University of Florida

The Neighborhood Gardener:
The Xtreme Makeover Project

(Continued from the previous page)

Questions Answered

What were the principles used on the Xtreme Makeover Project? 
The Xtreme Makeover Project employed the nine Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ (FFL) principles, based on the property owner’s objectives and goals and adherence to County landscape codes. The property is located on a main thoroughfare (U.S. 41/Tamiami Trail), and the homeowner wanted an attractive, low-maintenance, low-water-use landscape that would provide a sense of privacy and also serve as a recreation area for children. Utilization of applicable FFL principles succeeded in providing the homeowner with a landscape beyond her expectations.

Were there problems with the turfgrass?
‘Empire’ Zoysia was the turfgrass selected for this project. Zoysiagrass is extremely dense, adapts well to a variety of soil conditions, and has a good tolerance for salt and foot traffic. One year after installation, the dense zoysiagrass was still doing a remarkable job of suppressing weed growth. The density also allowed the root area to retain moisture from irrigation. One fertilizer application was made in the entire year since installation, and no adverse effects to the turfgrass had been noted.

The only real problems with the turfgrass were those associated with the irrigation system. Brown patches sometimes resulted from insufficient coverage due to a broken sprinkler head, clogged emitters, or interruptions to the main electrical supply.

Did the irrigation system need tweaking?
The irrigation system had separate zones for shrub beds and turfgrass and required some adjusting to determine appropriate timing for the individual shrub zones. Delivery rates and timing also needed adjustment and will continue to be adjusted as water needs fluctuate with environmental conditions.

Were there any big problems?
There were no insurmountable problems—nothing beyond the scope of everyday landscape woes. Finding the time to deadhead the flowers or locating the broken sprinkler head were some of the ordinary problems encountered while maintaining this Florida-Friendly Landscape.

What does the future hold?
After 12 months, the landscape is doing very well. Plant material has grown to provide the privacy, color, fragrance, and wildlife- and child-friendly atmosphere the homeowner was looking for. With the exception of mowing, care of the turfgrass is not intensive; minimal fertilizer and irrigation is used. The shrubs were selected for drought tolerance and year-round floral display, and there seems to be every reason to believe this landscape can be sustained for many years with minimum fertilizer and no pesticide use, as well as little to no supplemental irrigation.

Xtreme Makeover: Lessons Learned

For other counties or groups looking to implement similar strategies, here are some homegrown tips:

  1. Be sure the homeowner understands that all landscapes require some maintenance.
  2. Be sure the homeowner is willing and able to help maintain the landscape.
  3. Encourage and promote communication among all participants.
  4. Be sure that all partners will provide follow-up assistance after the project is complete, should problems arise within that partner's particular area of expertise.

For More Information

Cathy Feser is the Urban Horticulture Extension Agent with the University of Florida Collier County Extension Service. For more information on home gardening, call the Collier County Master Gardener Plant Clinic at (239) 353-2872 or visit their Web site.

 

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