I've also written on my Weedy Garden blog about how I hope to xeriscape my yard and make it a water-friendly and environmentally friendly yard.
So the festival yesterday reminded me about my desires for my yard and garden. I was reminded how I hope to make my yard "Florida friendly", and that those same principles apply pretty much everywhere. So I thought that I would take a moment to share those principles.
There are nine principles to Florida-Friendly Yards and Neighborhoods:
- Right Plant, Right Place: Plants should be selected to suit a specific site, and should require minimal amounts of water, fertilizer and pesticides. Decide how the yard area will be used, and plant for that specific use and location, and the given environmental conditions.
- Water Efficiently: Water only when your yard needs water. Efficient watering conserves water, and makes healthier and stronger plants with deeper roots. Don't cut grass too short. Leaving it longer allows it to hold more water, helps to shade the roots and creates deeper-growing roots.
- Fertilize Appropriately: Less fertilization is often best. Over-fertilization can be hazardous to your yard and the surrounding environment.
- Mulch: Maintaining a 3" layer of mulch will help retain soil moisture, keep the plants roots cool, prevent erosion and suppress weeds.
- Attract Wildlife: Incorporate plants that provide food, water and shelter for wildlife.
- Manage Yard Pests Responsibly: Use pesticides sparingly and wisely to protect people, animals, the environment, and beneficial insects.
- Recycle: Grass clippings, leaves and yard trimmings should be recycled in your yard as compost or mulch to add nutrients to the soil and reduce waste disposal.
- Reduce Stormwater Runoff: Water running off from your yard can carry pollutants such as soil, debris, fertilizer and pesticides into our water supply.
- Protect the Waterfront: Waterfront property, whether on a bay, river, canal, stream or beach, is very fragile and should be carefully protected to maintain our freshwater and marine ecosystems.
So how do you incorporate all of these principles into your yard? What exactly can you do? Here are some ideas:
- Buy or build a compost bin.
- Create a wildlife habitat. This can be as simple as putting around shrubs to offer shelter and cover for small birds and animals, planting food plants like Barbados Cherry, providing bird baths and ponds for water sources, and housing like bird houses, bat houses and toad homes.
- Make your yard practical and useable.
- If you live on the beach, create a buffer between your yard and the shoreline.
- Use trees to shade the southern and western sides of your home.
- Mulch your plant beds.
- Use a rain barrel.
- Use swales to keep rainwater where it falls.
- Use porous surfaces, such as brick driveways and mulch paths, to allow water to soak into the ground instead of runoff.
- Protect butterfly larvae (aka caterpillars) and provide them with the food and shelter that they need. Not only do butterflies add beauty and interest to the yard, but they also are great pollinators.
- Learn about the insects in your yards, so that you can distinguish the good from the bad. The fact is, less than 1% of all insects are harmful.
- When you determine that you do have an insect problem, first try non-chemical approaches. Then try the safest pesticides possible, such as insecticidal soaps, horticultural oils and Bt products. Also choose to spot-treat instead of broad treatment, and learn to be tolerant of small amounts of damage. Learn to love seeing the chewed leaves that are evidence of caterpillars and the fact that your garden is working as it should be!
- Recyle yard waste. Leave grass clippings on the lawn or in the compost bin. Use fallen leaves and pine needles as mulch under trees and shrubs.
- Use native plants in your landscaping, and get rid of exotic invasives.
- Replace sod with more environmentally-friendly ground covers like sunshine mimosa, perennial peanut, blue porterweed, pennyroyal or Creeping Charlie.
Check out www.floridayards.org for more information and ideas. You can also try to attend one of the Introductory FYN classes that are periodically held. The next one in Lee County will be March 14th. The cost is $5, held at Rutenberg Park Eco-Living Center in Fort Myers, and you can register by calling 239-533-4327.