It's time to wrap up our exploration of the difficulty of implementing NWF's six tips for a green garden.
Tip #6: Minimize, or better yet eliminate, the use of fertilizers and pesticides on your property.
Let's talk fertilizers first. Most people assume that when you put plants in the ground, you have to fertilize them for good results. Actually, if you're picking appropriate native or Florida-Friendly plants, there's a good chance this just isn't the case. Florida-Friendly plants grow very happily in Florida soil with little or no help. If you want to be thorough about it, there are tools available that allow you to test your soil and determine the nutrients it contains and lacks. But really, if you just mix some organic compost into the soil when you plant, your plants will dig in and establish themselves just fine.
If you do find the need to fertilize, and I do it myself occasionally, use natural or organic fertilizers that give the soil and plants only what they need. There are more and more alternatives to the traditional "Miracle-Gro" fertilizers, and they are even starting to be available at local big box stores. My local Lowe's now has a section for natural and organic fertilizers. If you can't find them locally, you can find a great selection online at places like Clean Air Gardening. I'll spend more time in a future post describing some of the organic and natural fertilizer solutions I've tried (and describing traumatic fish fertilizer flashbacks from my childhood).
Now, let's talk pesticides. Honestly, I find this one a lot harder, because we have major ant issues in My Florida Backyard, and I have yet to find a really effective solution. We've finally decided that they if they don't bite, and don't seem to be a problem for the plants, we'll leave them alone. If they get into the house, I use something like Orange Guard to spot-treat. Outside, I just leave them alone.
However, then there are fire ants. Fire ants are a serious invasive pest in Florida, and if you're like me and happen to be especially sensitive to their bites (one bite on my toe can cause my whole foot to swell), your first instinct when you see a new mound is DESTROY!!! Poison, bleach, flame throwers, whatever it takes! Be gone, you horrible non-native demons from hell!
I'm sorry. Did I get carried away? I really hate fire ants. The good news is, I have found an organic Fire Ant Control solution. The bad news is, it's definitely more expensive and I have to yet to find it locally, so I have to order it online.
Level of Difficulty: So, where does that leave us with tip #6? Well, if you're choosing the right plants for your area, you really shouldn't need to fertilize much, and natural fertilizers are becoming more readily available locally. That makes this one pretty easy. However, when you bring pesticides into the mix, it can get trickier, especially here in fire ant country. Remember, though, there are lots of beneficial bugs that you want in your garden, especially spiders, so it's best to follow a "if they're not bothering you, don't bother them" rule of thumb. And that's pretty darn easy.
Overall, on the scale from 1 - 5 (5 being most difficult), I'm going to rate this a 2 or 3, depending on your local access to natural fertilizers and pesticides and whether you have planned a garden that will thrive without a lot of extra help.