ABWA Presentation July 9, 2008
A few months ago the topic of gardening despite Florida's
drought would have made a good presentation. Seeing as
we have been blessed with regular rain fall throughout
the last few weeks, I adjusted my topic a little. Today
I am going to talk about Florida Friendly Gardening.
is a wet state; we have water to the left of us and
water to the right of us, under our feet and in ponds,
lakes, canals and swamps all over the place. You are
never too far from water down here. Because of this, how
you landscape and maintain your yard has quite a bit to
do with the quality of the water we have available for
our use and enjoyment.
of the major reasons for this is Storm-water runoff.
Rain falls on yards, roads and parking lots then washes
into ponds, lakes and canals carrying pollutants like
fertilizers, pesticides, dirt and oil. Scientists have
discovered that fertilizers and pesticides from
residential areas are serious threats to the health of
Florida's waters. This is why Lake Okeechobee is in such
rough shape. Run-off from the ranches and sugar
plantations has polluted it. When runoff contains
nitrogen from fertilizers, algae can become so abundant
that marine grasses are smothered, oxygen is depleted
and fish kills may result. In some water bodies
phosphorus is often the nutrient responsible for algae
blooms. Toxic substances, such as home and yard
pesticides, can damage reproduction in animal life which
lives on, in and around bodies of Florida water.
you are a concerned about this, you can cooperate with
local, natural conditions, rather than fight against
them. That is the idea behind Florida Friendly
the price of clean water and energy rising, people are
making conservation a top priority again. More gardeners
are becoming interested in landscaping with native and
other beneficial trees, shrubs and ground covers.
Homeowners are choosing plants that blend beauty and
environmental benefits. People are selecting safer
alternatives to chemicals used indoors and out. And many
of these benefits to the environment also save time and
money while enhancing our Florida lifestyle.
much of Florida, soil and sand are basically the same.
Typical Florida soils allow rapid, downward movement of
water and nutrients. Thus, they dry out quickly and are
not compatible with plants having high water and
nutritional needs. Sandy soils allow leaching of
chemicals into groundwater and waterways.
simplest way to avoid these problems in the landscape is
to use only plants that are compatible with the site. If
you want a vegetable or rose garden, you will need to
modify, or amend, the soil by adding organic matter,
such as compost, to the planting bed. This will retain
moisture, provide nutrients and attract beneficial
organisms like earthworms.
is helpful to have your soil's pH tested. Sandy coastal
areas are usually alkaline or high in pH, and inland
areas are usually acid or low in pH. Many lots contain
fill dirt from other areas, so site specific pH testing
is a good idea. Knowing your soil's pH will help you
make better use of plant guides which provide this
information along with other requirements of the plants
listed. Many plants will tolerate a wide pH range, but
will do best when planted in the right soil. You can
test your soil yourself by buying a tool like a
Luster Leaf Rapitest Electronic 4 Way
from the hardware
or garden store. They will set you back only about 20
planning your landscape be aware that different areas on
the same property may have different soils because of
imported fill. Another factor in your soil may be the
presence of a sub-layer of hardpan, rock or shell, which
we have in our yard and makes planting certain sections
of it impossible. This is one reason to examine your
soil to a depth of about 18 inches before making final
Plant selection is an enjoyable part of landscaping.
Florida's climate is home to many varieties of plants,
and many are grown by local plant nurseries.
plants you select determine the wildlife value of your
yard, the level of maintenance required, how much money
you'll be spending on water or electricity to run a
pump, and how much fertilizer or pesticide may be
required. Plant selection also determines how long your
landscape will last. For example, fast-growing plants
often have a shorter life-span than slower-growing
Some guidelines for selecting Florida Friendly Plants:
Plants already on your property, particularly native
plants, may already be well-suited to your yard and
should be kept if they appear healthy. Avoid disturbing
the root zone (at least to the drip line) of these
plants or driving over them with heavy vehicles. Saving
existing plants reduces costs and leaves valuable
wildlife habitat undisturbed.
Select plants which include suitable native plants. Once
native plants are established in the right location,
they require little, if any, supplemental water,
fertilizers or pesticides.
you don't want to continue irrigating after plants
become established, select drought-resistant plants that
are right for your soil.
Consider the critters. Providing native flowering and
fruiting plants can bring birds and butterflies into
your yard. Florida is a stopover for many migrating and
wintering butterflies and birds.
Limit the number of showy plants that require high water
and maintenance, and place them where they'll have the
most visual impact.
Don't plant noxious, invasive species such as
pepper, Australian pine and Melaleuca trees. These
plants should be removed from your yard as they crowd
out native plants and are threatening Florida's
ecosystems and wildlife. Several other plants commonly
used in landscaping are starting to take over here. A
few examples are wedelia (a ground cover), carrotwood
tree, Java plum and Chinese tallow.
Diversify. Create a mosaic of trees, shrubs, ground
covers, native grasses and wildflowers. Monocultures,
which are the same species of plant used en-mass, are
prone to disease and insect infestation and do not
provide the same benefits to wildlife as a diverse plant
Turf areas should be designed for easy maintenance. If
the grass dies or you aren't using it for play or other
activities, consider replacing it. Good alternatives are
ground covers or landscaped beds. Ground covers can be
especially useful in shady areas where turf may not
thrive. Fertilizing, watering, mowing and pesticide use
will be reduced.
Don't give in to planting fast-growing plants. These
kind of plants are usually exotics, invasive and require
more pruning which results in more yard waste. Lush,
green shoots also attract pests. Slower-growing plants
may take longer to fill in your landscape, but they'll
last longer and create less work.