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GWAA

The Garden Writers Association

 

Last Update 08/29/12

Florida Friendly Gardening


ABWA Presentation July 9, 2008 page 2

Native Plants

Some Florida native plants may be hard to find at your local garden center, but demand is growing so the supply will follow. In the meantime, here are some tips on finding native plants that may be suited to your yard:

* Visit parks and preserves to view native plants in their natural setting. Undisturbed acreage near your home may work to. See what grows well in your area. Take photographs to show to knowledgeable people for later plant identification, or carry a good field guide that includes color photos.

* Visit the library and book stores, particularly those at botanical gardens, to find good reference books on Florida native plants.

* Attend meetings and field trips organized by the Florida Native Plant Society. Members often swap plants and seeds, as well as knowledge on what grows best in your area. Attend meetings and field trips organized by the Florida Native Plant Society or other horticultural organizations. (Native Plant Sources).

* When buying your plants, order from a nursery or ask your local garden center to order the native plants you want. Provide a list with scientific names, specifying the size of plant you want.

* If the plants you want are not available through local garden centers, visit plant nurseries that specialize in Florida native plants

* Consider hiring a landscape architect or contractor who specializes in native plants to survey your yard make landscaping suggestions. This may be a wise investment, particularly if you are planning major changes.

 

Attracting Wildlife

Floridaís urban development is replacing native wildlife habitat. As our communities expand, we see the loss of birds and other wildlife. For example critters that were in our neighborhood, but have been chased out by new construction include river otters, foxes, and armadillos.

A Florida Yard provides habitat for desirable plants and animals that have been displaced by development. Think about adding a few features for wildlife to bring birds, butterflies and beneficial insects such as lady bugs and praying mantis into your garden.

Basically, wildlife will be attracted by food, water and cover. You can create a wildlife habitat in your yard by:

* Providing food in the form of plants that bear seed, fruit, foliage or flowers that you are willing to plant to benefit birds, caterpillars and adult butterflies. Berries, fleshy fruits, nuts and acorns are treats for wildlife.

* Adding water sources such as a pond or a bird bath.

* Maintaining for the birds areas that include a tree canopy, smaller understory trees and shrubs, and grasses or flowers, especially those that are allowed to go to seed.

* Be aware that pets that are allowed to wander outside will defeat any efforts you make toward attracting wildlife. For example cats and birds or dogs and squirrels.

* Pesticides used in the landscape will reduce insect populations, an important food source for birds and frogs. Some chemicals will poison birds that eat the poisoned insects.

* Caterpillars on plants may be the larval form of butterflies. Each species of butterfly lays its eggs on a particular species of plant. For example, the rare Atala Hairstreak butterfly lays its eggs on coontie plants.

* Butterflies of different species are attracted to specific flowering nectar plants such as native wildflowers, shrubs and vines.

* Dead trees should be left in place if they don't threaten structures or people. Birds use dead trees for perches, nesting and sources of insects for food.

About Preventing Runoff

Here's a basic concept of a Florida Friendly Yard: Rain that falls in your yard should soak into your yard. Rain is the best source of water for your plants, and reducing runoff will help protect the waterways. Retaining rainfall long enough for it to percolate through the soil is the ideal scenario.

 

Downspouts

If the roof of your home has rain gutters, make sure the downspouts are not aimed toward a paved surface. Turn downspouts into areas with plantings that will make better use of rainfall than letting it run down the driveway and into a storm drain. Be sure to choose plants for these areas that can adapt to having more water, and be sure water doesn't pool next to buildings.

Rain Barrels

Large, plastic rain barrels are available at home and garden stores. The barrel looks like a garbage can, but has a hole in the top where a roof downspout can fit snugly.

A valve near the bottom allows you to fill a watering can or connect a hose. These barrels are great for hand-watering, and they aren't mosquito-attracters as long as the downspout fits tightly. The barrel is not unsightly, and a four-foot shrub could easily shield it from view.

Porous Surfaces

Whenever possible, use bricks, gravel, turf block, mulch, pervious concrete or other porous materials for walkways, driveways or patios. These materials allow rainwater to seep into the ground helping to filter pollutants and reducing the amount of runoff from your yard.

Maintaining Your Florida Yard

Caring for Florida starts with caring for your yard.

The perfect yard is less than ideal if caring for it causes you to pollute. A good landscape design incorporating the right plants in the right places reduces maintenance requirements and costs. For most yards it will be necessary to perform some maintenance, including:

* Composting

* Fertilizing

* Watering

* Mowing, Edging, Pruning, Raking

* Mulching

and

* Pest Management

Pollution-free yard maintenance is easy when plants are selected with that in mind. If your existing landscape is too much work or requires maintenance that pollutes, you should consider changing some plants in your yard.

 

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