SP191A Guide to Environmentally Friendly Landscaping:Florida Yards and Neighborhoods Handbook1Allen Garner, John Stevely, Heidi Smith, Mary Hoppe, Tracy Floyd and Paul Hinchcliff2 Florida Yards and Neighborhoods: The idea is to cooperate with local, natural The First Line of Defense conditions, rather than to battle the elements. It may surprise you to know that your yard is thefirst line of defense for Floridas fragile environment. The health of Floridas estuaries, rivers, lakes andaquifers depends in part on how you landscape andmaintain your yard. And you dont even have to liveon the water to make a difference. Storm-water runoff is the reason. Rain falls onyards, roads and parking lots, then washes intotributaries and the lagoon, carrying pollutants likefertilizers, pesticides, soil and petroleum products.Scientists have discovered that fertilizers and Figure 1.pesticides from residential areas are serious threats tothe health of Floridas waters. When runoff containsnitrogen from fertilizers, algae can become soabundant that sea grasses are smothered, oxygen isdepleted and fish kills may result. In some freshwaterenvironments phosphorus is often the nutrientresponsible for algae blooms. Toxic substances, suchas common landscape and household pesticides, candamage reproduction in marine life. But all is not gloom and doom. A new ethic isemerging among concerned Florida homeowners whoseek to redefine the image of home and landscape. Figure 2.1. This document is SP 191, a series of the Environmental Horticulture Department, Florida Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Agriculture Sciences, University of Florida. Publication date: May 2001. Please visit the EDIS Web site at http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu.2.The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences is an equal opportunity/affirmative action employer authorized to provide research, educationalinformation and other services only to individuals and institutions that function without regard to race, color, sex, age, handicap, or national origin.For information on obtaining other extension publications, contact your county Cooperative Extension Service office. Florida CooperativeExtension Service/Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences/University of Florida/Christine Taylor Waddill, Dean.
A Guide to Environmentally Friendly Landscaping: Florida Yards and Neighborhoods Handbook 2 More people are conserving water and energyinside and outside the home. Interest is growing inlandscaping with native and other beneficial trees,shrubs and ground covers. Homeowners are choosingplants that blend beauty and environmental benefits.People are selecting safer alternatives to chemicalsused indoors and out. Best of all, many of thesebenefits to the environment also save time and moneywhile enhancing our special Florida lifestyle. This handbook on the Florida Yards & Figure 3.Neighborhoods Program provides helpful concepts,tools and techniques for creating your own Florida case, frequently add organic matter, such as compost,Yard. Youll learn the basics of designing a to the planting bed. This will retain moisture, providelandscape featuring carefully selected plants suited to nutrients and attract beneficial organisms likeour climate, natural conditions and wildlife. Tips on earthworms.cost-saving, environmentally friendly landscapemaintenance also are included to help you reduce It is helpful to have your soils pHwater, fertilizer and pesticide use. A helpful section (acidity/alkalinity) tested. Sandy coastal areas arefor waterfront homeowners addresses shoreline usually alkaline (high pH), and inland areas aremanagement. This handbook also provides tips for usually acidic (low pH). However, many lots containworking with your neighbors to share costs and work. fill dirt from other areas, so site-specific pH testing isHandy reference lists are located in the back of the a good idea. Knowing your soils pH will help youhandbook. make better use of plant reference guides, which often provide this information along with other Whether starting from scratch with a new requirements of the plants listed. Many plants willlandscape or considering changes in an existing one, tolerate a wide pH range, but will do best whenthe information provided here will help you get planted in the right soil.started on your Florida Yard. For more assistance,contact the Cooperative Extension Service in your Modifying the soils pH is not recommended.county and ask about the Florida Yards & Alkaline soils will not stay acidic if chemicallyNeighborhoods Program. altered. In general, slightly acidic soils need not be modified as most landscape plants will tolerate these Creating Your Florida Yard conditions. Contact the Cooperative Extension Service for information on soil testing services in More About Soil your area. In much of Florida, soil and sand are almostsynonymous terms. Typical soils allow rapid,downward movement of water and many nutrients.Thus, they dry out quickly and are not compatiblewith plants having high water and nutritionalrequirements. Sandy soils are more likely to allowleaching of chemicals into groundwater andwaterways. The simplest way to avoid these problems in thelandscape is to use only plants that are compatiblewith the site. If you want a vegetable or rose garden, Figure 4.be prepared to modify, or amend, the soil. In that
A Guide to Environmentally Friendly Landscaping: Florida Yards and Neighborhoods Handbook 3 When planning your landscape be aware that pesticide may be required. Plant selection also willdifferent areas on the same property may have vastly determine how long your landscape will last. Fordifferent soils because of imported fill. Another example, fast-growing plants often have a shortervariable factor in your soils may be the presence of a life-span than slower-growing species.sub-layer of hardpan, rock or shell. This is onereason to examine your soil to a depth of about 18 Here are some guidelines for selecting yourinches before making final plant selections. Florida Yard plants: More About Plant Selection • Plants already on your property, particularly native plants, may be well-suited to the site and Plant selection is undoubtedly the fun part of should be retained. Avoid disturbing the rootlandscaping. Floridas climate supports countless zone (at least to the drip line) of these plants orvarieties of plants, and many are grown by local plant driving over them with heavy vehicles. Savingnurseries. If you follow the design checklist provided existing plants reduces costs and leaves valuableearlier in this section, youll be well prepared to make wildlife habitat undisturbed. For those building athe best plant choices. new home, retaining existing plants also limits erosion by reducing the amount of clearing required. • Select from a plant palette that includes suitable native plants. Once native plants are established in the right location, most require little, if any, supplemental water, fertilizers or pesticides. • If you dont want to continue irrigating after plants become established, select drought-resistant plants that are right for your soil. • Consider wildlife. Providing native flowering and fruiting plants can bring birds and butterflies into your yard and your view. Florida is a stopover for many migrating and wintering butterflies and birds. • Limit the number of showy plants that require high water and maintenance, and place them where theyll have the most visual impact. • Dont plant noxious, invasive species. The State of Florida prohibits planting of Brazilian pepper, Australian pine and melaleuca (cajeput or punk tree). These plants should be removed from your yard, if possible. They crowd outFigure 5. native plants and are seriously threatening Floridas ecosystems and wildlife. Several other The plants you select determine the wildlife plants commonly used in landscaping are startingvalue of your yard, the level of maintenance required, to take over here and in other parts of Florida. Ahow much money youll be spending on water or few examples are wedelia (a ground cover),electricity to run a pump, and how much fertilizer or carrotwood tree, Java plum and Chinese tallow. For a list of plants you may want to avoid,
A Guide to Environmentally Friendly Landscaping: Florida Yards and Neighborhoods Handbook 4 contact the Exotic Pest Plant Council. Also, contact your local government planning department to find out which plants are restricted by landscaping codes. • Aim for diversity. Strive to create a mosaic of trees, shrubs, ground covers, native grasses and wildflowers. Monocultures, which are large expanses of the same species of plant, are prone to disease and insect infestation and do not provide the same benefits to wildlife as a diverse plant community. • Turf areas should be functional and designed for easy maintenance. If the grass dies or you arent using a turf area for play or other activities, consider replacing it. Good alternatives are ground covers or landscaped beds including the mosaic of plants described above. Ground covers can be especially useful in shady areas where turf may not thrive. Fertilizing, watering, mowing and pesticide use will be reduced. • Dont be fooled by the quick-fix appeal of fast-growing plants. Such plants require more pruning, resulting in more yard waste. Lush, Figure 6. green shoots also attract pests. Slower-growing plants may take longer to fill in your landscape picture, but theyll last longer and create less work. Matching Plants to Your Yard Determine site characteristics. • Remember that these may vary throughout your yard: SOIL Figure 7. Sand Compacted Loam Well-drained Clay Poorly drained Alkaline pH DRAINAGE Acidic pH
A Guide to Environmentally Friendly Landscaping: Florida Yards and Neighborhoods Handbook 5 Well-drained Slow-growing Poorly drained Wind-resistant LIGHT Thrives without supplemental fertilizing Full sun • Select plants with wildlife-attracting Partial sun characteristics: Shade Berries TEMPERATURE Seeds Exposed to freezes Nuts Exposed to extreme heat Acorns STRUCTURAL LIMITATIONS Fleshy fruits Power lines Butterfly plants: nectar and larval food Underground utilities Red tubular flowers for Septic tank hummingbirds Roof overhangs Also consider the following Paved surfaces characteristics: OTHER Provides shade Exposed to salt spray or salty well Human food source water Deciduous Exposed to strong wind Evergreen Exposed to wet/dry seasonal Screening for privacy extremes Attractive flowers or foliage • Consider plant characteristics that reduce maintenance and prevent pollution: • Consult with these expert sources to develop a plant list for your site: Drought-resistant Cooperative Extension Service Pest-resistant Florida Native Plant Society Native Division of Forestry Non-invasive
A Guide to Environmentally Friendly Landscaping: Florida Yards and Neighborhoods Handbook 6 Water Management District what grows best in your area. Attend meetings and field rips organized by the Florida Native Garden Center or Plant Nursery Plant Society or other horticultural organizations. USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service • When buying your plants, order from a nursery or ask your local garden center to order the Landscape Maintenance native plants you want. Provide a list with Professional scientific names, specifying the size of plant you want. Be sure to request an estimate before Libraries placing the order and inspect the plants for vigor and signs of disease or pests before paying. • If plants you seek are not available through local garden centers, visit plant nurseries that specialize in Florida native plants. For information on locations near you, contact the Association of Florida Native Nurseries. • Consider hiring a landscape architect or contractor who is knowledgeable about native plants to survey your yard and landscape plan and make suggestions. This may be a wise investment, particularly if you are planning major changes.Figure 8. Searching for Natives Some Florida native plants may be tough to findat your local garden center, but demand is growing sothe supply will follow. In the meantime, here aresome tips on finding native plants that may be suitedto your yard: • Visit parks and preserves to view native plants in their natural setting. Undisturbed acreage near your home may serve the same purpose. See Figure 9. what grows well in your area. Take photographs to show to knowledgeable people for later plant More About Attracting Wildlife identification, or carry a good field guide that includes color photos. Florida has the third most diverse wildlife population of any state in the nation. But rapid • Visit the library and book stores, particularly growth of human populations, particularly in coastal those at botanical gardens, to find good reference communities, is replacing native wildlife habitat with books on Florida native plants. urban development. As our communities expand, we • Attend meetings and field trips organized by the lament the loss of birds and other wildlife, yet our Florida Native Plant Society. Members often own yards are partly to blame. swap plants and seeds, as well as knowledge on
A Guide to Environmentally Friendly Landscaping: Florida Yards and Neighborhoods Handbook 7 A Florida Yard provides habitat for desirable Cooperative Extension Service forplants and animals that have been displaced by identification. If you want to discourage thedevelopment. As you consider objectives for your insect, ask for suggestions on least-toxicnew or existing landscape, add a few features for controls.wildlife to bring your yard alive with birds, butterfliesand beneficial insects. • Butterflies of different species are attracted to specific flowering nectar plants such as native Basically, wildlife will be attracted by food, wildflowers, shrubs and vines. The Cooperativewater and cover. Following are some considerations Extension Service and Florida Native Plantfor providing wildlife habitat in your yard: Society can provide information on which butterflies are found in your area and which • Food should be provided in the form of plants plants they use. that bear seed, fruit, foliage or flowers that you are willing to have eaten by birds, larval • Snags or dead trees can be left in place if they butterflies (caterpillars) or adult butterflies. dont threaten structures or parking areas. Birds Berries, fleshy fruits, nuts and acorns are treats use the snags for perches, nesting and sources of for wildlife. insects for food. • Water sources may include a pond, creek or • Literature from the Urban Wildlife Program other body of freshwater if such a feature exists of the Cooperative Extension Service can aid in your in or near your yard. A bird bath that captures plans. The pamphlets list scores of plants and their rainwater or that you replenish can suffice. wildlife-attracting characteristics, plus they describe Dump and clean the container every few days which birds, butterflies or mammals use various and refill it to prevent mosquito breeding and plants. In some counties you can apply for your yard bacterial contamination. to be certified as a Florida Wildlife Habitat. • Birds are attracted to planted areas that include a tree canopy, smaller understory trees and shrubs, and grasses or flowers, particularly those that are allowed to go to seed on occasion. Meadow grasses can be especially attractive to wildlife, as well as adding a graceful and unique feature to your landscape. • Warning: Pets that are allowed to harass wildlife will frustrate any efforts you make toward attracting wildlife. • Pesticides used in the landscape will reduce insect populations, an important food source for Figure 10. birds. Some chemicals also may poison birds that feed on affected insects. More About Preventing Runoff • Caterpillars on plants may be the larval form of Heres a basic concept of a Florida Yard: Rain butterflies. Each species of butterfly lays its eggs that falls in your yard should soak into your yard. on a particular species of plant. For example, the After all, rainfall is an excellent source of water for queen butterfly lays its eggs on milkweed. If your landscape, and reducing runoff will help protect caterpillars are stripping a plant of leaves, take a waterways. Retaining rainfall long enough for it to sample of the offending insect to the percolate through the soil is particularly challenging in neighborhoods built before the late 1970s, when
A Guide to Environmentally Friendly Landscaping: Florida Yards and Neighborhoods Handbook 8storm-water treatment ponds were not required. These ancient "technologies" are making aPlease consider a few practical tips for reducing the comeback as water shortages and environmentalamount of rainfall that runs off your yard. ethics lead homeowners to use rain that falls on their property. Large, plastic rain barrels are now available Downspouts at home and garden stores. The barrel looks much like a garbage can, but has a hole in the top where a If the roof of your home has rain gutters, make roof downspout can fit snugly.sure the downspouts are not aimed toward a pavedsurface. Turn downspouts into areas with plantings A valve near the bottom allows you to fill athat will make better use of rainfall than letting it run watering can or connect a hose. These barrels aredown the driveway and into a storm drain. Be sure to great for hand-watering, and they arentchoose plants for these areas that can adapt to having mosquito-attracters as long as the downspout fitsmore water, and be sure water doesnt pool next to tightly. The barrel is not unsightly, and a four-footbuildings. shrub could easily shield it from view. "Cistern" is really just a fancy word for rain barrel, but it implies a bit more engineering and greater storage capacity. Water is collected from the roof, filtered and stored in a container made of concrete, metal, wood, fiberglass or plastic. Water travels from the cistern upon demand by either gravity feed or pump action.Figure 11. Earth Shaping Swales (small dips in the ground) and berms(raised earthen areas) can help divert runoff that isrushing from your yard. A bit of earth shaping canalso be an attractive design element in yourlandscape. A berm-and-swale combination might beespecially appropriate if your waterfront yard has aseawall. That, in combination with amaintenance-free zone of native plants, can makeyour yard more lagoon-friendly. Minor alterations tothe lay of the land wont require permits or engineers,but any major earth work should have theprofessional touch and will require regulatory review. Some cities and counties have natural resourcedepartments that can provide advice on earth shaping. Figure 12. The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Serviceand local Soil and Water Conservation Districts also Porous Surfacesmay provide assistance. Whenever possible, use bricks, gravel, turf block, Rain Barrels & Cisterns mulch, pervious concrete or other porous materials for sidewalks, driveways or patios. These materials
A Guide to Environmentally Friendly Landscaping: Florida Yards and Neighborhoods Handbook 9allow rainwater to seep into the ground, helping to The perfect yard is less than ideal if caring for itfilter pollutants and reducing the amount of runoff causes you to pollute tributaries and the lagoon. Afrom your yard. In some cases they may even cost good landscape design incorporating the right plantsless to install than typical paving materials. Heres a in the right places reduces maintenance requirementscomparison of surfaces for a 15-foot by 30-foot and costs. For most yards it will be necessary todriveway. They are placed in order from most porous perform some maintenance, including:to least porous: • Composting • Recycled mulch costs $0.16-0.40 per square foot. It requires occasional replenishing. • Fertilizing Cypress mulch not recommended because • Watering harvest depletes wetlands. • Mowing, Pruning, Raking • Washed shell costs $0.30 per square foot. It eventually compacts and hardens. It needs • Mulching periodic additions and may alter soil pH. • Pest Management • Gravel costs $ 1.33 per square foot. • Pervious concrete costs $ 2.50 per square foot. • Shell rock (limestone) costs $0.94 per square foot. It hardens. It is prone to erosion. It may alter soil pH. • DOT-approved shell costs $0.25 per square foot. It may alter soil pH. • Concrete costs $ 1.50 per square foot. • Asphalt costs $ 1.17 per square foot. Figure 14. From Florida Yards & Neighborhoods, youll learn some of the basics of nurturing your landscape without damaging the environment. You will find that pollution-free maintenance is easiest when plants are selected with that goal in mind. If your existing landscape is too much work or requires maintenance practices that pollute, you may begin to consider changing some plants in your yard. If so, please review the section on landscape design in thisFigure 13. handbook. Maintaining Your Florida Yard Composting Caring for our waterways starts with caring for A common misconception about plant care isyour yard. that plants require fertilizer for proper nutrition. Plants do need nutrients, but they dont necessarily need fertilizer. Plants use their leaves to make food
A Guide to Environmentally Friendly Landscaping: Florida Yards and Neighborhoods Handbook 10from sunlight, water, carbon dioxide and nutrients. Numerous types of compost bins are commerciallyNutrients in the soil are necessary for structure, available, and many are designed to be aestheticallyregulating metabolism, growth and reproduction. attractive. Gardening magazines, catalogs and gardenSome key nutrients for plants include nitrogen, centers are good sources for such products.phosphorus, potassium, calcium, zinc, magnesium,iron and manganese. The compost pile needs adequate moisture, oxygen and nitrogen/carbon sources to generate the If a plant is appropriate for the soil and site right conditions for decomposition. The more closelywhere it is located, it may not require additional these factors are monitored and manipulated, thenutrients from fertilization. Fertilizers are generally faster decomposition can occur, and the sooner youllused to achieve a specific goal: more or larger have rich compost for fertilizing plants and amendingblooms, faster growth, greener leaves or more fruit. soil. Your landscape maintenance professional willIf one of these is your goal, you basically have three be grateful for an opportunity to avoid costly tippingchoices: using compost, applying packaged fertilizer fees at the landfill, too.or applying a specific mineral, such as iron. A great way to improve your soil is by addingcompost, which can be made from partiallydecomposed yard or kitchen waste. When added toyour soil it can create the perfect medium forsustained plant health. Adding compost will: • Improve soil structure, texture and aeration and increase the soils capacity to hold water; • Help loosen compacted soils; • Promote soil fertility and stimulate root development in plants Figure 15. • Create a favorable environment for Here are some tips on composting: microorganisms and larger creatures, such as earthworms and insects that are natures "soil • Bins arent necessary but they help keep piles builders. neat, retain heat and moisture, and prevent complaints from neighbors. The minimum Generous amounts of compost frequently added recommended size is one cubic yard (three feetto the soil surface can replace petroleum-based, square by three feet high).nitrogen fertilizers. And unlike fast-releasefertilizers, nutrients in compost are released slowly so • Composting can take as little as four-six weekslandscape plants can better use them. Also, or as long as one-two years, depending on thecomposting or mulching with yard wastes helps size and type of material in the pile and thereduce the amount of waste that must be hauled to amount of attention you give it.over-burdened landfills. • Proper moisture is necessary for Composting can be as simple as placing leaves, microorganisms to compost the material.grass clippings and small cuttings behind shrubs or in Covering the pile helps retain moisture anda hidden corner of the yard and letting nature take its prevents the pile from getting too soggy when itcourse. Homemade or manufactured compost bins rains. You should not be able to squeeze waterare another option to consider and will allow you to from the material produced at the bottom of theeasily incorporate kitchen waste, such as vegetable pile.and fruit scraps, egg shells and coffee grounds.
A Guide to Environmentally Friendly Landscaping: Florida Yards and Neighborhoods Handbook 11 • Heat is important in composting, so a sunny seeking, ask the manager to order it. As demand for location is better than a shady one. appropriate products increases, theyll be easier to find. • Combining different materials, such as grass clippings and leaves, in the pile can help achieve Avoid using fertilizers that contain weed killer or the right proportions of carbon and nitrogen for insecticide. Such chemicals should be used only as a effective composting. Always bury kitchen last resort when other more environmentally-friendly waste in the pile to discourage pests and to pest control options fail, and they should be used only prevent odor from rotting fruit and vegetables. on affected areas. • Generally, for fastest composting, the pile Fertilizer is most often required for turf areas should be turned with a pitchfork or stirred on a that tend to have higher nutritional needs. If the lawn weekly basis in warm weather. Stabbing the pile just wont green up, even after a good rain, first try with a length of pipe or rake handle can help applying chelated iron or iron sulfate instead of a with aeration and mixing. complete fertilizer. An iron deficiency may be causing that less robust color. • Never place meat, animal fat or dairy products in the compost pile. Three common types of lawn grasses in Florida are Bahia, St. Augustine and Bermuda grass. Bahia Fertilizing requires the least amount of maintenance, but it is not salt-tolerant. Bahia also is prone to damage by mole If compost is not available or if you need to crickets. St. Augustine is often used in coastal areasfertilize, a basic fertilizer that contains slow-release, because it is very salt-tolerant, but it requires morewater-insoluble nitrogen and other essential nutrients fertilizer and water. It also can be prone to pests, suchis the most environmentally safe and cost-effectivealternative. At least 30 percent of the nitrogen in the as chinch bugs. Bermuda, which is used on golf-course greens, requires the most fertilizer,fertilizer should be listed as water insoluble. pesticides and water, plus careful mowing. BecauseWater-insoluble nitrogen fertilizers usually cost it requires intensive maintenance, it is notmore, but fewer applications will be required. recommended for home landscapes.Besides, a few dollars can make a big difference inprotecting tributaries and the lagoon. When applying fertilizer use a maximum of one pound of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet no more than When shopping for fertilizer, you will usually see twice per year (March and September). However,three numbers (6-6-6, 15-0-15, 16-4-8, and the like) you may be able to use half that amount and achieveon the front of the bag. The first number refers to the excellent results. You can also reduce the risk ofpercent of nitrogen content, the second number refers nitrate leaching into ground or surface waters byto phosphorus and the third refers to potassium. applying one-half pound of nitrogen per 1,000 squareYoull need to read the label more closely to find out feet four times per year (March, May, September andif other important nutrients are included. early November). If possible, the first and third numbers (nitrogen Wateringand potassium) should be the same. In many parts ofFlorida, natural phosphorus-rich soils mean you dont Homeowners in coastal areas of Florida areneed to spend money on phosphorus in your fertilizer. becoming accustomed to restrictions that limit The middle number should be no more than half the irrigation to certain days and times. Still, most of usvalue of the first and third numbers. Recommended are watering too much. Overwatering depletes ourblends include 10-5-10, 16-4-8 and 15-0-15. And water supply, often makes plants pest prone, and addsremember, try to select a fertilizer containing at least to storm-water runoff which pollutes our lagoon.30 percent slow-release, water-insoluble nitrogen. Ifyour garden center does not stock what you are
A Guide to Environmentally Friendly Landscaping: Florida Yards and Neighborhoods Handbook 12 A sure way to reduce the need for watering is to flowering annuals, thats the best method forchoose drought-resistant plants, especially those applying water. Today, there are systems that allownative to your part of Florida, and plant them in the you to conserve water by using micro-irrigationright spots. If you group plants according to their equipment, such as micro-spray jets, bubblers or dripwater (and light) needs, your irrigation methods and tubes. If you are in the market for a new irrigationsystems can be simplified. For example, turf system, find a reputable irrigation contractor who hasirrigation zones should be separate from experience with these systems.tree-and-shrub zones. Be aware that drip or micro-spray fittings may By choosing and operating a watering system clog and require filtration of the source water, regularcorrectly, you can reduce water bills, fungal diseases inspection and possibly cleaning. Drip tape or tubingand maintenance requirements. Remember, the more can be damaged by insects and rodents. Practicalyou water the faster your lawn grows and the more it advice on state-of-the-art irrigation systems isneeds to be mowed. Here are some tips on irrigation available from the Cooperative Extension Servicethat may help protect your plants, your pocketbook and USDA Natural Resources Conservationand our precious natural resources: Service. If you have an automatic sprinkler system, install Free inspection of irrigation system efficiency isa rain shut-off device or sensor that will override the available in some areas through the Naturalsystem when adequate rainfall has occurred. Your Resources Conservation Service.water management districts, Cooperative ExtensionService, USDA Natural Resources Conservation If you already have an irrigation system yourService or an irrigation professional can provide options for retrofitting may be limited. Sometimestechnical assistance. low-pressure emitters, such as bubblers, can be adapted to existing sprinkler heads. This may require For best results, water in the early morning (4-7 an attachment at the source to reduce water pressure.a.m.). This is the most efficient time because If you are changing areas of your landscape from turftemperature and wind speeds are at their lowest and to trees or planted beds, consult with the Cooperativeevaporation is reduced. Also, grasses will be less Extension Service or Natural Resources Conservationsusceptible to fungus if water is applied at the time Service on irrigation options. The St. Johns River anddew normally forms. South Florida water management districts, and Florida Irrigation Society also provide information on Heres a simple watering schedule for grass: irrigation system selection, maintenance andApply 1/2-inch to 3/4-inch of water when the grass appropriate watering practices.shows signs of distress (bluish-gray color, folded leafblades). Dont apply more water until symptoms Mowing, Pruning and Rakingreappear. Trimming some plants can help enhance the Experiment with gradual reductions in irrigation beauty of your Florida Yard. This is also an area ofto see if plants can tolerate less water. Some people maintenance where you can reduce the workload byuse no irrigation, yet have healthy plants. doing things the environmentally friendly way. Water less in cooler months (November-March), For example, if youve selected slow-growingand turn off automatic systems in the summer if plants, the amount of pruning will be reduced. Also,rainfall is consistent. less pruning is required if plants are placed so that when they mature, they dont grow over walkways, Sprinkling driveways or against buildings. If your yard isnt turf intensive, less mowing is an obvious work and time Youre probably familiar with sprinklers -- the saver. In addition, a beautiful landscape need notkind that are part of an automated system. In some have a clipped, formal look. Soft, flowing, naturallandscape situations, such as a lawn or bed of lines can be attractive and easy to maintain.
A Guide to Environmentally Friendly Landscaping: Florida Yards and Neighborhoods Handbook 13 If there are turf areas to be mowed, keep in mind • 2- to 3-inch layer (after settling) of mulchthat most St. Augustine and Bahia turf grass should around most plants reduces evaporation from thebe kept at a minimum height of three to four inches soils surface, moderates soil temperatures andand longer in the shade. If cut shorter the plants may suppresses weeds.be stressed. Each mowing should remove no morethan one-third of the leaf blade, and those cuttings • Mulches can replace turf or ground covers inshould remain on the lawn to decompose. areas that are difficult to mow, irrigate or otherwise maintain. Mulches also can be used in For procrastinators who dont mow regularly, shady areas where plants may not grow readily.mulching mowers will cut grass into smaller pieces,speeding decomposition. If the grass has gotten too • Mulch requires practically no maintenance,long, spread cuttings behind shrubs or add them to a except for occasional additions and weeding.compost pile. • Use mulch that originates in your own Grass clippings can also be mixed with leaves landscape by using leaves, pine needles, grassand twigs to create a useful mulch that provides and shrub clippings. Several sources of recyclednutrients to your plants. mulch are available in the region. Start with your local government solid waste department or Many new Floridians avoid having deciduous recycling coordinator. Avoid using cypresstrees in their yards because fallen leaves require mulch because its harvest depletes cypressraking. But deciduous trees help reduce energy costs wetlands.by shading the house in summer and allowingsunshine to heat the house in winter when their leaves • Shell, crushed stone or pebbles can be used asfall. mulch but will not contribute to the organic content of your soil. Also, be aware that shell Where turf isnt a concern, you dont have to mulch will raise the soils pH as the shellrake under trees because the self-mulching is good for material dissolves and will reflect heat,the plant. If aesthetics are an issue, plant shrubs increasing water needs of plants.under the trees to avoid raking. They benefit fromthe mulch and help hold leaves in place so they wont • Mulch can provide a design element in yourclutter the landscape. landscape, adding a contrast of color and texture that complements plantings. Collecting leaves and pine needles by raking orblowing provides a source of mulch that is a real • Reduce the chances of rot by avoiding piles ofasset in the landscape, and its virtually free. If your mulch against plant stems or trunks. Citrus treesyard generates more leaf mulch than you can use, are particularly prone to rot from such practice.compost the material or share some with a neighbor. Pest ManagementWhen pruning trees and shrubs, toss small cuttingsinto a compost pile or behind a shrub. Hauling huge Concerns about health, the environment and thepiles of brush to the landfill is not necessary--and increasing resistance of pests to chemicals haveyoull avoid tipping fees charged at the landfill that forced people to reconsider practices they once tookadd to the cost of maintenance. for granted. The regular preventive application of traditional pesticides is one example. Most people Mulching dont realize that, in general, nature takes pretty good Applying a layer of mulch around trees, shrubs, care of itself. Healthy plants can usually fend off pestplanted beds and on any exposed soil area will reduce attacks, while predatory insects and birds may keepwater loss, control weeds and prevent runoff. undesirable insects under control. Thus, the preventive use of pesticides is unnecessary. Also, Here are a few simple facts to remember about many insects are beneficial with less than 1 percent ofmulch: all insects being harmful to plants.
A Guide to Environmentally Friendly Landscaping: Florida Yards and Neighborhoods Handbook 14 There is a lagoon-friendly approach to pest Sooty mold on foliage is a good indicator ofcontrol, called Integrated Pest Management (IPM). infestation by insect pests that pierce the plant andIPM emphasizes using pest-resistant plants, proper suck sap. These insects often secrete a sugary productlandscape management, natural enemies of pests and known as honeydew. This substance encourages theapplying the least-toxic alternative if pesticides are growth of black fungi which appear as sooty mold.required. Plants are carefully monitored for harmfulpests, and only the safest materials are used to control Ants are another good indicator of the presencethem. Pesticides are used only on affected plants, not of pest insects as they feed on honeydew and care foras blanket applications. insects that produce it. Non-chemical controls are not yet available for Extensive plant damage with few pests mayall pest and disease problems. This handbook signal the decline of a pest population. Beneficialattempts to highlight several common pests and the insects may already be doing the job for you. Theseleast-toxic methods that may control them. may include lady beetles (commonly called lady bugs), lacewings and parasitic wasps. Avoiding Pest Problems Tolerate some insect damage and leaf disease on Think before you plant. It takes considerable plants. No one can maintain an insect- andamounts of pesticides to protect plants weakened by disease-free landscape, and a little damage wont hurtunfavorable growing conditions. Know which plants your plants. Remember, to have the "good guys"can tolerate the conditions in your yard and plant there must be some "bad guys" as a food source.them. Concentrate on pest-resistant varieties. If a pest problem persists, take a sample of the Go easy on water and fertilizer. Over watering offending insect to the Cooperative Extensionand over fertilizing cause excessive growth, making Service for identification and IPM treatmentthem vulnerable to insects and disease. Encourage suggestions.healthy growth and maintain the quality of yourlandscape by applying fertilizer and water only when Controlling Pest Problemsneeded and in moderate amounts. Handpicking, pruning or spraying with water are Mowing grass too short and severely shearing effective controls of some insect pests if you catchtrees and shrubs weakens them, inviting pests. Mow the damage early. Many insect problems can beto the proper height and prune selectively. reduced or eliminated by removing a few affectedRemember, leaves are necessary to produce food for leaves or plant parts.the plant. Protect the beneficial insects in your landscape Identifying Pest Problems by avoiding blanket applications of pesticides. Treat for specific pests and only treat the affected plant. Scout the yard for pests. Inspecting plants for Avoid using broad-spectrum pesticides. Remember,pests helps identify problems early, before they get broad-spectrum pesticides are not selective; they alsoout of hand. Common plant pests in this area include kill beneficial insects.aphids, mealybugs, scales, whiteflies, thrips, spidermites and caterpillars. Detecting small insects and Safer alternatives to traditional, chemicalmites can be difficult; life cycles as short as one week pesticides include insecticidal soaps, horticultural oilsadd to the problem. and products containing a bacterium called Bacillus thuringiensis. To detect small pests, strike the leaves of smallbranches against a sheet of white paper and use aten-power (10X) magnifying glass. Scales andwhitefly larvae attach to the plant. Look for them onbranches and the undersides of leaves.
A Guide to Environmentally Friendly Landscaping: Florida Yards and Neighborhoods Handbook 15 Common Plant Pests and Least-Toxic mold; adult flies around or on plant; larvae under Controls leaves. Aphids: • Natural controls: Fungi (white, orange or tan; most effective in humid weather), parasitic • Winged or wingless; pear-shaped body; usually wasps, lady beetles. green; may be yellow, black or other color; typically congregate at twig tips; leaves may be • Other controls: Spray with insecticidal soap. twisted or distorted; ants or sooty mold may be Follow with horticultural oils if necessary. present. Caterpillars: • Natural controls: Lady beetle adults and larvae, lacewing larvae, syrphid fly larvae, parasitic • Larvae of butterflies and moths, chew on wasps. foliage causing skeletonized leaves and notches, greenish fecal pellets on foliage, caterpillars • Other controls: Flush from branch tips with observed. water from hose, apply insecticidal soaps. • Natural controls: Birds, predatory stinkbugs, Mealybugs: big-eyed bugs, lizards. • 1/16- to 1/8-inch long; soft bodies; well- • Other controls: Spray or dust with Bacillus developed legs; bodies covered by powdery thurigiensis. Most effective when caterpillars white coating that may also surround egg masses; are small. attack leaves, twigs, roots; lots of ants; white, mealy wax deposits; sooty mold. Thrips: • Natural controls: Lady beetles, lacewing larvae. • Tiny (1/32-inch); wings; scar leaves and drink sap from wounds; plant may be dull, grayish; • Other controls: Spray with horticultural oil. If curling, distorted leaves. oil spray fails, systemic pesticide may be applied to root system, affecting only pests that feed on • Natural controls: None identified. plant sap. • Other controls: Apply horticultural oils Scales: Spider mites: • About 1/16-inch in diameter; various size, • Tiny (1/32-inch); oval bodies; red, yellow or shape and color; some produce honeydew greenish; may have spots; adults spin loose webs (sugary secretion); body hidden under waxy on foliage; reproduce rapidly in hot weather; scale covering; mature scales are stationary and injuries to plants look like light color dots, giving feed on leaves, twigs, stems, fruit; yellow spots leaves dull, gray green, stippled appearance. on top of leaves with scale underneath; ants; Fine, loose spider webs; ashy looking residues. sooty mold • Natural controls: Lady beetles, predatory mites. • Natural controls: Lady beetles, parasitic wasps. • Other controls: Flush with water, then alternate • Other controls: See methods for mealybugs. with soap and oils if necessary. Whiteflies: Mole crickets: • Adults appear as white specks on plants; deposit • Up to 1/2-inch long, velvety brown, front legs eggs on underside of leaves; stationary larvae are flattened and adapted for burrowing; affects oval, flat, transparent-to-greenish color when Bahia and Bermuda grass, turf may be spongy alive and dull white when dead; ants; sooty and thinning, 3/4-inch round holes with signs of
A Guide to Environmentally Friendly Landscaping: Florida Yards and Neighborhoods Handbook 16 tunneling, infestation likely to occur in same plants; controls not recommended in landscape area each year. Test for infestation by flushing unless fire ants are a problem. area with soapy water, crickets will surface if present. • Natural predators: None identified. • Natural controls: Red-eyed fly, beneficial • Other controls: Safest chemicals for fire ants nematode, ibis. include those with avermectin. Be sure material is dry/fresh and apply in morning or evening • Other controls: For chronic infestation consider around edges of mound. Do not disturb mound. replacing turf with trees, shrubs or ground covers. May spot-treat infestations in June with When You Dont Do the Work Yourself materials labeled for mole cricket control. Use There are thousands of companies in the region bait later if necessary. offering landscape maintenance services. With all of Chinch bugs: those folks vying for business, take care to select one that will use sound maintenance practices to produce • Adults 1/5-inch long, black and white patches a Florida Yard thats beautiful and friendly to the on wings, young nymphs smaller and reddish, environment. This handbook will help the attacks St. Augustine grass, yellowing turf grass, do-it-yourselfers, but what about those lacking the often in stressed areas in full sun or near paved time, desire or ability to do the work? areas. Heres a checklist to review with a prospective • Natural controls: Big-eyed bug, earwigs. maintenance provider. Your landscape maintenance service should agree to: • Other controls: Avoid high fertilizer rates. Maintain St. Augustine at height of 3 inches in • Monitor for pests rather than apply sprays sun and 4 inches in shade. Use chinch routinely and provide evidence of a significant bug-resistant grass varieties (Floratam, problem before you allow and pay for Floralawn, FX-10). Spot-treat infestations with treatment. materials labeled for chinch bugs. • Use least-toxic methods of controlling pest Fleas: problems as described in this handbook. • Small, dark colored, 1/8-inch long, can hop • Use chemical pesticides only when less-toxic some distance, obvious effects on pets and methods fail and post a sign to alert neighbors people, prevalent in areas where pets bed down that chemicals have been applied. or dig holes. • Apply slow-release fertilizer, and only if • Natural controls: None identified. fertilizer is needed. • Other controls: Spot-treat pet bed/outdoor • Avoid fertilizers containing weed killer or resting areas with soap solution. Other insecticide unless applied with your least-toxic products are boric acid and those permission. containing fenoxycarb (an insect growth regulator) that may be effective in shade. • Leave grass clippings on the lawn and use other Beneficial nematode products are the newest yard waste as mulch or compost. outdoor control. On the Waterfront Ants: Waterfront Florida Yards present special • Three body segments; sizes range from challenges and responsibilities. Waterfront property 1/16-1/2 inch, depending on species; most owners have firsthand knowledge of the special species not harmful; mounds, ants in trails and on
A Guide to Environmentally Friendly Landscaping: Florida Yards and Neighborhoods Handbook 17contributions that the lagoon, rivers, streams and Environmental Protection are good places to start.lakes add to our quality of life. But a special Keep in mind that submerged land waterward of theresponsibility goes along with the benefit of being a Mean High Water line (see definition in this section)next-door neighbor to these natural resource may not be your property, but may belong to the state.treasures. One of the following scenarios may relate to Landscapes bordering our surface-water your property and may provide ideas on how you canresources need to be designed with special sensitivity be part of restoring natural shorelines to our lagoon:to the environment. Those landscapes also presentsome unique management challenges for the • No existing shore protection structure and noenvironmentally conscious homeowner. Some of need for erosion control. Seek advice fromthose considerations are highlighted here. one of the agencies listed above on how to enhance and protect your natural shoreline. If Lagoon Shore Considerations Brazilian pepper or Australian pine are present, remove them and replant with marsh grass to If you have a naturally sloping, vegetated reduce erosion. You can help protect theshoreline, count yourself among the lucky few. shoreline and the lagoon at the same time byApproximately 40-50 percent of the natural installing a maintenance-free zone ofshorelines around the Indian River Lagoon have been landscaping along the waterfront edge of youraltered by shore protection structures like seawalls or yard. This buffer zone protects the lagoon fromrock revetments. areas that are mowed, fertilized or treated with pesticides. Plant selection for the buffer can Naturally sloping lagoon shorelines, particularly maintain ecological diversity, further protectwhen buffered by a fringe of mangroves and/or marsh your shoreline from erosion and enhance thegrass, help smooth out waves and reduce turbidity aesthetic value of your waterfront.(cloudiness) in the water. Mangroves and othershoreline plants contribute to the lagoons food web, • No existing shore protection structure butattract wildlife, such as wading birds, and help apparent need for erosion control. If theprevent erosion of the shoreline. waterline is moving landward and causing the loss of shoreline vegetation, the degree of erosion The area in which these shoreline plants grow is risk should be assessed by agency staff. Theyknown as the littoral zone, the boundary or interfacebetween land and water. Unfortunately, seawalls can recommend options to control erosion but may find that structural protection is nothave traditionally been placed directly in this necessary. If structural protection isintertidal zone. While returning to a naturally recommended, it should be placed landward ofvegetated shoreline is ecologically desirable, the Mean High Water line. This leaves theremoving a shore protection structure is likely to be a littoral zone undisturbed and allows naturalcomplex decision. vegetation to be maintained or placed waterward If a shore protection structure has replaced the of the shore protection structure, thus providinglittoral zone along your property, your options are habi tat value and shoreline protection. Thelimited by the depth of your lot, the distance from the structural protection could be large boulders; awaterline to upland structures, the wave impact planted, timber terrace effect; or a seawall. Theagainst your shore, your budget and the shoreline latter is usually the most costly to construct andcondition of neighboring properties. Shoreline maintain.protection alternatives are very site-specific • Existing shore protection structure is inconsiderations, and expert advice is essential. The excellent condition. If your seawall orFlorida Sea Grant marine extension agent in your revetment preempts the littoral zone and youcounty, natural resources employees of local dont want to move it landward, a perchedgovernments and the Florida Department of planter for aquatic plants or an artificial reef habitat for fish could be considered. If your
A Guide to Environmentally Friendly Landscaping: Florida Yards and Neighborhoods Handbook 18 seawall or revetment is landward of the littoral Remember that anything you wish to do that zone, consider suggestions in No. 1 above for affects submerged lands waterward of MHW requires enhancing and protecting the littoral zone. the states permission. For information on permitting requirements, contact the Florida Department of • Existing shore protection structure needs Environmental Protection and your local natural minor repairs. Weigh the cost of repairs and resources department. eventual replacement with the cost of removal and reestablishing a planted, sloping shoreline. Those Marvelous Mangroves If you opt to repair the existing seawall, see No. 3 above. The beauty, wildlife value, erosion protection, importance in the lagoons ecology and declining • Existing shore protection structure needs numbers make mangrove trees an asset to a Florida replacement. It is often less expensive to Yard. remove a seawall, regrade the shoreline and replant with appropriate vegetation than to If you have mangroves, contact the following replace the wall. If structural protection is organizations for information on properly managing required, see No. 2 above. Replacing a seawall these fascinating plants: Florida Sea Grant Extension located within the littoral zone is a last resort, but Program, Florida Department of Environmental may be necessary in your case. Protection (FDEP) and your local governments natural resources department. Remember that some Lakes, Rivers, Lagoons and Streams mangrove pruning requires a permit and the rules are periodically revised. Heres a quick primer to help Lakes, rivers, lagoons and streams -- even most you identify the mangrove species found in Florida:storm-water retention ponds -- also have littoral zoneswhere the land and water meet. Many of the same • Red mangroves usually live closest to openconsiderations apply in these freshwater systems as in water. They have arching prop roots and theirthe lagoon. seeds, or propagules, look something like green cigars. Their leaves are large and bright green. Definitely do not mow the littoral zones alongthese water bodies, and protect them from fertilizer • Black mangroves usually are found growingand pesticide runoff. Erosion problems are typical landward of red mangroves. Their leaves arealong water bodies where vegetation has been dull green with silver undersides. Blackdisturbed by construction activities. Enhancing mangroves "sweat" salt from their leaves andnatural vegetation with additional plantings and send up from their roots twiggy projectionsremoving non-native, invasive plants can improve called pneumatophores, which provide oxygen toboth the function and aesthetics of your shoreline. the trees roots. What is the Mean High Water? • White mangroves usually grow landward of or interspersed with black mangroves. Their leaves This is an important point for waterfront are more rounded than those of other species andproperty owners because their property typically ends have a small notch at the tip, and are lighter inat the Mean High Water (MHW) line. Mean High color. On each leaf stem at the base of the leaf isWater is not the wrack line where sea-grass debris is a pair of small bumps.piled in a storm, nor is it the extent of wave impact. • Green buttonwood is not considered a true The exact elevation of MHW above sea level mangrove by some scientists. It grows in themay vary somewhat around the state of Florida. For most landward locations of the littoral zone,those of us who are not land surveyors, that translates behind the other mangrove species. It generallyto slightly above the line where barnacles grow on has small, elongated leaves and bears roundpilings or seawalls. buttons that turn brown. Once established, the green buttonwood is quite drought-resistant. It
A Guide to Environmentally Friendly Landscaping: Florida Yards and Neighborhoods Handbook 19 can also withstand flooding, which makes it an • Do not place grease or fibrous products, such as ideal landscape plant for coastal areas. The fruit peelings, in the garbage disposal. silver buttonwood, its cousin, is prized in coastal landscapes for its distinctive silver-gray • Replacement is the only remedy for a clogged foliage. Pruning of buttonwoods doesnt require drain field. It cannot be repaired by cleaning or a permit. the infusion of enzymes. Septic Systems • Do not add yeast or bacteria to your septic tank. In some communities wastewater produced in • Avoid overtaxing your septic system by spacingthe home is treated in a septic system located in the laundry loads throughout the week rather thanyard. Scientists have documented that even properly several loads on just one or two days.operating septic systems now in use in many Florida Warning Signs of Septic System Troublesoils do not protect coastal waters from the nitrogenthat is a component of human waste. When septic • Plumbing backups or sluggish flushing in thesystems are located near streams, the lagoon or other toilet.surface waters, groundwater carries nitrogen from theseptic system drain field to these surface waters. Too • Gurgling sounds in the plumbing.much nitrogen in the lagoon causes algae to • Grass in the yard growing faster and greener inovergrow, smothering sea grasses and sometimes one particular area.causing fish kills. • Ground mushy underfoot. Additionally, water that is treated by septicsystems cannot be retrieved for irrigating farms, golf • Offensive odors indoors or outdoors.courses or yards. This is now a commonconservation practice with many centralized • Low spots beginning to appear in the yard,wastewater treatment systems. regardless of other symptoms. In many areas centralized sewer service may For more information on septic system operationbecome available, providing homeowners with an and maintenance, contact:environmentally responsible option for wastewater Florida Septic Tank Associationtreatment. Testing is also under way to determine PO Box 1025whether new septic systems that remove nitrogen are Lakeland FL 33802appropriate for Florida. Meanwhile, homeownerswith septic systems in their yards are responsible for Ponds in the Florida Landscapeproperly maintaining the systems to reduce health andpollution hazards. A backyard pond is a very appealing feature, and an increasingly common one, in Florida yards. Ponds The Florida Septic Tank Association has the provide landscape charm, water retention andfollowing recommendations for homeowners using treatment, wildlife habitat, recreation and gardeningseptic systems: opportunities. But they are not without their own, unique costs and considerations. • A septic tank should be opened and inspected every two to three years by a septic tank Whether they are natural or part of site contractor, who will determine whether it needs development, they must be considered when making to be pumped out. choices about house design, lawn care or general yard use. If planned right, ponds can represent the • Do not plant trees or shrubbery over a septic best--or if not, the worst--about the site. tank or drain field. Roots can choke the drain field, reduce the tanks capacity or block the tanks inlet or outlet.
A Guide to Environmentally Friendly Landscaping: Florida Yards and Neighborhoods Handbook 20 Ponds in the Landscape other artifacts, will need a maintenance-minded attitude toward their management. If you find Water adds a magical element to most all yourself managing / living with one of these systems,landscapes. The change of texture, variety of lighting here are some guidelines, several DOs and DONTs,conditions, sounds, smells, all add to our increased to assure they continue to function properly:interest in the landscape. Selecting a good pond siteis a decision involving many site factors, such as • DO plant appropriate aquatic, emergent andcorrect slope, soil types and water table, but also upland vegetation properly, according topractical matters, such as septic tank and house hydroperiod needs and habitat qualities (theyfoundation setbacks, utility easements and soil types. will greatly enhance stabilization)When planning, try to strike a balance between whatyour permit allows and what the landscape calls for. • DO use pond water for non-potable, local irrigation needs. Natural Florida ponds most always are located inthe lowest points of a landscape. There may be some • DO set growth goals for surrounding plantingsadvantage to constructing a pond at midway of the and fertilize the least amount possible with slowdrainage but consider downstream flooding and release fertilizer.drainage effects. Florida ponds must all have a high • DO use organic composting in lieu of fertilizer.edge-to-depth ratio; that is, they are wide andshallow. This ratio increases the amount of littoral • DO use mulch around plants to retain moisture.shelf area in the pond--the area of maximum sunlightpenetration and subsequent rooted plant production • DO keep pet and feral waterfowl wastes out ofand pond life activity. Florida ponds less than 4 feet water bodies.often carry a complete plant cover. It takes 6- to10-foot depths to maintain open water. • DONT allow livestock to graze pond banksides. If deeper depths are required (typically for • DONT swim or eat fish caught in storm-waterproduction of construction fill material), aerator ponds.pumps can help maintain proper aeration conditions.Local county excavation regulations, federal wetland • DONT allow invasive plants to clogregulations and other required local permitting must waterways.be considered when designing these ponds. • DONT direct grass clippings into storm-water Storm-Water Control ponds As part of a mandated storm-water management Wildlife Habitatsystem, frequently required by local water districtpermitting, the small pond can serve as a final Whether the pond surface can be measured incollection point for runoff after a series of swales and square feet or acres, ponds will provide a significantchannels. Pollutants are filtered by vegetation, filter contribution to the wildlife of the area. A commontraps and the settling action in the pond itself. This pond type, and perhaps the easiest to imitate as a yardcan have a significant effect, improving water quality feature, are shallow "seasonal" ponds, typically 2-5draining into estuarine bodies. These systems also feet deep and 25-150 feet across, found across muchhave the advantage of extending the "soak time" of of the Florida peninsular flatwoods.storm water, or increasing the amount of waterallowed to percolate, recharging the groundwater The wet/dry variation in seasonal rainfall causestable directly. great changes in shallow pond water levels, appearances and functions. Standing water recedes in Unlike ponds in natural systems, ornamental and the Florida winter, often drying down completely,storm-water ponds have a specific job to do and, like depending on the ponds water depth, soil type and
A Guide to Environmentally Friendly Landscaping: Florida Yards and Neighborhoods Handbook 21the local water table. Even in this "dry-down"condition, these sites provide moisture sources, the"damp habitats" required by many amphibians,reptiles, birds and small mammals. If you wish to construct a pond to replicate theseimportant habitats, choose an area where: • Their wide-and-shallow profiles can be accommodated • Present plant life and soil types are suitable • Wildlife can get to the pond without disturbance Recreational Fishing Many ponds are constructed with recreationalfishing in mind. Sport fish species, especially thecomplex chain able to support bass and other largespecies, need a permanent hydroperiod for habitatstability. Ponds of at least one-half acre surface area,a minimum 60-foot-wide bottom and depths of atleast 6-8 feet have a better chance of offering stableconditions for successful sport-fish management. Pond Gardening Aquascaping -- landscape gardening with aquaticplants in wetland habitats -- is a satisfying form ofgardening in a cross-section representing elevationcontours (and therefore hydroperiod), and thesequence of plants along this slope is essential to asuccessful planting.