December 27, 2007

Alternatives to Lawn Grass

Pam BrownBy Pam Brown
Urban Horticulture Extension Agent

Even with the rain that we received this summer, we still have drought conditions in the Tampa Bay area. Continued water restrictions are a certainty, so, it may be a good time to consider planting a drought tolerant ground cover as an alternative to large areas of grass.

In addition to needing more water and fertilizer than ground covers, the Environmental Protection Agency states that lawn mowers and other smallengine equipment emit at least 10 times the amount of smogcausing gases as a typical car ( Even small gasoline spills while refueling lawn equipment will evaporate and pollute the air. Living green or environmental sustainability has become more main stream of late, so the idea of replacing lawn grass with a more environmentally sustainable ground cover that only requires mowing a few times per year to keep it looking great may be a good alternative.

Several ground covers are good options for lawn grass replacement in our area.
All are drought tolerant once established and can be maintained with little or no additional fertilizer.

sunshine mimosa Sunshine mimosa (Mimosa strigillosa) is my favorite. It is a Florida native and will cover the area completely and do a good job of shading out weeds. As an added bonus, there will be pink puffball blooms held above the foliage on stalks all summer and into the fall.

asiatic jasmine Asiatic jasmine (Trachelospermum asiaticum) is a small leaved groundcover. It can have either glossy dark green leaves or there are several variegated leaf varieties. It does not have the fragrant blooms of the larger relatives.

perennial peanut Perennial peanut (Arachis glabrata) has been called the
ultimate southern lawn. It makes a dense cover of green with lovely yellow flowers from spring to fall. As an added bonus, the flowers make a lovely edible addition to

Establishment of these ground covers will normally take longer than grass plugs. It normally takes a little over two years for complete coverage. Keep the area mulched to discourage weeds during this establishment period. Perennial peanut can be purchased as sod. This is a good option if instant coverage needed. There are not currently sod options for sunshine mimosa or Asiatic jasmine.

Ground covers are not usually as durable to foot traffic as turfgrass. If you have children or pets that need a grassy play area or you live in a deed restricted
community that specifies the amount of traditional lawn that you must maintain, then replacing all of your lawn grass may not be an option. However, replacing even a portion of the grass will save time, money and energy and can contribute less to air and water pollution.

Digital Immigrants “Bridging the Generation Gap”

By Richard Livingstone, 4-H Youth Mentor and
Becky Vasquez, 4-H Youth Volunteer

digital handprintYouth today have grown up in a world that is filled with technology. Marc Prensky, author of Don’t Bother Me Mom I’m Learning, refers to them as “Digital Natives”, while adults are “Digital Immigrants”. This means that adults often don’t understand or accept that technology can be used as an educational/instructional tool. The wide variety of technology available to youth allows them to have access to information that older age groups never dreamed of. With the click of a mouse, youth have access to large amounts of information, from encyclopedias once held in paper bound jackets to actual communication with experts in a field they are researching. In addition, many of the computer/video games played by youth have educational value that can be missed if a game is only looked at on the surface. By playing games such as Half Life, Everquest, Sim City, Rise of Nations, and RuneScape, players can learn about cause and effect, the value of persistence, strategy, and tactics. They also learn how to make moral decisions and often immediately see the results of those decisions, an advantage not always available in the nonvirtual world. Technology immigrants may only take these games at face value and not realize the deeper learning going on. Here are some tips for adults to bridge this Technology Gap:

  • Avoid pulling youth away from technology; accept that it is part of their world

  • Learn how to use the internet

  • Ask youth questions about why they play the video games they play

  • Share information about technology with youth to make a connection

  • Take an active interest while youth are engaged in technology

  • Get out there and play some games yourself

Pinellas County 4H is working to increase community education in 4H
using Technology. For more information on using technology as a educational resource or how to involve your family in integrating technology, please contact the 4H Office at (727)582-2215 or