Rotarians learn more about Florida-friendly landscaping

Master Gardener Angela Sachson, from the Florida Yards and Neighborhoods (FYN) spoke to local Rotarians this week concerning Florida-Friendly landscaping.

The goal of the
FYN is to help reduce the level of fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides that go into the water supply through landscaping practices and reducing run-off.

There are nine Florida-friendly landscaping principles set forth by the
FYN: right plant, right place; water efficiently; fertilize appropriately; mulch; attract wildlife; manage yard pests responsibly; recycle; reduce stormwater runoff; and protect the waterfront.

“Right plant, right place” means to match the plant to the site conditions. In
Florida, one should consider planting drought-tolerant plants. When choosing the right plant one should consider: wet versus dry; wind-wise planting; shade benefits to cooling costs; planting similar plants together; and consult the Florida-friendly plant list. This list is available at the Okeechobee Extension office and online at http://floridayards.org/.

Watering efficiently can be a challenge due to droughts and water restrictions, however the following watering tips can help reduce the need for frequent watering: mow your lawn at the highest recommended setting for your grass type to allow for deeper roots; keep mower blades sharp, leaves cut by a dull blade need more water; apply the same amount of water at each application; and train grass roots to grow deep by applying ½ to ¾ of an inch of water per application.

Fertilizing appropriately begins with choosing the right fertilizer. According to the FYN, one should choose a slow-release fertilizer that releases nutrients gradually, over a period of time. The less phosphorus the better is key to choosing a fertilizer. This allows less phosphorus to go back into the water supply.

A mulch layer of 2 to 3 inches is recommended for areas around trees, shrubs and planted beds. In areas that are difficult to mow, irrigate or maintain, mulch can be a good alternative to turf or groundcovers.
FYN discourages the use of Cypress mulch due to the depletion of Cypress Trees in the wild.

When mulching, make sure that the base of the plant or tree is uncovered so that moisture is not held against the stem or trunk. This could cause mold or create a habitat for different pests.

Attracting wildlife to your landscape can be done by providing food for the types of wildlife that you want in your yard, such as birds or butterflies. Creating landscaping islands and natural corridors of plants that connect bordering properties can encourage travel of animals from one natural area to the next which would foster wildlife on a larger neighborhood scale. Mrs. Sachson suggested making sure you not only paid attention to the low and high areas with landscaping but maintain a middle covering as well which allows animals to feel protected.

Managing yard pests responsibly is important to the water quality as well. The
FYN encourages the use of soaps and oils when treating for pests in only the area where the problem exists. Do not treat the whole yard, only spot-treat affected plants or lawn, not in blanket applications.

Recycling helps utilize natural fertilizers for the lawn. FYN says to leave the lawn clippings on the yard after mowing. This helps fertilize the grass and returns nitrogen to the soil.

Water percolating through the ground is the natural way for the water to be cleaned as it is sifted down through dirt and sediment. Stormwater run-off is the result of heavy rainfall which is typical during
Florida’s rainy season, which we haven’t really had much of lately. Run-off can also occur when watering your yard if appropriate landscaping isn’t present to help divert water from running into drains directly back into the water supply.

It is best for the water to be able to soak into the soil to be cleaned before re-entering the water table. This allows the least amount of chemicals to be put back into the water supply.

The ninth principal is to protect the waterfront. Freshwater considerations include possibly designating a maintenance free zone of at least ten feet between the lawn and landscaping and the body of water. Enhance natural wetland vegetation with additional plantings in this area, but do not mow, fertilize or apply pesticides to this zone. This will help lessen runoff into the water.

The
FYN offers seminars and workshops on landscaping and other various topics. On Tuesday afternoons, the public is encouraged to contact the extension office between 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. at (863) 763-6469 to speak with the Master Gardeners who are available to answer your horticultural questions.

The
FYN is sponsored by the University of Florida and based in the Okeechobee County Extension Office, 458 U.S. 98 N. The Okeechobee office is responsible for Okeechobee, Glades and Highlands counties.

The next upcoming workshop is a Butterfly Garden Workshop to be held on Wednesday, Dec. 12, from
5:30 p.m. until 7 p.m. at the Okeechobee County Extension Office. Pre-registration is required, call (863) 763-6469 to sign up.