Cooperative Extension Service 
Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences
Hendry County Extension, P.O. Box 68, LaBelle, Florida 33975-0068  Phone (863) 674-4092

Hendry County Horticulture News

Environmental Friendly Landscaping

Florida's rapid population growth is resulting in great demands on the land.  It has been estimated that more than one thousand new residents arrived each day throughout most of the 1990's.  Florida's population is projected to exceed 18 million by 2010.

Such rapid growth endangers Florida's environment through: the destruction of natural wetland and upland ecosystems; loss of wildlife habitats; excessive or inefficient use of water and energy resources; pollution of coastal, riparian, lake and ground waters; and generation of yard debris and other solid wastes.
While most of the population growth is occurring in the coastal counties where 75% of Florida's population already resides, resulting in a  further concentration of population and urban infrastructure in areas with limited water supplies and containing some of Florida's most sensitive ecological zones.  Development in inland and upland areas can also threaten ground water from which Floridians draw 90% of their potable water.

Just as Florida's population is becoming more urbanized, more racially and ethnically diverse, and has an increasing median age, nearly 70% of Florida residents were born out of state, meaning most residents are unfamiliar with Florida's subtropical climate, environment, ecosystems and natural resources.  Many of the new Florida residents as well many native Floridians have many mis-perceptions about landscape care. Improper landscape practices can deplete resources and degrade Florida's environment.

The way we design and manage our landscapes has significant impact on the environment.   Plant selection and placement, irrigation, fertilization and pest control methods all interact with each other to determine the environmental impact of your landscape.

One of the basic tenets of an environmentally friendly landscape is selecting the right plant for the right place.  A well planned landscape should be designed around plants which are adapted to the specific site that they will occupy.  The characteristics of a site, such as soil type, pH, drainage, light exposure etc., will dictate which plants will grow well and the level of care they may need.  A poorly sited specimen will never do well and may be prone to pest problems necessitating use of large amounts of pesticides.

Landscape irrigation can account for up to 50% of a household water use.  Grouping plants together with similar water requirements will eliminate wasting water on plants that do not need it.  Use of mulches, watering only when needed as well as irrigating early in the morning and applying only 3/4 - 1 inch of water per application can significantly reduce water requirements without sacrificing the quality of the landscape.

Over fertilization can harm both plants and the environment. Excess fertilizer can encourage lush growth which is more prone to many pest and disease problems.  In addition, too much fertilizer promotes excessive growth which means more pruning and more yard waste.  Finally excess fertilizer may be carried away by rain and irrigation causing contamination of groundwater as well as streams and lakes.   Fertilizing according to soil test results and use of slow release fertilizers can help reduce the risk of water pollution.

Indiscriminate use of pesticides presents the risk of environmental contamination, harm to beneficial organisms, development of pest resistance and outbreaks of secondary pests.  Pest problems can be reduced by selecting resistant varieties with few pest problems and avoiding practices (over watering and over fertilizing) that make lawns and plants more susceptible to pests and diseases.  Gardeners should monitor the landscape frequently for pest problems and educate themselves to be able to distinguish between harmful and beneficial insects. If pests are detected, spray only the affected plant or plants.  Blanketing the landscape with pesticides is wasteful and can be harmful to the environment.

Adoption of these and other common sense techniques can result in an environmentally friendly landscape which is appealing but takes less work, conserves energy and water and reduces the amount of fertilizer and pesticides released into the environment.  Good luck and good gardening.

Gene McAvoy is the horticulture agent with the Hendry County Extension Service.  Direct your horticulture questions to PO Box 68, LaBelle, FL 33975,  e-mail - or phone 863-674-4092 or 863-983-1598.  You are also welcome to visit the Hendry County Extension Office at 225 Pratt Blvd., LaBelle.   Office hours are from 8:00 - 5:00.

The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences is an Equal Employment Opportunity - Affirmative Action Employer authorized to provide research, educational information and other services only to individuals and institutions that function without regard to race, color, sex, age, handicap or national origin.

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