Posts Tagged ‘Florida’

How did it happen that it has been a couple of years since my last post?  When they say “time flies” it truly does.  Since I reference this blog during the classes I teach and invite people to look at it, I realized I have to keep posting!  And because the goal of the blog is to provide my readers with information and education here is the next installment on Embracing a “Green” lifestyle.  This one is on landscaping.

Landscapes offer many benefits to us, our property values, the environment, and wildlife.  Properties can look fantastic while also integrating conservation techniques into their landscaping.

Here are just a few reasons to create an environmentally friendly landscape:

  • Aesthetic benefits: enjoy lovely flowers, create outdoor rooms, add color, provide visual buffers, etc.
  • Erosion control: many plants have extensive root systems which hold soil in place, preventing rains from washing soil into our waterways.
  • Temperature modification: properly placed shade trees can cool your house in the summer, saving you money! A study shows that a single mature tree gets rid of as much heat on a home site as would require removal by two residential-size central air conditioners if the site were enclosed.  Trees keep surroundings cool and cooler surroundings reduce air conditioning requirements. Temperatures under vegetated areas on sunny summer days are about 10-14 degrees F cooler than those of exposed soil and hard surfaces.
  • Water conservation: shade provided by trees may greatly reduce watering needs in the shaded areas (water will evaporate from the soil more quickly when the ground is subjected to direct, intense heat from the sun).
  • Wind control: grouping trees and plants in windbreaks or clusters slows wind down, protecting your property.
  • Air pollution reduction: 150 square meters of plants provide enough oxygen for one person.  Plants also trap particulates from the air, so we don’t have to breathe them.
  • Reduces light pollution: from street lights, neighbors, glare, etc.  Trees and shrubs can also hide unattractive buildings.
  • Water pollution control: plants trap sediments and pollutants in water, hold shorelines in place, drink excess water, and allow water to percolate back to the aquifers.

Next, techniques for successfully achieving eco-friendly landscapes and applying landscaping to improving the energy efficiency of our homes.


  • Use trees and tall shrubs to shade east, west, northeast, and northwest sides of the house. In North and Central Florida, use full, tall-canopied deciduous trees on the south side.
  • Use foundation plantings to shade lower wall areas, to keep the ground next to the house cool and to block re-radiation from adjacent hot surfaces.
  • Use trees to shade the air conditioner.
  • Plant trees in clusters so that you can take better advantage of watering and growing conditions.
  • Select native plants that are correct for your area.  Native plants are going to be more adapted and tolerant to our soil and water conditions and can minimize the need for pest control, water and fertilizer, and maintenance.  Some examples in Florida:

Large Trees:

Medium and small trees:


  • Replace grass with other types of ground cover.  Compared with grass, ground cover uses fewer pesticides and less water and is; therefore, more eco-friendly.  First think of leaving the natural vegetation on the land.  This saves you clearing expense, will require no maintenance (including no mowing), and can be a selling point to a client.

Ground cover:

  • Consider using mulches as ground cover; placing a layer of mulch directly around shrubs, trees and flower beds helps to conserve water.
  • Also consider planting a garden or using herbs such as mint or oregano as ground cover.

Watch your watering:

  • Water only when needed; when plants show signs of stress from lack of water.
  • Reduce watering during the rainy season and during the winter.
  • Water in early morning or early evening when temperatures and wind speeds are at their lowest.
  • Do not water between 10 am and 4 pm when losses from evaporation and wind can occur.
  • Allow sprinklers to run for the length of time to apply no more than ¾” of water to an area.
  • Always water deeply and thoroughly; it is better to give your lawn one good soaking each week than watering lightly each day.
  • Use automatic watering systems with rain sensors, which by Florida law are required on all automatic systems installed after 1991.
  • Use sprinklers with timers.


There – now start thinking about your landscaping and what you can do to make it more environmentally friendly and save you money!


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 Gopher tortoises, Latin name Gopherus polyphemus, those cute little reptile tanks that you see feeding on grassy areas on the sides of roads are considered to be a Threatened species by the state of Florida and by several other southeastern states in which they occur.  In addition, the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service has listed this species as Threatened in Mississippi, Louisiana and in portions of Alabama.  It is under review to be listed as a Threatened species by the Federal government in Florida, Georgia and South Carolina.

Gopher tortoises are long-lived reptiles that occupy upland habitat throughout their range including forests, pastures, and yards.  They dig deep burrows for shelter and forage on low-growing plants.  Gopher tortoises share these burrows with more than 350 other species, and are; therefore, referred to as a keystone species.  

Because development preferably occurs in upland habitats this species is in danger mostly due to the reduction of available habitat.  And if this species is affected it will also affect the 350 or so other species that rely on tortoises’ burrows for their safety and residence.  Consequently, both the tortoises and their burrows are protected. 

Prior to any land clearing or development, gopher tortoise impacts must be addressed.  There are four available options to address the presence of gopher tortoises on lands slated for development:

  1. Avoid development;
  2. Avoid destruction of tortoise burrows;
  3. Relocate tortoises on-site, usually for single-family residential construction (permit required); or
  4. Relocate them off-site (permit required).

In my state of Florida, relocation is the mitigation method preferred by the state, which has a number of approved recipient site locations for relocated tortoises.  This can be an expensive undertaking so if you are thinking of buying or selling real estate containing a resident population of gopher tortoises these are costs that should be considered when assessing the value of the property and negotiating price.  Just to give you an idea, in Florida, there are fees per tortoise that are paid to the owner of the recipient site (estimated at $800 to $1000 per tortoise).  There are also fees that are paid to the state to be used for land management and the purchase of land for conservation (minimum $200, which is applied to the first 10 burrows or 5 tortoises and $300 for each additional tortoise over the five moved to a long-term protected area and $3000 for each tortoise moved to either a short-term protected area or to an unprotected area).  In addition, there is the cost of hiring a biologist to survey the property and document the locations of gopher tortoise burrows, the cost of the biologist to apply for a permit, the fee for the permit application, and the expenses of a backhoe, operator, and biologist to carry out the relocation. 

The moral of this blog is to do your due diligence before purchasing real estate and be familiar with environmental issues that may exist on your property if you want to develop or sell it!  As with all of my blog “lessons” remember that KNOWLEDGE IS POWER!



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