Saturday, May 25, 2013

Florida Friendly Landscape

This week, our brilliant sustainability consultant, Lorna Bravo, dropped off our Florida Friendly Landscape sign. We received our certification back in September (along with our Florida Water Star Gold certification), but got the sign this week and figured it'd be a good time to take stock of the landscape. The Florida Friendly Landscape program is organized by the University of Florida to provide criteria for designing and maintaining landscapes that sustain native plant and animal species and don't tax our already overburdened water supply systems. 

So what's new in the garden? 

Among other things, we've had great luck providing habitat for native species. Plants like milkweed and passionflower vines provide food for both caterpillars and butterflies, especially Monarchs and Zebra Longwings. Since we're not using chemical pesticides, the garden is alive with lizards, birds and toads. The garden is also designed to both conserve water (by not requiring regular irrigation) and to eliminate rainwater runoff into the street.

The fruit and vegetable beds in front are getting overgrown. We're cutting back the sweet potato vines vigorously, before they choke and smother the other plants, and we're letting the tomatoes - which have produced continuously since November - die back so that we can replace them with seedlings grown from some of their own fruit.
We've been using a lot of our herbs, especially the tarragon, basil, oregano and mint. The leaves of the sweet potato vine are terrific when sauteed, as are the leaves of the Okinawa spinach and the collard greens. All go well with the tomatoes, and we're about a day away from harvesting our first bell pepper. We just picked our first papaya, and are eager to see what it's like inside. 
Today's key lime harvest. 

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