Tuesday, March 20, 2012


It's the first day of Spring and many of us start thinking about our lawns.  When planning your outdoor haven, consider what sort of yard is important to you. Do you crave shady trees under which to string that hammock, or do you want wide swaths of lawn for the kids' football games? Here are a few suggestions on landscape design:
* Plant food. Use your yard to grow a vegetable garden, edible berry bushes, fruit trees or whatever your region can support. You will slash your grocery bills and cut down on the fossil fuels used to transport produce around the U.S. and around the world. "Edible landscaping may be the most important thing you can do with your yard," says Bill Duesing, who is also the Connecticut chapter of NOFA's executive director.
* Cut down on the size of the lawn (and the time it takes to maintain it!) by adding ground-covering plants, shrubs or flowerbeds.
* Plant trees and shrubs that help cut your home heating and cooling expenses. Tall shady trees make great air conditioners in summer.
* Group plants that have similar water needs together—those that only need rainfall and those that need weekly or monthly watering—so that you can irrigate them together, and have other areas of the yard with hardy plants that you water less frequently, says Douglas Welsh.
* Construct a "rain garden" (www.raingarden.org) that traps rainwater and allows it to seep into soils rather than running off toward storm drains. A rain garden is a plot of low-maintenance, native perennial flowers and shrubs planted in a shallow basin.
* Native plants have evolved to live in your region, so they have better defenses against predators, require water commensurate with annual rainfall and help foster healthy soil and insect life that attracts birds and enhances overall biodiversity. "There is this idea that plants are just ornaments that sit in the landscape," says botanist Marielle Anzelone, of head of Drosera, a landscape design firm. "In fact, plants are an integral part of nature."
* Spread the word. Your best advertisement is your beautiful lush lawn. Post a "pesticide-free zone" sign (available at www.beyondpesticides.org) and you may have passers-by asking about it. Organize a coalition of neighbors to lobby for pesticide-free playgrounds, sports fields and neighborhoods so that your children and pets don't tread through pesticides at neighbors' houses.
Please email comments and questions to GDempsey@fortlauderdale.gov.

Gene Dempsey, City Forester
Environmental Services
(954) 828-7704
Think before you print!