants wet for a prolonged period and allows plant pathogens to flourish. Install a micro-irrigation system in flower beds and vegetable gardens. It puts water directly into the root zone of the plant, use less water and save money.

3. Fertilize Appropriately
Once you decide what you will be growing in your yard, collect a soil sample and submit to the UF/IFAS Extension Soil Testing Laboratory. Too much fertilizer can burn plants, increase susceptibility to pests and pollute our waterways.

4. Mulch
Mulch helps keep the weeds down, holds moisture in the soil, helps to reduce soil borne diseases spread by rain splashing the pathogen into open wounds on the plant- and adds organic matter to the soil as it decomposes. The list goes on and on. Keep the mulch about 3 to 4 inches thick and away from the base of the plant. When the mulch touches the base, it keeps that area constantly wet and your plants will eventually decline due to rot of the trunk.

A large Tree Nympha (Idea leucone) on a red flowering plant. April 2008 IFAS Extension Calendar Photo. Butterflies in the McGuire Butterfly Garden, flowers, plants. UF/IFAS Photo: Sally Lanigan.

5. Attract Wildlife
Use a variety of plants that will provide cover, nesting areas, and food to wildlife such as birds, butterflies, and bees. Bird baths and small ponds provide water sources for wildlife. Snag (dead tree), birdhouses, or bat houses can be utilized where appropriate.

6. Manage Yard Pests Responsibly
The correct quantity and timing of fertilizer applications and irrigation are crucial to keep pest populations to a minimum. Select pest resistant plant varieties when available. Remember, not all insects visiting your garden are bad! Learn to identify the good versus bad bugs. Inspect your plants regularly and be willing to tolerate some amount of pest damage. If spraying is warranted, use the least toxic pesticide options first.

7. Recycle Yard Waste
Keep your lawn cut at the recommended height and leave clippings on the lawn to recycle the nitrogen. You may also recycle fallen leaves and pine needles under trees and shrubs. Start a compost pile for kitchen vegetable kitchen scraps and yard waste.

8. Reduce Stormwater Runoff
There’s a multitude of things you can do to reduce stormwater runoff. Direct downspouts to landscape beds, lawn, or into a rain barrel. Create a rain garden. Pick up your pet waste. Do not blow lawn clippings onto the street, blow onto the lawn instead. Measure pesticides and fertilizers on a hard surface to allow easy clean up in case of a spill.

9. Protect the Waterfront
Establish a 10-foot maintenance free (no fertilizers, pesticides or mowing) buffer of native plants along any shoreline to reduce runoff and erosion, absorb nutrients, and provide habitat for wildlife.

We will go through each principle in details in our future Water Wednesday. Please stay tuned. To watch the recorded live video, please click here:

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