Make your yard Florida-Friendly
TRACY HODGEFlorida is a great place to live because of our mild winter climate, sunshine and unique landscape settings. However, many people have found Florida to be a tough place to grow plants, flowers, lawn grass and trees.
Published: January 9, 2013
Published: January 9, 2013
Hot summer temperatures, sandy soils and an abundance of insects can make gardening in our state problematic. However, you can combat some of these issues by making your yard Florida-Friendly using techniques from the Florida-Friendly Landscaping Program designed by the University of Florida, IFAS Extension and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.
The basis behind Florida-Friendly yards is simple. Use native plants that are best adapted to our Florida climate. By installing native plants, you will avoid wasting your time and energy caring for plants that are not equipped to thrive in central Florida. Learn to identify invasive plants that will out-compete our native plants and avoid planting them to reduce habitat loss in your growing area.
Before planting, it is best to form a landscape plan. A well-designed landscape plan not only places plants in the best place in your yard, but also takes water needs and maintenance into consideration. A Florida-Friendly yard is full of native plants that require minimal watering and needs virtually no fertilizer or pesticides.
One way to group plants in your yard is to learn how much water they need to be healthy. Placing plants with similar water needs together in flower beds will help you use less water and lower plant maintenance.
You should aim to place plants adapted to excessively wet soils in low areas or areas with inadequate drainage. Drought tolerant plants do best along western walls or in areas of increased exposure. Adding trees to these plant groups also will provide an effective wildlife habitat and windbreak.
You can add eye appeal by choosing color combinations for your landscape design. It is best to keep it simple, choosing two or three colors that compliment each other and using these colors as a theme throughout your landscape setting.
A Florida-Friendly yard can also help increase the energy efficiency of your home. Since the winter winds in Florida most often blow from the north or northwest, consider planting a row of evergreen trees to provide a barrier against the cold wind. High winds can damage trees, so it is best to choose evergreens known for their strength in the event of a hurricane.
The positioning of trees near your home also can make your home more efficient. Placing trees on the east, south and west side of your home will shade your home during the summer, reducing energy consumption. Planting shrubs around your outdoor air-conditioner compressor/condenser unit will allow it to use less energy during the summer, as well. Just be sure to avoid blocking the flow of air around your unit.
Your lawn grass helps cleanse the air by releasing oxygen into the atmosphere, absorbing carbon dioxide and collecting dust. Lawn grass also acts as a filter for storm water and reduces soil erosion.
While your lawn grass will thrive in sunny areas, avoid planting grass in dense shade. In areas of heavy shade, it is best to use groundcover plants that are shade-tolerant instead of lawn grass.
As most central Florida yards have soil types that dry out quickly, you may want to improve the condition of your soil before planting. Adding organic matter such as compost, peat moss or animal manure can help improve the quality of the soil and make it easier for plants to grow and thrive.