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Florida-Friendly Gardening Therapy

For a while, I was OK with COVID. Not happy, but you could say “average.” After almost a year of this pandemic, like most folks, COVID fatigue has set in for me. When the pandemic struck, I needed to find something I could control. With the stay-at-home order in place, like many of you, my husband and I began to prioritize household projects that would keep us busy, distracted and perhaps, “spark joy.” We decided to direct our attention to our yard.

For years, our yard has been a point of contention for us. In 2010, we bought a “fixer-upper” and, while we have renovated the inside of our home, our yard remains barren. We simply ran out of momentum and the money needed to landscape the yard. While the idea of tackling the yard had overwhelmed and paralyzed us in the past, it did not scare us as much as COVID. Unlike the pandemic, our yard was something we did have control over. We knew the project would be challenging but also engaging, keep us active and connect us with the natural world.

Instead of starting from scratch, we used the nine Florida-Friendly Landscaping ™ (FFL) principles to guide us in the creation of our yard as they provide best management practices to design our landscape based on UF/IFAS research. Though privileged to own property, we do not have a working irrigation system needed to grow grass, nor did we want to. Instead, we sought to reduce the environmental impact of our landscape by incorporating native and non-native Florida-friendly plants that do not require intensive infrastructure or maintenance. This decision was based on the first few FFL principles:  Right plant, right placewater efficiently, fertilize appropriately and mulchSelecting plants that match your yard’s climatic conditions is key. If you plant the right plants in the right place, once established, these plants will require little if any, additional irrigation or fertilizer.

Before you start digging, FFL asks you questions to consider with your existing yard conditions. What makes up your yard now? What would you like to add or remove? Is your yard sunny or shady? Do you have a water source? How is your soil, is it sandy, do you need to supplement the soil to provide nutrients or add mulch to retain moisture? Do you want to try your hand at gardening, enhance the aesthetics of your property, attract wildlife or pollinators or learn to manage yard pests responsibly? Are you interest in composting or recycling yard wasteThese questions are all part of the process, and if your head is spinning, that is OK.

Understanding the basic concepts in Florida-Friendly Landscaping can help you navigate these decisions and avoid problems in the future. The principles can also help to understand how to  reduce stormwater runoff, allowing rain to soak into the ground; therefore, protecting our waterfrontsNot sure where to start? The UF/IFAS Extension Lee County office can help. Contact us to learn more about the Florida-Friendly Landscaping program, find additional publications or training, or to connect with like-minded folks. Whether you need to unplug, log off, or leave the meeting, get outside, and discover the communities that await you in the natural world.

The Lee County Extension Office’s schedule for FFL 2021 classes can be found at: and in 2021, classes are now available in the Spanish: Interested in learning more about the UF/IFAS Lee County Master Gardener program contact us at 239-533-IFAS(4327).