|Lawn Today...Gone Tommorrow (a.k.a. "Assisted Sodicide")|
|Written by Marjorie Holt|
|Sunday, January 25 2009|
WHY SHOULD YOU CONSIDER REDUCING YOUR LAWN?
These inputs have become increasingly expensive to the homeowner monetarily, and perhaps more importantly, expensive to the environment. For instance, it is estimated that the majority of nitrogen getting into Phillippi Creek and then into Sarasota Bay comes from fertilized lawns rather than from septic tanks. Most homeowners are not willing to apply such inputs and consequently their lawns are not particularly aesthetically pleasing. Nevertheless, they still have to mow them or have them mowed. This process itself is costly both to the homeowner and to the environment as the amount of gasoline burnt in mowers adds to the urban air pollution as well as noise pollution.
A second problem with grass is that it does nothing about shading the house. House shading is extremely important in this climate since it can reduce air-conditioning needs and thus costs, dramatically saving both the homeowner and the environment. Finally, trees and shrubs, because they have more leaf surface in a given volume of air than grass will increase CO2 uptake, contributing to a reduction in global warming.
All of the above are good reasons for you to at least consider reducing the area of grass surrounding your property. Just reducing grass is only part of the solution, however. Clearly, the previously grassed area must be planted with trees and shrubs in order to obtain the maximum benefit. Rocks or gravel will not suffice. The west side of your house particularly needs shading to reduce the cruel afternoon sun from heating up your house. In addition, driveways should be shaded so that getting into your car on a summer's day becomes less of an ordeal.
We suggest that you draw up a plan for gradually removing your grass where you think it is practical and replacing it with trees, shrubs and to a lesser extent flowers. If you are watering and/or fertilizing your grass, stop doing it sometime before you begin to reduce your lawn. A good time to reduce your lawn is in April and May when rainfall is limited and the temperature begins to increase. In a particularly dry year, much of the plant material will have already died.
Herbicide Treatment (Chemical)
One of its advantages is that its active chemical, glyphosphate, inhibits a specific plant enzyme that is not present in other organisms, so its toxicity is relatively low. It does contain a surfactant, however, that can be more toxic than the active chemical. Consequently, care should be taken to keep it off the skin and eyes. It is also best to keep it away from ponds and streams as there is some evidence that it can cause problems for fish.
Roundup® can be obtained from garden sections in both concentrated and dilute solutions. The concentrated solutions can be diluted and applied with a garden sprayer and the dilute solutions usually come in a small spray bottle and can be applied directly.
TREES & SHRUBS
Native palms are excellent accent plants adding that tropical touch we are thrilled to find in Florida. They have a fibrous root system concentrated at the base of their trunk so it is possible to plant them nearer (eight to ten feet from) the house foundation. Use them in clusters for a naturalized look. In nature, many grow as an understudy to big trees and can be planted as such in your yard. Remember, they too need to be cold hardy and drought tolerant.
Large native shrubs form the walls of your landscape. We suggest killing the peripheral twenty feet of lawn in your backyard and planting several large groupings of various size shrubs to form a natural green border. Not a hedge. Space your large shrubs so that they can reach their full height. No one wants to trim all summer in the heat. Large shrubs block views, create privacy, and reduce noise from air conditioners and neighboring pool parties. They also provide nesting habitat and/or shelter for migratory and resident birds. Choose cold hardy species for barrier plantings and add frost sensitive plants that bloom over a long period as accent plantings for color and contrast. Place smaller shrubs at random intervals in amongst the larger shrubs forming layers of plantings between your house and the property edge. This will give you a naturalized border that does not require much care once established.
Native vines can be placed at the base of trees or palm clusters and allowed to ramble up the support provided. Or they can be trained on trellises that work particularly well in narrow spaces on the side of your property to block neighboring views of windows, garages, and storage spaces. The trellis alone provides almost instant privacy and fast growing vines will cover large sheets of latticework in a growing season. Vines can create a floral wall and many attract butterflies and hummingbirds.
Native clump grasses, native ferns, native low growing shrubs, and the native cycad, coontie, are excellent low maintenance alternatives to lawn and form the floor of your landscape. They should be planted in groups of a single species (perhaps seven, eleven, fifteen specimens) to create larger areas of contrasting form and texture. Don’t think color here. Think ability to cover large areas of ground under trees, around large specimen or cluster palms, or accent shrubbery. Some species thrive in full sun; many need filtered light or partial shade to do well. Work on one planting area first and see if the plants you choose do well there. If they thrive, repeat this planting palette elsewhere.
Be cautious about groundcovers in our area. Many cover the ground where you plant them and then keep going. Some root at every growing node and will need constant edging to keep them from trailing over driveways and sidewalks or into and over plants and planted areas. Some are very difficult to get rid of if you decide you don't want them anymore. We suggest trying a few plants in an area you want to cover and seeing if you like the results before you remove large quantities of lawn and plant in mass. Several types of groundcover can be mowed and maintained as a lawn replacement. Groundcovers are an excellent alternative to grass on septic fields or to hold banks along canals. Several are salt tolerant and will thrive in full sun, drifting sand conditions. Just ask questions before you buy and try a few plants first.
Specialty native plantings such as a butterfly or hummingbird garden or small pond are exciting ways to add focal points to your landscape. Place them near your Florida room, screened lanai, or out the kitchen or office window. They will attract nature to your door and provide hours of viewing pleasure. I put in a small pond near my back porch and instead of burying my nose in a book, I often find myself watching the dragonflies dash about over the water's edge.
Lawns are environmental wastelands. Think native trees, multisize shrubs, vines, grasses, groundcovers and specialty gardens and start replanting. You’ll add life to your landscape!
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