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Protecting Paradise through your own garden

Posted at 6:05 PM, Jun 20, 2019
and last updated 2019-06-21 07:31:59-04

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WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — If you’re trying to go green at home, why not start with your own yard?

There are lots of things you can do there to help the environment.

Laurie Albrecht, a University of Florida horticulture extension agent, walked us through how you can plant smart at home.

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“Most people are unaware that what they do in their own backyard or garden can have massive impacts on what happens in our water bodies and natural areas,” she said.

It starts with following the nine principles of Florida-Friendly landscaping:

Right plant, right place

Albrecht said making sure you put the right plant in the right place is important, otherwise you might unknowingly create problems in your yard. A plant that thrives in a friend's yard on the coast might not do so well in your yard just a few miles inland.

“If it’s the right plant in the right place, generally speaking they don’t attract as many insect or disease problems, and that means we can reduce some of the chemicals that we use in our landscapes,” said Albrecht.

Water Efficiently

In order to water efficiently, make sure you’re not over watering your yard.

“People with automatic sprinklers are generally using more water than they need to,” said Albrecht. “The University of Florida recommends if you have an automatic sprinkler system to water only twice a week and to water only 3/4 of an inch per cycle. Plants don’t need as much water as people are putting down.”

Fertilize Appropriately, Reduce Stormwater Runoff & Protect the Waterfront

“Anybody who has a landscape, the nitrogen and phosphorus in misapplied fertilizers or pesticides in rain events can go through our sandy soils and reach our underground aquifers,” said Albrecht. “They can runoff and go down the storm drain and into the largest watershed in Palm Beach County, which is Lake Worth Lagoon.”

There are plants you can use like trees, certain types of water lilies or cordgrass to help absorb fertilizer nutrients and prevent seepage into nearby waterways.

“What we call native littoral plants. They would grow naturally at the waters edge. And it’s important because they create a nice buffer,” said Albrecht. “The littoral plants would be a catchment area for that.


For mulch, pine bark works very well.

“The course textured ones actually control weeds,” said Albrecht.

But avoid using rubber mulch or cypress mulch.

“Cypress mulch is considered unsustainable because it comes from our cypress swamps and the cypress is not being replaced as much as it’s being taken out,” said Albrecht.

Attract Wildlife & Manage Yard Pests Responsibly

If you plant things like coral honeysuckle or marlberry bushes, you’re helping wildlife to flourish.

“This is a fire bush. It will attract hummingbirds because of these reddish tubular flowers,” said Albrecht.

Pentas are also good for butterflies.

Hummingbirds are attracted to more red colored flowers. Bees will like most anything that butterflies are attracted to.

Recycle Yard Waste

One of the ways you can recycle yard waste is through composting.

“Using living plant materials or stuff from your kitchen and creating a compost pile in your backyard, where it will naturally decay. Sou can use it in your gardens as a mulch or underneath your mulch to add organic matter to the soil,” Albrecht suggested.

Classes are wrapping up at the UF extension at Mounts Botanical Garden. Click here for more details.