Flagler Co Extension office gives advice on low-maintenance landscaping

Whether we grew up in Florida or moved here to have a family or to retire, we are here because there are aspects of life in Florida that are unique and highly desirable. The warmer weather is appealing enough year round, and the friendly, casual, and slower lifestyle gives Florida its enduring character and ultimately keeps people here.

One way to take advantage of the qualities of a Florida lifestyle is to create an outdoor home environment that is inviting, comfortable, and relatively low maintenance. At UF / IFAS Extension, we are here to provide residents with the education and resources on how to create a new landscape or develop an existing one in a Florida-friendly way. The Florida-Friendly Landscaping ™ program is a twofold approach in that it enables homeowners to realize their dream garden while protecting the local environment and natural resources.

A brief overview of the Florida-Friendly Landscaping ™ Principles is summarized below:

FFL principle no.1: Right plant, right place. It is important to carefully plan your location, select plants suitable for our plant hardiness zones 9A and 9B, and consider the growth requirements of the plants, including mature size, sun / shade, water, temperature, soil pH and fertilizer application .

FFL principle no.2: Efficient water. Create a landscape that ultimately thrives primarily from rainfall once it is established. Increasing shade tree cover, decreasing the lawn size, grouping plants in separate zones based on irrigation needs, and making sure a working rain sensor is installed are effective methods to minimize water use and prevent overwatering of pests and diseases.

FFL principle no.3: Fertilize well. Know the nutritional needs of your plants, use only fertilizers that are specifically tailored to the needs of each plant, and carefully read the fertilizer label for rate, frequency and time of year. Many trees and plants, especially native species, do not have to be fertilized after they have been established.

FFL principle no.4: Mulch. Maintain 2-3 inches of mulch to cover the roots of trees, shrubs, and ground cover to ensure soil nutrition, slow weed growth, and decrease soil moisture loss from evapotranspiration.

FFL principle no.5: Attract wildlife. Although Florida has one of the most diverse wildlife populations in the United States, its continued development is rapidly destroying wildlife habitats. Plant a variety of trees, shrubs, and vines to restore the shelter, food sources, and nesting sites necessary to maintain our state’s wildlife populations.

FFL principle no.6: Handle pests responsibly. Choose pest-resistant plants, avoid overfertilization and overwatering, regularly inspect plants for damage or symptoms of disease, and only treat them with pesticides when and when necessary. To do this, use less toxic formulas like horticultural oils, insecticidal soaps, and Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt).

FFL principle no.7: Recycle garden waste. Leave grass clippings on the lawn to help keep the soil nourished, use leaves and pine needles to cover mulch in plant beds, and create a compost heap or container to recycle garden and kitchen scraps (not meat or dairy products) into Black Gold . ”

Principle 8: Reduce rainwater runoff. Retain water and nutrients on-site by minimizing impermeable surfaces, creating swallows or rain gardens to filter rainwater, keeping street gutters clean and free of debris to prevent wash-up into storm sewers, and downspouts and roof water in planted areas, Guide swallows, barrels or cisterns.

Principle # 9: Protect the waterfront. Protect natural or man-made bodies of water by planting native aquatic plants in a maintenance-free buffer zone of at least 10 feet. Identify and remove invasive species with assistance from the Department of Environmental Protection.

For more information on how to create a Florida-friendly garden, contact horticultural agent Mimi Vreeland at mvreeland@ufl.edu.

We invite you to join our Flagler County Master Gardener Plant Sale and Florida-Friendly Landscaping ™ Presentation on Friday, May 7th at 150 Sawgrass Rd., Bunnell, FL 32110-4325. To reserve an hourly appointment at either 10am, 11am, 12pm or 1pm, contact Horticultural Agent Mimi Vreeland at mvreeland@ufl.edu.

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