Grow your own – March 2014 – Florida-Friendly gardeners

Are you (or do you wish to be) a Florida-Friendly gardener? If so, the Duval County Extension Office invites you to have a Florida-Friendly Yard Advisor Team visit your yard. This team of volunteer Master Gardeners will not only confirm your successful practices; they will also suggest how you can make your outdoor environment even more Florida-Friendly.
If you aren’t familiar with the Florida-Friendly concept, go to http://fyn.ifas.ufl.edu/ to see what is involved. You may be surprised to know you probably already employ some or even all nine Florida-Friendly practices:

1. Select plants that do well in our area and place them in a location where they will thrive.
2. Water efficiently, following local ordinances when you set your sprinkler system and turning your system off during rainy periods.
3. Fertilize appropriately and only as needed, using products that provide the nutrients your landscape needs.
4. Mulch to help retain moisture, reduce weeds, and provide nutrients to the soil.
5. Attract wildlife by planting host and nectar plants for butterflies, and by providing water and shelter for birds and other desirable animals.
6. Manage yard pests responsibly, recognizing that most insects aren’t harmful and that some can even assist in getting rid of the destructive ones. Use environmentally friendly products, spot treating the affected plant or area rather than using an all-out assault.
7. Recycle plant material on site, using leaves and pine straw as mulch. Create nutrient-enriched compost for your garden by collecting yard and kitchen waste to create “black gold” that serves as a natural fertilizer and soil supplement in your garden.
8. Reduce storm water runoff, capturing rainwater from your roof to water plants, and creating berms and swales to direct water away from storm drains to areas where that water will be utilized in or absorbed by your landscape.
9. Protect the waterfront, creating a ten-foot chemical-free safety zone near bodies of water. Even if you don’t live on the water, you live near it. Ensure any spilled fertilizer, pesticides, and trash are not directed to storm drains that carry them directly to our rivers and creeks.

There’s a helpful document you can use as you plan your time and financial resources to become more Florida-Friendly: http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/ep413. This publication is divided into three sections. Tier one practices require minimal time and money to implement, tier two activities require a little more time and money, and tier three requires a considerable investment of time and money.

Once you’re on your way, call the Duval County Extension Office (904-387-8850) to request a yard audit, or drop by the office at 1010 N. McDuff Avenue to pick up an application. After you establish a mutually convenient time for the audit, the team will tour your yard to help confirm the Florida-Friendly practices you are using as well as provide suggestions for improvement.

Using Florida-Friendly practices can make growing your own more satisfying, especially when you know you are doing your part to conserve our scarce resources and make your yard a healthier environment for you and your family.

About Aline Clement

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