Friday, June 29, 2012

Creating a Landscape Plan

Creating a landscape plan is a big job!  It will take time, some measuring and some math.  But the good news is, once you have a master plan you won’t have to create one again!  The key is to plan twice, plant once.  The landscape plan will be your guide to everything in your landscape and will help you make smart choices as you move forward and make changes in your yard.  Keep a copy of your plan in your car so that impromptu nursery visits will not be a problem.
Here are the steps to getting started.

1.  Take a site inventory and analysis
A site inventory includes all of the factual information about your property that will go on the master plan.  It includes things like property lines, house dimensions, driveways, utilities, easements, vegetation that will be kept, fences, etc.  You can use a survey plat from when you purchased/built your house to get you started, or you can do your own measuring.  Measure your property lines and how your house sits on your property.  Measure your house and note windows and doors.  Add this to graph paper.  If you make each square equal one foot, it is easy to get your plan to scale.  By creating a to-scale plan, you will be able to make sure your plants are spaced properly and you will be able to use your plan to accurately measure for mulch, bricks, or numbers of plants you need to purchase. 
After you take a site inventory and draw your plan on paper, make a couple of photocopies to work from.  When you have your existing property on paper, you will have a better visual of what your yard looks like.  Now it is time to determine how you want to work with what you have.  Maybe you want to enlarge a patio, add a vegetable garden, plant shrubs to hide utilities, or create a rain garden.  At this time, you can sketch your ideas on paper and work to create zones. 



2.  Create zones
When you have some ideas on paper, you may begin to notice distinct zones.  Private zones for entertaining and dining (in the backyard), utilily or work zones (this is an area for your compost bin, potting table and storage), and you will have a public zone in your front yard.  These zones can be further broken down into groups such as shade plantings under trees and specialty gardens (butterfly gardens). 
3.  Getting creative

After you have a good concept of how you want your landscape to look and feel, you can start experimenting with mulched bed lines and adding plants to your plan.  Remember to space your plants properly and use mature sizes when putting them on paper.  This will give you an accurate count of how many plants you need to purchase. 
In the next design post we will talk about laying out beds and how to really get artistic and creative with your landscape design.  If you would like to read more about how to lay out your property on paper, read this publication.  Happy drawing!

Friday, June 22, 2012

The SPCA's Florida-Friendly Demonstration Garden

SPCA Florida’s Campus of Kindness Helps Promote Florida-Friendly Landscaping Program
The SPCA Florida’s Campus of Kindness, located in Lakeland, FL is home to one of Polk County’s Florida-Friendly Demonstration Gardens, designed to feature Florida-Friendly plants, along with mulch, micro-irrigation and rain barrels.  This educational garden follows the nine principles that form the cornerstone of the Florida-Friendly Landscaping (FFL) program and ample signage highlight examples of each technique, along with providing plant identification. 

As an added feature, selected plants are also considered to be pet-friendly, a critical design element for a site that enjoys hundreds of visitors weekly, of both the two-legged and four-legged variety!  Visitors, waiting for Medical Center appointments, can often be seen enjoying the garden while seated on one of the garden benches available.  All the Demonstration Gardens in Polk County are maintained by volunteers and the gardens located on the SPCA Florida campus are no exception.  Along with SPCA volunteers, Polk County Master Gardeners tend the garden as well as donate plants and mulch. 
The Demonstration Garden is open to the public during normal business hours (see below) and brochures are available that describe the plants, discuss rain barrels and also provide more information on the FFL program.  The next landscape project is the courtyard between the expanded SPCA Florida’s McClurg Animal Medical Center and the Adoption Center entrance.  This extended demonstration garden is scheduled to open in Fall, 2012.
The SPCA is located at 5850 Brannen Rd. S. in Lakeland. 
Phone:  863.646.SPCA (7722)
Hours:  Monday – Saturday 8:00am – 5:00 pm


Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Living at the Lake Workshops

Living at the Lake: Session 1
Thursday, August 2, 6:00 p.m.-8:00-p.m.
Peggy Brown Building, 215 S. Lake Ave., Lakeland
The Lakes Education/Action Drive presents a program for residents interested in learning more about Polk County lakes. Session one will focus on an in depth look in to lakes, watersheds, drainage patterns, water quality and algal blooms. To register click here. For more information contact LE/AD at (863) 221-5323 or
lakeseducation@hotmail.com. This workshop is free. Seating is limited so register now!

Living at the Lake: Session 2
Monday, August 6, 6:00 p.m.-8:00-p.m.
Peggy Brown Building, 215 S. Lake Ave., Lakeland
The Lakes Education/Action Drive presents a program for residents interested in learning more about Polk County lakes. Session two will focus on the importance of aquatic life. Learn about the animals and plants that call our lakes their home. To register click here. For more information contact LE/AD at (863) 221-5323 or
lakeseducation@hotmail.com. This workshop is free. Seating is limited so register now!

Living at the Lake: Session 3
Thursday, August 9, 6:00 p.m.-8:00-p.m.
Peggy Brown Building, 215 S. Lake Ave., Lakeland
The Lakes Education/Action Drive presents a program for residents interested in learning more about Polk County lakes. Session three will focus on ways to improve the effects of stormwater on our lakes. Also learn what you need to know if you live on a lake. What can you do to your lakefront? Do you need permits? To register click here. For more information contact LE/AD at (863) 221-5323 or
lakeseducation@hotmail.com. This workshop is free. Seating is limited so register now!

Friday, June 15, 2012

Steps to a Successful Landscape-Let's Get Started!

Creating a landscape design is an important first step to making changes to your landscape.  Take the time to do it right.  Get a soil test, observe sun/shade patterns as well as drainage patterns, and note existing vegetation that will stay on site.  By analyzing your yard and creating a plan you can reduce future problems and choose plants with your growing requirements. 

When creating a plan, combine Florida-Friendly design principles with general design principles for a successful landscape.  Remember that following the Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ principles doesn’t mean sacrificing color, design, and the style you desire.  It means that you can have ALL those things AND a low maintenance landscape! 
Florida-Friendly design principles include right plant, right place to minimize water, fertilizer and water use.  Reduce turf areas to small, functional areas and replace the rest of the yard with groundcovers and mulched beds.  Plant trees to create shade, and while you’re at it, shade the air conditioner unit.  Minimize runoff and direct water flow into rain barrels or rain gardens.  Choose plants for your yard that will attract wildlife and create specialty gardens such as a butterfly garden so you can group similar plants together.  Finally, to tie it all together, incorporate mulch for paths and planting beds. 
In addition to the Florida-Friendly design rules, there are some general design principles to think about when designing a new space.  They include organization, proportion, repetition, variety, composition and emphasis.  Organize your space into “rooms” and keep plants proportional to your home.  Repeat a few plant varieties throughout the landscape so that your specimen plants will stand out.   Vary texture, color and height to create an attractive yard. 
 
There is so much to consider when designing a master landscape plan for your yard.  In this design series, we will discuss how to create a plan, how to incorporate design elements and layout planting beds.  Finally we will discuss how to choose plants and install them properly so that minimal maintenance is required. 
 
If you are interested in incorporating the principles of Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ into your yard, make sure you have a copy of the Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ Handbook and the Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ Guide to Plant Selection & Landscape Design.  Both publications are available by contacting us at (863) 519-8677 ext. 121.  You can also go to polkfyn.com for more information. 


Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Polk Training Center for Handicapped Citizens Nursery

The Polk Training Center for Handicapped Citizens Nursery features one of the Florida-Friendly Demonstration Gardens in Polk County.  Not only is it a gorgeous garden that will provide you with lots of ideas, it is a place to buy plants AND support a great cause.  The students at the nursery are so cheerful and enthusiastic about what they do.  The nursery was featured in the News Chief recently.  What a great article!  Take the time to visit the nursery and demonstration garden soon! 



Monday, June 4, 2012

Growing a Tasty Tomato

Master Gardener Carol Leffler has an impressive harvest!


Are you harvesting your tomato crop?  Wondering how to make your next crop tastier and more abundant?  Dr. Klee from the University of Florida shares how in his article on How to Grow the Tastiest Tomato.  For more information on growing tomatoes in Florida, read the EDIS article on growing Tomatoes in the Florida Garden.