Front Yard Landscape Designs
September 30, 2014
They say beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Living in Southwest Florida we are surrounded by undeniable natural beauty. Palm trees and other tropical plants are a staple in most of our front yard landscape designs. Our community is designed with sustainable urban development in mind. While we continue to grow and develop urban areas, it’s important to preserve the natural resources and beautiful landscapes surrounding us. Here in Florida our soil is unique.
It is comprised mostly of sand, technically called “Myakka”. Most tropical plants thrive in our soil, however some other vegetation typical of northern climates cannot get the nutrients they need to survive. Landscape architects need to take this and many other factors into consideration when starting any landscape design plans. The pH levels in our soil are also different from other areas of the US. “Soil chemistry is very important. If the pH is wrong, plants may not be able to take up the nutrients even if plant food is abundant in the soil.”*1 Mowing leaves or leaving lawn clippings on your lawn can often help increase the organic content in your soil.
Organic matter helps to increase nutrient levels and water availability, while also helping to balance the pH levels. “On most of our sandy soils, organic content is generally less than 1 %.” Increasing the levels of organic matter in our soil will help to provide our plants the nutrients they need to thrive. Sustainable landscape garden design depends on this organic content. Mulching regularly will help increase the organic content of your garden soil. Fallen leaves, grass clippings, compost, and wood chips are some great natural materials to use in your garden. Creating a base of mulch helps hold water and naturally fertilizes our sandy “Myakka” soil. “Soil ecology is important part of successful gardening: diversity gives health, strength, and resilience to all your plants.”*1
Urban development has created many environmental effects. The change from rural to urban development has also affected our soil. “While healthy soils are key to agricultural and forest productivity in rural areas, most urbanites (say the occasional backyard gardener, watershed manager, or soil scientist) are unaware of the many ecosystem functions provided by soils in urban watersheds and landscapes.”*2 Soil sustainability will help to keep the negative effects of urban development to a minimum. Using organic gardening techniques (composting, mulching, etc.) keeps our soil fertile. “The physical, chemical and biological properties of an urban soil are what determine its suitability for a given use. The most important key to the sustainable management of urban soils, therefore, is an improved understanding of how these soil properties vary across an urban and urbanizing landscape.” *2
Sustainable urban planning is the cornerstone of future development. Southwest Florida is arguably the most beautiful place to live (yes, we may be a little bias). Conserving our natural resources and keeping our plants healthy are top priorities. Our soil provides the nutrients needed for our gardens to grow. The natural tropical beauty in our own community is something we will never take for granted. *