Florida-Friendly Edible Landscaping
The principles of the Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ program are often applied to lawns and ornamental landscapes, but they can be applied to edible landscapes containing vegetables, herbs and fruit trees too! By following the nine FFL principles, you can produce vegetables, herbs, and fruits in a way that conserves water and reduces pesticide and fertilizer use. This Florida-Friendly Edible Landscaping infographic offers some helpful tips on how to care for your edible plants in an environmentally friendly way to conserve water and reduce pesticide and fertilizer use.
Right Plant, Right Place
Match plants to the site conditions of your yard, including soil moisture (wet/dry), light exposure (sun/shade) and soil pH. Choosing the right plant for the right place will minimize pest, disease and other plant health problems. Consult the Dooryard Fruit Varieties EDIS publication to select fruit trees and cultivars appropriate for your region (North, Central, South Florida). Select vegetables for planting each season according to the Florida Vegetable Gardening Guide in English or Spanish.
Use drip or micro irrigation for vegetable gardens, fruit trees and plants in containers to water efficiently. Observe your plants and watch for signs of water stress (wilting leaves, droopiness). Use a rain gauge to monitor rainfall and adjust irrigation accordingly. Water at the base of plants, in the morning before 10am or in the evening after 4 pm, to reduce water loss due to evaporation.
Fertilize according to special requirements of your fruits and vegetables. Amend soil with compost and other organic amendments to build the soil, provide nutrients, and increase water holding capacity. Adding organic matter is fundamental to building good soil and for Organic Vegetable Gardening in Florida. Get a soil test annually to check for the pH and nutrients, as vegetables extract a lot of nutrients from the soil. For more information on soil testing, click here.
Mulch your vegetable garden, herbs and fruit trees to control weeds, conserve moisture, regulate soil temperature and keep crops clean. A fine mulch can be applied to seedlings to protect the soil from drying out in early growth stages. Use organic materials such as leaves, hay and straw for mulch on tender vegetables. Apply a 2” to 3″ layer of wood chips or pine bark mulch to edible shrubs and fruit trees.
Encourage a pollinator friendly garden by planting a variety of flowering insectary plants that provide nectar and pollen. These plants will also attract beneficial insects, which will prey on pests in your edible landscape. Pollinators are essential for a fruitful garden, since the majority of fruit and vegetable crops need pollination to set fruits. Birds, toads, bats, anoles, and lizards are also beneficial in the garden. Use strategies to provide habitat for them so they can consume insect pests.
Manage Yard Pests Responsibly
Scout for pests often and identify insects to determine if they are a garden pest or a beneficial insect. Use hand control methods and less toxic pesticides such as natural products to control pests. Learn about Integrated Pest Management, a strategy that helps manage pest problems with as few chemicals as possible.
Recycle Yard Waste
Compost your yard trimmings, leaves and food waste in a compost bin or pile. Add finished compost to your garden beds to build the soil. Consider worm composting to recycle kitchen and paper waste.
Reduce Stormwater Runoff
Rainwater collected in rain barrels from roofs is not recommended for edible crops due to the possibility of contamination from pathogens and chemicals from roofing materials. Collected rainwater in rain barrels can be used to water your non-edible flowers, shrubs, and trees in other areas of the yard. Use permeable materials for walkways to increase water infiltration so more water seeps into the ground to replenish our groundwater and aquifer. Construct berms and swales to reduce erosion and direct water to your edible plants. Bananas especially love water and jaboticaba and pond apple can also tolerate moist soil.
Protect the Waterfront
The waterfront is a great place to add native wildflowers and plants, which will support the beneficial insect community and protect the water body from erosion and pollution. Do not plant edible crops that require tilling, irrigation or fertilization within a minimum of 10 feet of water bodies. These low-maintenance areas help protect waterbodies. Instead, plant native edibles, such as elderberries, that do not require fertilizer or irrigation in areas adjacent to water bodies.
Read more about caring for your edible plants in a Florida-Friendly way in our EDIS Publication Edible Landscaping Using the Nine Florida-Friendly Principles.
Want to learn more? Check out horticulture classes offered by UF/IFAS Extension Orange County at www.ocextension.eventbrite.com. Read about Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ https://ffl.ifas.ufl.edu/. Follow us on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/GardenFlorida/, Instagram https://www.instagram.com/oc_extension/ and visit our website.