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Make New Year resolutions to help the environment

New Year’s is often the time for resolutions, and gardeners shouldn’t shy away from making a few of their own.  Resolve to nurture your gardens in 2012 the Florida-friendly way be working to keep the environment healthy.

Whether you are new to Florida or have lived here all of your life, learn how to protect Florida’s environment. Get started in your own back yard by implementing the nine principles of Florida-friendly landscaping. Learn to landscape and garden the Florida way – the smart way to grow!

1.  Right Plant, Right Place: Not every plant can thrive in any place. Select plants that match your site’s soil, light, water, and climatic conditions.  Think about buying native plants when possible, and select a variety of trees, shrubs, groundcovers, and flowers.  Resolve to research the mature size of your plants prior to purchase and plant them in locations that will accommodate their full size.

coreopsis and gaillardia

Native wildflowers are a beautiful and environmentally-friendly addition to the landscape

2.  Water Efficiently: Efficient watering is the key to a healthy lawn and landscape.  Even plants in the right place will sometimes need supplemental watering. To water efficiently, group plants with similar water needs together. Watch for signs of wilt and irrigate when needed.  Resolve to check your irrigation system regularly to make sure it’s zoned correctly and that you’re watering plants, not the sidewalk.

3.  Fertilize Appropriately: Fertilizers add nutrients to the soil for plants, but they can do more harm than good if not used wisely. Less is often best. Over-use of fertilizers not only wastes money but the practice can be hazardous to your yard and the environment since the excess may seep into our water systems.  Resolve to get a soil test done on your lawn to determine the type of fertilizer that is needed.

4.  Mulch: Maintain two to three inches of mulch to help retain soil moisture, prevent erosion and suppress weeds. It also gives your landscape a neat, uniform appearance and is a Florida-friendly choice for hard-to-mow slopes and shady spots.  Resolve to avoid “volcano” mulching where mulch is piled up around tree trunks.

5.  Attract Wildlife: Plants in your yard that provide food, water and shelter can conserve Florida’s diverse wildlife. Select plants with seeds, fruit, foliage, flowers, or berries that animals can eat. Supply water, such as a rain garden or bird bath. Leave snags (dead trees) for birds to perch and nest in. Resolve to reduce wide-spread insecticide use to encourage beneficial insects.

6.  Manage Yard Pests Responsibly: Unwise use of pesticides can harm people, pets, beneficial organisms and the environment. Remember that many insects are beneficial and should be allowed to stay in your landscape. Resolve to research and implement integrated pest management (IPM) practices.

7.  Recycle: Grass clippings, leaves and yard trimmings composted and recycled on site provide nutrients to the soil and reduce waste disposal. Resolve to start a compost pile—it’s fun and easy.

8.  Reduce Stormwater Runoff: Water running off your yard can carry pollutants, such as fertilizer, pesticides, soil and debris that can harm water quality. Reduction of this runoff will help prevent pollution.  Resolve to add a rain barrel or a rain garden to your landscape.

9.  Protect the Waterfront: Waterfront property, whether on a river, stream, pond, bay or beach, is very fragile and should be carefully protected to maintain freshwater and marine ecosystems. Resolve to protect water bodies by maintaining a ten-foot-wide buffer zone of native plants along the water’s edge. Don’t mow, fertilize, or use pesticides in this area.

Landscaping the Florida-friendly way means having a beautiful landscape that could save you time, energy, and money while protecting Florida’s future.

 Theresa Friday is the Residential Horticulture Extension Agent for Santa Rosa County.  The use of trade names, if used in this article, is solely for the purpose of providing specific information. It is not a guarantee, warranty, or endorsement of the product name(s) and does not signify that they are approved to the exclusion of others.

For additional information about all of the county extension services and other articles of interest go to: http://santarosa.ifas.ufl.edu.

Permanent link to this article: http://santarosa.ifas.ufl.edu/blog/2012/01/04/make-new-year-resolutions-to-help-the-environment/