Making your yard Florida-friendly
Published: Saturday, September 7, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, September 5, 2013 at 2:57 p.m.
Q: I am considering having a more low-maintenance yard. I am tired of mowing so much and paying for treatments. I am interested in the Florida-friendly program.
A: Many people in Florida are looking for low-maintenance ways to take care of their landscape. The Florida-Friendly Landscaping program from the University of Florida offers an alternative to high-maintenance landscapes.
The program is based on sound principles to bring your landscape into balance and have you spending less time on the mower and spending less on watering and pest control. I am the educator for Florida-friendly landscapes in Alachua County. We frequently offer classes and advice to help people convert their landscapes to be more Florida-friendly.
It is possible to have a low-maintenance, water-conserving landscape that looks beautiful and can fit with your neighborhood aesthetic.
The first principle we stress is putting the right plant in the right place. We help you select plants that are suited for specific locations. Plants in the right place will thrive on minimal amounts of water, fertilizer and pesticides.
Watering efficiently is another important principle. Using less water helps to protect our natural resources. Micro irrigation and using mulch are great ways to save water in your landscape. We stress appropriate fertilization, especially only fertilize when grass is actively growing, and time your fertilization so it is not before a heavy rain.
Many people wonder where to start when considering a change to a Florida-friendly landscape. Every September, the Alachua County Extension Office holds a tour of Florida-friendly landscapes to help educate and inspire people who are considering a change. This year, the tour will be at 8:30 a.m. Sept. 28.
We will begin the tours at the Gainesville Senior Recreation Center on Northwest 34th Street. If you would like to see five different Florida-friendly landscapes that morning, call 337-6209 to register for a spot on the free tour.
Contact the Alachua County Extension Office at 955-2402 for schedules of our Florida-friendly landscaping classes.
Q: Is this a good time to plant muscadine grapes? I just went to a u-pick field of muscadines, and I love them and want to grow grapes at my house.
A: Muscadine grapes are a wonderful addition to an edible landscape or home garden. It is one of our true native fruits. Muscadine grape or Vitis rotundifolia is native to southeastern United States. The grapes are either black or bronze, with thick skins and seeds. They are very tolerant of our sandy soils and most insects and diseases.
You can plant potted grapes at any time, and bare-rooted plants should be planted in the dormant season which is December and January.
Put them in full sun, and train the vines to a trellis, arbor or a fence. Make sure you regularly irrigate the plants while they are establishing.
There are quite a few good cultivars well suited for North Central Florida. You should chat with the farmer you visited to find the cultivar that you fell in love with, and certainly seek that one out.
Favorite local cultivars that are commonly planted are Alachua, Supreme, Cowart, Jumbo and Southland (black) and Carlos, Dixie, Fry, Summit and Triumph (bronze).
Jumbo and Fry are female types and need to be planted with another cultivar of muscadine to be productive. Local fruit tree nurseries will carry a few of these types.
You will need to fertilize the vines a few times a year with a balanced fertilizer. The biggest chore for muscadines is pruning. A hard pruning is done every year in the early spring to keep the plants healthy and productive.
There are detailed instructions on how to prune, as well as cultural information on the UF/IFAS Extension website www.solutionsforyourlife.com.
Wendy Wilber is an extension agent with UF/IFAS. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.