Green Thumb Rules


by Kathy Craddock Burks, Botanist

Florida Department of Environmental Protection


AHHHH........AT LAST!  You finally have your place at "the coast," that nice little haven somewhere along Florida's beaches, bays, or barrier islands.

So you've worked out the details on your prized abode, whether it's humble or what?  What about the "yard" and the usual talk of "landscaping"?  Do you apply the same rules of caretaking that you learned around a home far inland?

Well, the answer, quite frankly, is NO!  The "coast" is different.  Its environmental system--the beautiful surroundings that drew you in the first place--is fragile, easily destroyed.  Some things that you may be used to having plenty of, such as fresh water, solid bedrock, and topsoil, are very hard to come by at the coast.

Then, you might very well ask, what are the rules of "green-thumb" for my yard at the coast?

#1    The basic rule of thumb is "Do nothing."  More precisely, that means do not disturb any native vegetation that still exists on your piece of heaven.  These plants are well adapted to life at the coast--to growing conditions we might think of as rather harsh, such as drought and salt air.  Thus, they are "easy-care ornamentals."  More than that, these plants help protect your investment by stabilizing sandy soils with their often deep roots and by acting as baffles for gusty winds.

You may agree that "Do nothing" is not a bad rule anyway for a retirement or vacation home.  The pace of life at the coast, after all, is usually one of relaxation.  But, you may say, "I like yard work; it's enjoyable and relaxing."  So is there puttering around that you can do?  Things that will enhance rather than stress the natural workings of your coastal plot?  Yes!

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