Thursday, July 8, 2010

Florida-Friendly Landscaping Tips for Existing Landscapes

Moving into a new home can be an adventure. There are probably many things you love about the house but also many things you wish to change. The same thing goes with an existing landscape. You may love the yard for the great towering oak trees, but find out that you cannot grow grass beneath them. There are many options, but take the time to find the one most suited for your landscape. Doing it right from the beginning will save you time, money and maintenance as your landscape matures. Here are three tips that a new homeowner with an existing landscape should follow to maintain a beautiful and low maintenance landscape.

1. Retain vs. Remove:
There are probably many things in the landscape that you wish to remove. They may be high maintenance, planted in the wrong place or not to your liking. The first thing to do is analyze your landscape and figure out what goes and what stays. You may wish to sketch yourself a landscape plan with the plants you wish to retain. Working with a landscape plan will help you when you are ready to replace those plants. Remember to retain and protect native plant material and get rid of any plants listed on the Florida Invasive Plant Species list (

2. Time to Replant; Right Plant Right Place:
When you finally decide to make that first trip to the nursery (plan in hand!) you should have some idea of what you are going to purchase. Before you pick out that shrub, perennial or tree make sure you know where you are going to put it. Also be familiar with the site conditions throughout your yard. Is the plant going to be in a sunny or shady location? Is the soil very sandy or stay does it stay moist? How is the drainage? Are there structural limitations you must take into consideration (such as power lines or roof overhangs)?
Drought tolerance, low maintenance, minimal fertilizer and pesticide use are also some things you may want to take into consideration before purchasing a plant. Just how much time and money do you want to spend on that plant? If the answer is “not much”, go with a Florida-Friendly plant. There are many lists of these plants available through the UF/IFAS Polk County Extension Service. If you need plant recommendations we are always there to help.

3. Plant it Right!
Now that you have purchased some plants it is important to plant them correctly. Here are some tips on planting a plant:
· Look up. If there is something that may get in the way of the canopy as it grows, plant your tree somewhere else.
· Dig a shallow hole as wide as possible. The planting hole should be about 1 ½ to 3 times the width of the root ball. Break up any compacted soil around the hole so that the roots can spread.
· Find the point where the top-most root emerges from the trunk and plant it within two inches of the soil surface. If there seem to be a lot of circling roots, make some slices into the root ball to break them up and loosen them.
· It is better to plant the plant a little high. When you have the root ball placed and the plant is level, add the soil that you removed from the hole around the edges of the root ball. Do not add soil on top of the root ball. It is not necessary to add soil amendments.
· When the hole is filled, add water to fill any air pockets. You may need to add additional soil after this step.
· Add 2-3 inches of mulch, and make sure to give your plant frequent irrigation at establishment.

The main thing to remember when you are faced with the task of re-landscaping is to take your time. Careful planning and research will eliminate problems in the landscape that will require additional money and time. Working with an existing landscape is great because the framework is already there. If you are not sure where to start, live with your landscape for a few months and then you will begin realize the changes you want to make.
For more information on Florida-Friendly Landscaping (TM) contact the Florida Yards & Neighborhoods Program at the UF/IFAS Polk County Extension Service at (863) 519-8677.

Have You Taken an Online Gardening Class?

The Florida Yards & Neighborhoods Program at the UF/IFAS Polk County Extension Service has online classes available! Learn about Florida-Friendly Landscaping on your own time!
New classes posted this week:
Rain Barrels
Florida-Friendly Yards

To take more online classes go to the online workshop page of our website. Printable handouts are available with each class. For more information contact the Florida Yards & Neighborhoods Program at (863) 519-8677 or email us!