University of Florida

The Neighborhood Gardener
Florida-Friendly Landscaping Recruits a Master Garden

Michelle Atkinson, Manatee County Florida Yards & Neighborhoods Coordinator

Carol Smith resides in Manatee County and has been adopting a Florida-Friendly Landscape over the past decade.  When Carol and her husband built their home in 1988, the one-acre yard consisted of bahiagrass and foundation plants.  After enduring endless hours of mowing and pruning, Carol began to look for a way to reduce her maintenance. This is when she came across the Florida Yards & Neighborhoods program.

After establishing four live oaks, she began converting turf to mulch beds. What used to take hours to mow has been reduced to 20 minutes. The yard was transitioned in phases with lots of plants installed and even more bags of mulch spread.

Carol found her passion in the excitement that came from this Florida-Friendly transformation and in 2000, she decided to become a Master Gardener to further her knowledge of Florida-Friendly plants and principles. Eager to make her yard an example for others to see the beauty and reduced maintenance a Florida-Friendly Landscape offers Carol started working with nature and following the nine principles. She now cultivates the native Virginia creeper into ground cover and welcomes other native volunteers like beautyberry, which naturally occurs in the backyard.

“We used to fertilize the 12,000-plus square foot lawn a couple times a year and applied herbicide to try to control weeds.  We would also apply pesticide to control mole crickets. Now our reduced lawn does not receive fertilizer or pesticides,” Carol explains.

“We never had an irrigation system and have always tried to conserve water.  By installing a Florida-Friendly Landscape, I've learned how to save even more water and utilize our three rain barrels for most of our watering needs. The only plants that get watered are a few perennials and they may get a bit of slow-release fertilizer if needed.  Only soaps and oils are used to control pests, and rarely; if a plant gets too buggy, it goes.” 

"We enjoy the many songbirds, butterflies, resident gopher tortoises, bunnies, snakes, and of course raccoons and squirrels that currently reside in the created habitat," Carol says. "We even have spotted bobcats and foxes. I absolutely love my landscape now. It’s interesting, fun and alive!  And I’m not done yet…” 

See photos of Carol's Florida-Friendly landscape.

Learn more about Florida Yards & Neighborhoods program and the nine principles at the Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ Program web site.


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