Maintenance Ideas For All Landscapes
- Lawn: Convert some of your open lawn to a
"meadow." Mow prudently--just two summer mowings will control tree
and shrub invasions in your meadow (check local mowing ordinances).
Wildflowers, butterflies and bees can flourish in even a small wild
- Hedges: Select and encourage a variety of
plant heights, but maintain a minimum of 3-1/2- to 8-foot high
hedges. The best hedges for bird cover and nesting are evergreen
with dense or thorny branches. From the viewpoint of a bird or
rabbit, blackberries are ideal!
- Thorny hedges also discourage human intruders, and all dense
hedges give you privacy and protection from noisy streets. Remove
large tree species that sprout and grow in your hedges.
- Pruning: Birds prefer unclipped, informal
hedges. Remove old growth selectively to assure that the plants
don't overcrowd one another. Avoid pruning during the nesting
season. Azaleas and other early flowering shrubs that bloom from
buds formed during the previous summer should be selectively pruned
or cut back every few years.
- Small trees: Be sure orchard and some
flowering trees receive full sun. Check light
requirements--dogwoods, for example, prefer light shade. Avoid
toxic sprays; instead, choose fruit varieties that will thrive in
your area without poisons. Don't prune all the dead wood and be
sure to mulch well. Leave tent caterpillar nests in your wild fruit
trees-yellow-billed cuckoos or other birds can control them for
you. If caterpillars really get out of hand, spray carefully with
bacillus thuringensis (contact your local nursery or Cooperative
Extension Service for instructions).
- Large forest trees: Control seedlings beneath
large trees, but leave a few young replacements. Allow one or two
selected vines to climb each tree. You may want to mow once a year
in your forested area. Maintain standing dead trees and limbs as
"snags" that don't pose a safety hazard to your house or people in
- Paths: Add mulched or stonework walkways to
your landscape. Paths can make visiting your yard more enjoyable
when vegetation is wet with rain or morning dew, and provide a
familiar route through your backyard habitat.
A Caution about Nonnative Invasive Plants
Nonnatives are plants and animals imported and
introduced into a new environment. Most every Florida yard has an
nonnative hibiscus or azalea. Although these plants won't do
wildlife any harm, their benefits to wildlife may not be as high as
those of native species.
Many nonnatives have no natural enemies to suppress
their spread, so they tend to upset the balance of nature and crowd
out the native species. These pest plants are known as invasive
nonnatives. South Florida's landscape has been visibly and
negatively altered by three invasive nonnative trees: melaleuca or
the paperbark tree (Melaleuca quinquenervia), Australian pine
(Casuarina spp.) and Brazilian pepper, sometimes called Florida
holly (Schinus terebinthifolius).
In north Florida, the worst naturalized invasive
nonnative is kudzu (Pueraria lobata) which can turn a small pine
forest into a green "desert" for wildlife in only a few years.
Other problem plants in north Florida include Chinese tallow and
the aquatic pests hydrilla and water hyacinth.
Do your best to eradicate these aggressive
misbehaving invaders everywhere you can. Educate yourself about
invasive nonnative plants that are prone to be a pest in your area.
When buying a new plant variety, take the responsibility to observe
it to make sure it doesn't spread rapidly or begin to pop up in
Select Pest Plants:
Cavity Trees, Lawns and Soil
More than one-third of all forest-dwelling birds
and mammals require a hole or cavity in a tree for nesting or
shelter. Most cavity-nesting birds are insectivorous, and play an
important part in the control of forest insect pests. The scarcity
of nesting and roosting cavities seriously limits numbers of
woodpeckers, nuthatches, wood ducks, screech owls, bluebirds,
flying squirrels and many other desirable backyard dwellers. People
are the problem - we harvest mature and dead trees for firewood and
remove dead trees and limbs merely to keep our yards neat. Under
natural conditions, a woodland recycles everything. It does not
become "dirty" and never needs "cleaning"!
|Recommendations: One of the greatest services
a landowner can do for wildlife is to leave at least one or two
dead trees (snags) standing per quarter-acre lot. If you have few
cavity trees on your property, set out home-built nest
boxes to encourage cavity-nesting birds and mammals. Obviously,
snags that present a safety hazard should be removed. See "There's Life
in Dead Trees" to read a bit more about snags.
Although a well-kept lawn may provide a grassy
snack for a rabbit or a worm for a robin, to qualify as good
habitat it must be close to cover and food plants. Most people like
to maintain mowed grass for outdoor play and entertaining, but
remember, manicured lawns extending from property line to property
line will be nearly as devoid of wildlife as asphalt!
Recommendation: Think carefully
about which lawn areas you don't use and replace them with beds of
trees, shrubs, meadow and natural ground cover for your wildlife
Most people have a mental image of what makes a
rich soil: it's dark and smells fresh; it's fluffy, not lumpy or
loose like beach sand; and moist, not dry or muddy. These qualities
are, in fact, ideal for most plants. If you improve your soil to
match your mental image, your plants will mostly take care of
themselves. Healthy soil will grow healthy plants, and healthy
plants will produce lots of food and cover for wildlife.
Recommendation: You have to start
with topsoil. If you are trying to garden on soil that was dug out
of a pit to fill your lot, you may have to haul in some topsoil
before you do anything else. Assuming you have topsoil, the most
important thing you can do for your garden is to mulch, which means
to spread some type of plant material over your soil. On the
poorest fill, and even without the addition of topsoil, mulching
begins the process of soil formation and allows a wide range of
plantings to flourish.
Don't discard leaves or grass clippings if you
rake. After they have dried, spread them thickly (at least three
inches deep) between your plants and shallowly around their bases.
Mulch should not touch tree or shrub trunks directly. Pull the
mulch back about an inch to provide airflow around the back of the
tree and to prevent the growth of harmful fungi and colonization by
Mulching will keep your soil moist, inhibit weeds,
and the clippings will eventually break down and enrich your soil.
If you going to by mulching materials, you can Mulch With
Melaleuca or other invasive nonnative plants and avoid mulching
with pulped native trees like cypress.