Saturday, March 11, 2017

Sustainable Gardening Practices for South Florida

Salutations everyone!  Today is about sustainable gardening practices.  It's all pretty simple stuff but important none the less. 

First let's start with garden design...a best laid plan is the key to a successful garden.   So ask yourself a few questions.   What will I be growing?   What are the growing requirements for the plants?  Where are my full sun area & my shade areas?   From here you can determine how to best utilize your space as well as start some good gardening practices like water conservation, properly grading your landscape terrain & soil preparation.  Once you have a good design & know the basics you can start implementing it.  Remember, you can always tweak the layout later if a specific plant(s) isn't thriving.
Water Garden Landscape (HWBDO11010) | House Plan from BuilderHousePlans.com:

Composting-  Please don't be discouraged, it's super easy.   Composting is essentially a way to recycle plant material & certain food waste to enrich the soil & fertilize your plants.  There are two methods: direct composting & bin composting.   Direct composting is putting the food/plant waste directly into the soil of your plant bed.  No turning or mixing necessary.  Just make sure your dog doesn't sneak into it like mine does; bad boy...so gross!   Bin composting is putting the food/plant waste either into an open pile or an enclosed bin.   This method needs consistent turning to aerate the soil helping the green material break down.   My preferred method is to use the open pile (or in my case a very large open container) as well as directly into the plant beds.   Composting is very beneficial to growing healthy plants, reduces the need of chemical fertilizers, reduces the impact on local landfills & encourages beneficial bacteria & fungi to help breakdown the organic matter which produces a rich nutrient soil.   Many of your local grocery stores will put aside produce they would normally throw out, just ask.   Your plants will thank you with a bountiful harvest of delicious food!

Soil Preparation-  A very important yet very often overlooked practice...yes, I myself have been soil shamed on occasion, hee hee.   Soil science 101 ya'll, the plants gets their nutrition from the soil so if the soil is void of essential elements the plant will struggle and/or your plant won't produce good fruits or vegetables.   For a vegetable garden it's a good idea to amend the soil with rich organic matter 4-6 months in advance.  Which is how long it takes for organic material to break down into a usable form.  Continue adding organic material every 2 months for consistent food source for your plants.   On the other hand, for a quick fix, synthetic fertilizers break down very quickly so plants can utilize it right away.  But that would take the fun outta composting!

Watering-   Drought!  Yes, I said it...the D word!  This is why it's super duper imperative to practice water conservation, even on a small scale.  Every drop you save can be used to water your plants.  Ok, there's my PSA outta the way.   Try using a rain barrel with a soaker hose attached to it which goes directly into your garden bed.   Create a natural dry creek bed with landscape rock to redirect water run off right into your plant beds and/or grass.   Install rain chains at the corners of your house to help disperse water falling.  Planting native species will require less water.   Grouping plants with the same water requirements will help streamline your irrigation efforts.   I put large buckets in the landscape to catch the water streaming off the roof when it rains...the plants hide the buckets & I use the collected water, plus the birds like to stop by for a drink.   Check with your local extension offices, city and/or county as they will usually have information for you to read and/or host educational events & seminars; great way to get kids involved.  

Seed Saving-   What a great way to save money, start a collection & a way to share/trade with others.   Plus it helps keep the survival of many heirloom species alive.   This is also another fun project to start the kids with, plus it'll keep them off the computer for a while.   Check to see if your community has a local seed saving club and/or a garden club you can share with.  Who knows you may start a neighborhood trend!

Go Native-   Yes, yes, yes!  Native's are the way to go!  Not only will native plants help with your water bill since they are naturalized to the area but you will find they attract wildlife too.  Birds, butterflies, bees and many others will make your landscape their home by simply providing the food and shelter they require.   Check with your city to see if they have "Free Tree Give-away" days.  They usually have some great native plant selections to choose from & it's free!

Beneficial Bugs-   Did you know that most insects are beneficial in some way or another?   "Bad bugs" usually serve as food for other bugs and animals.  I never met a lizard that didn't like a good cockroach or beetle meal.  By adding beneficial insects like ladybugs, praying mantis, beneficial nematodes, lacewings and butterflies, you can be sure that your plants will be some what pest free.   Planting native species to your area will help keep the beneficial insects around instead of flying off to your neighbor's.   You can purchase these either online or if you're lucky like us here in Pompano Beach, a local store will have some in stock.   The Garden Gate at the Sears on Federal Highway and Copans Road sells many of these lovely critters.
http://kids.nationalgeographic.com/animals/ladybug/#ladybug-daisy.jpg

Mulching-   A great way to retain moisture in your soil, it moderates soil temperatures, it helps keep weeds to a minimum, it will add to the nutrient content when it starts to break down, makes the landscape look nice as well as keeping your soil from being swept away from the wind & rain.   Mulch can be in many forms from reusing tree leaves, wood chips, sawdust, pine straw, pine bark, hay, grass clippings, decorative rock, crushed shell and many other decorative items like crushed recycled glass. 

Reducing Carbon Footprint-   "There is always a way"...one of my favorite mantras, well because it's true, so sayeth me.   With that said, think about ways you can constantly be reducing your carbon footprint.   Hand pull weeds instead of using a gas powered weed wacker, plus it get's your heart rate going.  Try a manual push mower & watch your legs get super toned for summer beach days.   Instead of a hedger, used clippers & those biceps will emerge from their winter slumber.  Have a designated gardening day on the weekend to get the whole family involved.

Name tags-   What's in a name?  Uh identity?  Yes, you won the prize...just kidding, knowing you got the correct answer is your prize.  Anywhooo, the identity of a plant is just as important as the other gardening practices.  A vegetable garden is very specific to what types of varieties are growing in it at one given time.   It also helps determine what types of companion plants to use.  In a community garden, your neighbor would love to share their 'Indian glass gem' corn with you for your "I'm not sure but they're really delicious" seeds.  Uh, no thanks.  It will also help you stay organized in your seed saving efforts.

Pruning-  And this is where we will end it for today, with pruning.   My grandparents & parents taught us very early how to properly prune plants.  Looking back on it, I think that was a sneaky way to get us helping in the garden.  Where's the child labor laws when I needed to get outta Saturday chores, *sigh*.   Properly pruning a plant or tree promotes good health, longevity & vitality of the plant.   It can also promote good growing patterns for the plant.  Like a child you just have to guide it in the right direction.   Ok ok, I secretly had fun with Saturday chores, thanks Mom and Dad! 

Thanks for sticking around!   Hopefully you had fun & maybe walked away with a bit of info you can use!  
Happy Gardening and Best Wishes,
Sheri
xoxo

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