1. Put the Right Plant in the Correct Location
The First part of our Home Landscape Checklist is to move all invasive plants from the yard. When I bought my house in St. Petersburg, the yard had 5 Carrot Wood Trees. I immediately cut them down since they are invasive to Florida and will spread rapidly and destroy natural Florida habitats. Then evaluate your landscape. The types of soil, moisture level and amount of sun. Choose plants that will thrive in the conditions naturally.
In my yard, I have a section of soil in front of my front door that is sandy, dry and gets 11 hours of full sun. Over the course of 3 years, I have tried to grow many plants that have not survived. I should have put in Blue Love Grass (Eragrostis elliotii)…Leaf blades are blue in color and slightly weeping. When maturity is reached, Love Grass will get maybe two feet high and wide. The color is amazing in this clumping variety. One of the low growing varieties requiring full sun and is drought tolerant. Any plants that you add to your landscape will also boost your home’s curb appeal.
2. Water less.
We installed a drip irrigation system in our yard. Although we kept most plantings in the drought-resistant category, we still wanted to utilize tropical plants that need to be watered regularly. Another benefit, drip irrigation uses 70% less water since you only water the roots of the plant. Also, we encourage the use of watering systems that are connected to the internet and will postpone watering when a rain storm has come through. We use the B-Hyve automated watering system and it is amazing. You will get alerts about the watering on your phone. Lawns will benefit from a regular deep watering each week. We suggest installing a deep well to draw water to keep your lawn irrigated. The upfront cost will negate high water bills in the future. Now let’s move to our Home Landscape Checklist number three.
3. Environmentally Fertilize
When fertilizing your landscape in Florida, it’s important to think about the big picture and fertilize less. You see, damage to the environment occurs when over fertilizing. Because it seeps past the root zone of the grass, plants or trees and into the aquifer or runs off into water bodies, it’s important to fertilize the correct amount. Furthermore, people and animals need clean water to survive. Preventing water pollution is the goal. The Florida State Landscaping Recommendation suggests the following:
“Fertilize lawns, trees and plants only to maintain health. Don’t exceed recommended amounts. Fertilizer will not help poor growth caused by too much shade, disease or pests.
Use slow-release fertilizers that make nutrients available to plants for a longer time. They are kinder to the environment and are usually more cost-effective.
Use iron instead of nitrogen if you want to “green-up” your lawn.
Hold off on fertilizing if a heavy rain is expected, and don’t over-irrigate after applying.
Follow the directions on the fertilizer package and use a drop spreader instead of a rotary spreader to apply it.
Avoid weed and seed products.”
Together we can protect our environment and also have beautiful landscapes.
4. Utilize Mulch
Our Home Landscape Checklist would be incomplete without mentioning mulch. To keep weeds from growing in your landscape and to retain moisture, use 2-3 inches of mulch in your flower and shrub beds.
Have you considered making your lawn smaller and adding shrub or flower beds? In doing so you will add habitat for wildlife and cut down on mowing time. Just make sure to add lots of mulch throughout.
To keep the level of mulch consistently 2–3 inches, apply it once or twice a year. ( I like to use pine needles in the Spring and meleluca mulch in the Fall.
Always allow the base of your plants, shrubs and trees to breathe by keeping mulch 2 inches away from the stem or trunk.
Recycle leaves and grass clippings into a compost pile or leave on ground to add to the mulch density.
If using cypress mulch, make sure it is not harvested from Florida’s wetlands.
5. Go WILD!
Your yard will become a habitat for wildlife if you create the right environment for the animals to survive. In Florida we have the migration of butterflies.
Why not create a place for them to reside in your own yard. Butterflies love vines, shrubs and trees that provide shelter, food and protection. They also need a place to get water. A perfect place for butterflies to water is in moist sand. Try to provide a place to keep them hydrated. Make your yard inviting to our winged friends by providing bird houses and bat houses. Our feathered friends also love to take shelter in brush piles. When inviting these friends into your landscape, remember to not use pesticides if possible. Or use them minimally or just spot treat small areas.
6. Earth-friendly pest management.
When considering pest control, remember that chemicals will also kill butterflies and honey bees, ladybugs, etc. Chemical pesticides also make their way into our water supply. Here is our Home landscape Checklist number six with a few tips to control pest naturally.
There are many insects that will eat pests. Research the beneficial insects for your area and order them online. Yes, you can order preying mantis and lady bugs online. Dragon flies, lizards and bats eat mosquitos. I also welcome black snakes to my yard to keep rodents away. Make your landscape a habitat for these wonderful things that will keep pests at bay naturally.
when you notice a plant has an infestation, prune off the affected area or pick off the insects.
Instead of using pesticides, try solutions that will benefit other animals, humans and the nature. There are many organic products to use on pests. Dawn liquid soap mixed with water eliminates many pests, as well as mixtures of water, soap and essential oils. Choose the lest toxic pest controller if at all possible and don’t apply to large areas.
Home Landscape Checklist includes Recycling. Nature provides lots of things to recycle. Fallen leaves, pine needles, and grass clippings are valuable to your landscape. Uses include placing the organic waste in your flower and shrub beds for mulch. Moreover, you could place in a compost pile or bin. Compost bins offer a chance to also recycle kitchen vegetable, and fruit scraps.
St. Petersburg also offers compost bins to every home owner. Currently these compost bins are free so go to the city site and request one. The compost will be useful for fertilizing your plants and also as mulch.
8. Soak up the Rain
St Petersburg FL and Tampa Bay receive large amounts of rain and downpours from mid June till November. Create a landscape that will soak up the water. Water runoff from your landscape has the potential to carry pollutants, and excess fertilizers into our pristine waters…the bay, rivers and lakes. We try to approach this idea with the forethought of knowing we will drink the water eventually that runs off our yard. Create a system where your gutter’s downspouts lead to your lawn, landscape beds or water holding tanks for irrigating later. Also, many residents employ the use of rain barrels and cisterns.
Use porous materials for every area of your property. Choose sidewalk, patio and driveway materials that allow water to permeate the soil beneath. Some beautiful options include brick and pavers, stepping stones, shell, pebbles, and mulch for plant beds. Also keep grass clippings and fertilizer off of streets and hard surfaces. Take care of the environment by cleaning up all oil spills and vehicle leaks on the driveway and streets. Scatter cat litter to absorb the oil. Also, be a good neighbor and pick up pet waste to help reduce bacterial pollution. Furthermore, pick up all trash in the street and yard so that it does not get washed into storm drains. If possible, create water retention areas in your landscape (Low areas) to hold and filter the water.
9. Care for the Waterfront
If you live on the waterfront, there are some things you can do to keep it beautiful!
Our natural mangroves provide an important element is the sustainability of our wildlife and environment. Always protect these areas and do not remove any vegetation. If removal is needed, please get the proper approval and obtain permits.
Never apply fertilizer or pesticides within 10 to 30 feet from water.
Familiarize yourself with all the invasive plant species in Florida and remove them by cutting, pulling or raking.
A beautiful idea is to plant a wildlife habitat of low-maintenance plants between your lawn and shoreline to absorb nutrients that creates a buffer zone.
Implementing this Home Landscape Checklist will make your yard a habitat where life thrives.