January 16, 2008

Make Your Yard as Green as It Can Be

James Stevenson
By James Stevenson
Extension Educator

Here at Pinellas County Extension, our departments work together to teach sustainability; that is, ensuring that we enjoy a quality of life that will be available to future generations. Perhaps you would like to “green” your life. How about using the New Year to make changes to your landscaping practices? By the end of 2008, you may find yourself with a few more dollars, a garden of beautiful flowers and a happy family.

Sound too good to be true? Consider these 10 tips for a greener, cheaper, 2008.

  1. Plant A Tree – I remember planting a tree with my father when I was a little boy. We’ve watched the tree grow over the years, and it now shades my parents’ house while providing food and shelter for birds and other wildlife. The shade from a tree planted on the west side of a building can help cut air conditioning use. Call us for a list of trees that will fit nicely into your landscape.
  2. plumbago

  3. Add Drought-Tolerant Native or Non-Invasive Exotic Plants – Unless you live on a waterway, plant selection for Florida yards are best made with drought-tolerance in mind. Many plants that have evolved in dry, sandy soil make wonderful garden additions. Call us or come by for a list of drought-tolerant plants for Florida gardens.

  4. Service Your Lawn Mower – Make sure your lawn mower is in tip-top working order. The price of gasoline does not show any signs of lowering, so we must make sure our gas-powered engines are running as efficiently as possible

  5. Reduce Lawn Area – You may decide to give up on the whole lawn idea. Think about the cost of irrigation, lawn mowing, fertilizer and pesticide which is spent on growing grass which is cut, bagged and thrown away (at a cost!). Consider converting your yard into a series of beds featuring flowers, shrubs, trees and even vegetables and herbs.

  6. Convert To, or Install Low-Flow Irrigation – If you must irrigate, choose low-flow irrigation systems. These are cheap and easy to install and put the water right where the plants need it (not in the street or driveway!).

  7. Install a Rain-Barrel – One way to save money on watering potted plants is to use what is free – rain. This spring we will be offering a rain barrel workshop where you can learn to connect clean, 55 gallon food containers to your down-spout to collect rain that falls on the roof.

  8. Get The Family Involved – Get them up from in front of the TV and spend some quality time doing light chores outside. There will be plenty of interesting discoveries to be made; bugs, flowers, butterflies, everyone will be so enthralled they won’t notice they are working!

  9. vegetable patch

  10. Grow Your Own Herbs And a Few Vegetables – Growing your own herbs is easy and rewarding. Once you start, you will never shell-out $2 for a small bag of basil that has been imported from South America and tastes of plastic. Growing a few vegetables only costs pennies for a packet of seeds, and is a great way to get kids interested in gardening (AND eating vegetables!).

  11. Compost – Putting vegetable scraps into the garbage disposal grinds them to slurry that will end up in the Gulf. And you pay to send it there! Try backyard composting of vegetable and fruit scraps, yard clippings, leaves and coffee grounds. Once rotted-down this rich organic material makes wonderful, moisture-conserving mulch.

  12. Sick Plant? Call Us FirstOur Extension educators are ready to take your call about any garden-related question you may have at the Extension Service’s Horticulture Help Line at 727-582-2110. Most people call when they have a sick plant. As we have nothing to sell, we have no need to try and foist some chemical off on you which you may not even need. Our advice may be as simple to follow as “you may wish to reduce the amount you are watering” or “sounds like you are using the wrong type of fertilizer.” Our unbiased advice comes from the many years of horticultural experience and the latest research from the University of Florida. Our Educators are available Monday through Friday from 9:00am- noon and 1:00-4:00pm .

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