grow your own

by ALINE CLEMENT
After reading my November column about Florida-Friendly
Landscaping, a friend asked me how he could implement the
practices in his neighborhood, which was restricted by Homeowners’ Association (HOA) covenants. He had read about a law that he thought allowed him to do anything he wanted in his yard as long as it was “Florida-Friendly.”
While Florida statutes support homeowners who wish to make their yards more Florida-friendly, the law does not suppress the HOA approval process for requesting exceptions to existing covenants.
My husband and I live in such a neighborhood, so I told my friend about the process we went through to get approval from our HOA board when we wanted to make changes to our traditional landscape plan several years ago.
To set the stage, we created a map of our yard as it looked at that time. Then, we made a new map with the proposed changes, so our board members could visualize what it would look like. We attached a list of the nine Florida-friendly principles as documentation to support why we felt the changes were necessary. You can read about the principles at www.solutionsforyourlife.ufl.edu/hot_
topics/lawn_and_garden/fyn.html.
In the front yard we wanted to increase the size of the ornamental beds and add some new beds and a fountain along the walkway to our front entry. We planned to install some natives as well as decorative grasses and drought-tolerant plants among the existing azaleas and hollies.
In the backyard our biggest change was to eliminate all the St. Augustine grass. We thought this might be a major drawback to getting HOA approval, but since we left much of our front lawn untouched we encountered no objections. We planned to build a raised vegetable bed just outside the kitchen door. Stepping stones would surround this bed and extend to other parts of the backyard.
This would not only help define the different areas of the new garden, but also provide a convenient pathway to get to each area. Again, wherever we added new plants, we tried to ensure they were both drought-tolerant as well as attractive to birds and butterflies. We included in the plan a compost area
as well as rain barrels, trellises, and a fountain next to a swing shaded by flowering vines. Everything we did was in support of the Florida-friendly practices.
By following the approval process required by our HOA covenants and answering questions from our board members, we ensured there would be no unexpected barriers to implementing our new landscape plan. With board approval, we installed our new garden gradually over the next few years.
If you’d like to learn more about how Florida-friendly landscaping and HOAs can work together, you can attend a meeting on Tuesday, March 19 at 9 am at the Duval County Extension Office, 1010
N. McDuff Avenue. Call 255-7450 for more information or to reserve your seat.

About Aline Clement

Aline Clement is a master gardener with the Duval County Extension Service and the University of Florida/IFAS.