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Florida-Friendly Landscaping

May 29, 2020
By CATHY DUNN - Garden Club of Cape Coral (Special to The Breeze) , Cape Coral Daily Breeze

Special to The Breeze

Have you struggled with establishing a garden here in Southwest Florida? Maybe you are a new resident from a completely different climate, or perhaps you are a long-time Florida resident who would welcome assistance with your landscaping efforts. Well, you are in luck! We are fortunate to have a free, easily accessible and excellent source for homeowner gardening information: the Florida-Friendly Landscaping Program, which is sponsored by the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (

The basis of Florida-Friendly Landscaping is the use of low-maintenance plants and environmentally sustainable practices. A Florida-Friendly Landscape can save you time, energy and money while enhancing our environment, beautifying your landscape and protecting our abundant natural resources.

The FFL is based on nine principles:

1. Right Plant, Right Place. This is the most important consideration when choosing plants for your landscape. Native plants will be your optimal choice, since they most closely match our area's soil, water and climatic conditions.

2. Water Efficiently. Water can be conserved by choosing the right plants, grouping plants with similar water needs together and properly zoning your irrigation system.

3. Fertilize Appropriately. Use UF recommended rates and application timings to maximize absorption of your fertilizer and to avoid runoff and leaching. Always follow label directions, never fertilize within 10 feet of any water body and don't fertilize before a heavy rain. And remember that in Lee County fertilizer with nitrogen and/or phosphorous may NOT be applied to turf or landscape plants between June 1 and Sept. 30.

4. Mulch. The application of mulch helps retain moisture, protects plants and inhibits weed growth and it gives your landscape a neat, uniform appearance.

5. Attract Wildlife. You can help beneficial wildlife such as birds, butterflies and bats survive in the urban landscape by providing food (plants with seeds, fruit, foliage or berries that animals can eat), water (a rain garden or bird bath) and shelter (host plants and plantings that provide cover).

6. Manage Yard Pests Responsibly. Strive to manage pests with Integrated Pest Management a strategy that manages pests with as few chemicals as possible. Choosing pest-resistant plants, spot treating rather than blanket spraying and selective use of broad spectrum insecticides will help prevent disease and insect outbreaks. Remember to always read and follow insecticide label instructions.

7. Recycle Yard Waste. Regular landscape maintenance activities such a mowing, pruning and raking will provide yard waste that you can recycle through composting. By adding compost to your soil you will provide increased nutrition for your plants, achieve looser soil that holds water better and send less garbage to the landfill.

8. Reduce Stormwater Runoff. Our local waterways are one of the greatest benefits of living in Southwest Florida, but they are vulnerable to every substance that we add to our home landscapes. Runoff from fertilizers and pesticides wreak havoc on our water quality and ecosystems.

9. Protect the Waterfront. Florida has the nation's second longest coastline, and we have over 10,000 miles of rivers and streams in our state. Even if you don't live directly on a water body, everything you do in your yard impacts our water quality. It is critical that we maintain a 10-foot "maintenance free zone" around any water body, without mowing, fertilizers or pesticides.

There are many publications available on the FFL website that will provide detailed information on how you can create a Florida Friendly Yard. Take advantage of these wonderful resources, and your landscape will reflect your efforts and our local ecosystem will benefit as well!

Cathy Dunn is a Master Gardener and member of the Garden Club of Cape Coral.



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