By: Kamila Perez, Senior Environmental Specialist
2022 Lunar New Year celebrations begin on February 1st, signifying the beginning of spring planting season for communities around the world. There’s no better time to act on personal resolutions that may include gardening, beautifying yards and outdoor areas, or even being more active in the fresh air. Adding plants and trees to outdoor areas can help meet each of these goals and – with the right plant selection – set the stage for a healthier climate and environment.
Planting the right plant in the right place is key to minimizing harmful inputs like fertilizer and attaining the best aesthetic results. Selecting native Florida plants also reduces the need for upkeep, pesticide application, and water. The nine principles of Florida-Friendly LandscapingTM, or FFL, provide science-based guidance for landscapers and at-home gardeners to achieve a vibrant, climate-conscious outdoor space that supports a healthier environment.
In Florida, irrigation makes up fifty percent of residential water use. Selecting Florida-friendly, drought tolerant plants and avoiding over-watering yards and gardens reduces water bills, protects local drinking water supplies and helps to avoid polluted runoff. Chapter 373.185 F.S. Local Florida-friendly Landscaping Ordinances offers some regulatory guidelines needed to achieve “quality landscapes that conserve water, protect the environment, are adaptable to local conditions, and are drought tolerant.” Despite this foundation of water conservation and protection, FFL remains a mystery to many.
FACT: State law requires Homeowners’ Associations (HOAs) to allow FFL. However, while a HOA cannot prohibit you from being Florida-Friendly, they can require an approval process for landscape changes. For example, the HOA cannot restrict composting, but they can dictate the location of your compost bin. The HOA can enforce landscape designs that uphold uniformity but requiring every lawn to be bright green all year is unrealistic, and not Florida-Friendly. Even vegetable gardens are protected under Chapter 604.71 F.S. Ultimately, an HOA cannot require a homeowner to abide by a rule that clearly contradicts the principles of FFL.
Dive into the nine principles of FFL at https://ffl.ifas.ufl.edu. Community members with HOA restrictions seeking to be Florida-Friendly will benefit by reviewing the community HOAs governing documents. Identify FFL changes that are consistent with HOA restrictions, follow the community architectural review process, and consult with the Board of Directors. And keep in mind that state law supports FLL, your landscape, and our environment.