By Kelsey Hansen, Group Tours and Education Coordinator
Florida is a great location to have your own backyard (or front yard) garden. The state’s climate ranges from subtropical to tropical and there are plenty of fruits, vegetables, wildflowers, and shrubs that can grow all year long. When you consider planning and installing your own garden, it is extremely important to be aware of the natural resources you are getting ready to use. Sustainable gardening practices, or Florida-Friendly Gardening, incorporate specific practices to conserve water, reduce pollution and other waste, create wildlife habitats, and prevent erosion. These practices are not only beneficial to your garden’s prosperity, but also help the surrounding ecosystem.
There are nine principles to follow when designing a Florida-Friendly landscape. Based on research from the University of Florida, the principles are designed to reduce your environmental impact on the landscape and they do not deplete natural resources. Gardens that use the principles work with the surrounding environment to create an ecological balance; they will attract pollinators and other creatures seeking refuge from urban sprawl and benefit your garden by eating pests and other unwanted insects. The principles also teach you how to manage pests properly, fertilize appropriately, and manage stormwater runoff. Below is a list of the nine principles:
By following these guidelines and knowing when to plant specific items, your garden can thrive. Below is a great infographic on edible plants that are best to start in May and June; whether growing your plants from seeds or transplanting them, it is helpful to know when plants will grow best. The edibles below have different germination and harvesting times, but watching your plants grow is part of the fun of gardening.
An important practice of sustainable gardening is the use of compost. It has the greatest impact on the health of your garden, soil, and reduces materials that would have been sent to the landfill. Composting is using recycled organic materials that are decaying to help your plants grow and enrich your soil’s health. Compost benefits the soil's health by increasing its ability to retain water, which will reduce your need to water your plants, and filter pollutants. And it is super easy… All you need is a small space (a bucket, for example), water, air, and food scraps and some organic material to begin your compost pile. Composting also helps keep waste from building up at landfills; more than 20% of your household waste can be used for composting instead of throwing it away. Happy gardening!