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

Environmentally Friendly Landscaping Saves Dollars

Since the first Earth Day, on April 22,1970, a tremendous environmental awareness has been awakened throughout the United States and the world.  Starting as a student movement, Earth Day has become a major educational and media event nation-wide, focusing attention on current environmental problems and emphasizing solutions that will slow and reverse the harmful effects of human activities on the environment.

In the years since 1970, major strides have been made in protecting our precious environment.  No longer are we assaulted by televised scenes of factories discharging multi-hued streams of toxic effluent into our nation's waters, or rivers ablaze as a result of their waters being charged with petrochemicals.  Numerous pieces of legislation have been passed setting standards for clean air and water.  Automobiles have become much cleaner through efforts to reduce airborne emissions.  Farms and factories alike have implemented a number of practices which have greatly reduced their impact on the environment.  The level of environmental awareness and commitment of people throughout the state and nation has risen markedly as a consequence of these efforts.  As a result many formerly threatened species and natural areas have made a dramatic comeback in the quarter century since the first Earth Day.

Despite the tremendous progress in improving our environmental quality,  threats to our fresh and marine waters still exist.  Unlike the past, where the threat was from flagrant identifiable point source discharges into our waters, now the threat is more insidious.  Scientists have established that 80% of the blame for the degradation of area waters is due to non-point sources of pollution.  Non -point sources of pollution emanate from a variety of sources.  Residential areas are a major contributors of non-point source contamination.  Improperly maintained or constructed septic systems, pesticides used in and around the home, over-fertilization of lawns and gardens, laundry detergents and a number of other chemicals commonly used in and around our homes and yards contribute to this pollution stream affecting our waters.  Ironically, it is not some toxic spewing industrial manufacturing complex which is to blame, it is the citizens of the area, everyone of us, who are directly responsible for the problems currently being experienced by the beautiful natural environment, which has caused us to call this area home.  In the words of the cartoon character Pogo, "We have met the enemy and he is us".

You do not have to live on the water to contribute to this problem.  Storm water is the reason.  Rain falls on yards, roads and parking lots and then washes into streams, rivers, lakes or into our porous sandy soils and then eventually into surface waters, carrying pollutants like fertilizers, pesticides and petroleum products.

Scientists have discovered that fertilizers and pesticides from residential areas are serious threats to the health of Florida's waters.  Nutrient laden runoff containing nitrogen and phosphorus from fertilizers can encourage algal blooms in surface waters, smothering aquatic plants and depleting oxygen levels resulting in fish kills.  Toxic substances such as common landscape and household pesticides can enter the environment damaging reproduction in fresh water and marine organisms.  Nitrates and other chemicals in well water can harm humans, especially children.

All is not gloom and doom.  Fortunately, there are a number of actions that each and every one of us can take to reverse this trend.  A new ethic is emerging among concerned Florida homeowners who seek to redefine the image of home and landscape.  The idea is to live in greater harmony with local natural conditions rather than battle nature.  Becoming familiar with and encouraging beneficial insects and organisms, changing the kinds and reducing the amount of pesticides and fertilizers used in the yard, using phosphorus free detergents, recycling yard wastes, periodic pumping of septic tanks, proper maintenance of car and boat motors, and planting less demanding native species to provide refuge for wildlife are just a few of the things that can easily be put into practice by most people.

Your home and yard is the first line of defense in helping to protect our wondrous natural environment.  By choosing native and other beneficial trees, shrubs, and ground covers that blend beauty and environmental benefits and selecting safer alternatives to the chemicals used indoors and out, you can make a difference.  Best of all, many of the recommended practices will also save you time and money while benefiting the environment and enhancing our special Florida lifestyle.

Whether you are starting from scratch with a new landscape or contemplating changes in your existing landscape,  The Hendry County Cooperative Extension Office can provide helpful tips on cost saving environmentally friendly landscape maintenance techniques helping you to reduce water, fertilizer and pesticide usage.  Nature knows no property lines.  Our yards are interconnected with our environment in many subtle ways.  By making small changes in our daily lives, resulting in a cleaner, more productive environment, we can ensure that Florida continues to be a unique haven for people, plants and animals.  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.

Home                    Index