Green Tip #14 - Weathering Florida's Heat
While this particular tip may not pertain to all reading it, perhaps I can give you some insight into gardening in a land with soil not as fertile as is found in other regions. I hope you find it informative and insightful, nonetheless.
Last week I promised a new series bearing recipes and remedies for everyday green living. While that is certainly forthcoming, this week I’d like to further my discourse concerning the impact of Florida weather conditions on ourselves and the environment; specifically concerning our turf and eyes.
When I purchased my home in 1995, I was told by the realtor it was built in 1980. Once moved in and settled, my neighbors informed me, while this was certainly true of the structure in which I am now writing this, the real truth is the house was re-built in 1980 after burning to the ground months prior! Why am I telling you this? Because it explains why I can’t grow grass on the eastern or western plots of land adjacent to the house! On the eastern side, to this day, 17 years later, I’m still finding broken glass buried beneath the surface of the sandy soil. I’ve given up on trying to grow anything on this side of the house, although my pineapple plants and bamboo love it!
The western side of my property has a narrow plot of land shared by my neighbors to the left. Last spring, I spent hundreds of dollars having sod laid in that area after the previous freeze rendered the area barren. My neighbor’s side is fine. It has flourished. My side, however, has more barren spots than grass. Fed up with throwing my hard earned money away, I was determined to find a lush alternative to sod.
Over the past several months, during my back roads trek to and from work, I’ve noticed many of the medians are covered in a beautiful ground cover baring small yellow to orange-yellow flowers. As Murphy would have it, I could never hit a red light long enough to get more than a fleeting glimpse of this beautiful foliage. Then, lo and behold, Tom MacCubbin (horticulturalist and writer for the Orlando Sentinel) featured the mysterious beauty in one of his Sunday posts! I was ecstatic! Could this be the answer to my lawn dilemma? The answer is a resounding yes!, which brings me to
Green Tip #14- Weathering Florida’s Heat
The little beauty I’ve been admiring from the whiz zone is called Ornamental Perennial Peanut. It doesn’t actually produce peanuts, but is a rhizome perennial. The communal root system, called rhizomes, allow the plant to withstand heavy foot traffic and bounce back from winter frosts. Because rhizome perennial peanuts are actually legumes, they produce their own nitrogen, requiring little to no fertilizer, about half the water of turf grass and can actually be mowed! Replacing your lawn, or hard to grow areas with this plant, reduces your water expenditure; once established, the perennial peanut requires only what Mother Nature expends. The perennial peanut has actually been distributed and studied by the University of Florida in an effort to provide forage material for livestock. UF released it to the public for use as lawn replacement and ground cover in June 2010.
Before spending even more money I don’t have, I decided to purchase just a few to see if they take. This was 2 weeks ago. As you can see by the attached photos, they have taken beautifully and are beginning to spread, so I will purchase a few more and allow them to spread into each other, thus solving my problem!
Now, back to why grass won’t grow on the western side of my house. As I was digging each hole for my little beauties, I also dug up broken cinder block! In every hole! The pieces ranged in size from river rock to mini boulders! No wonder grass won’t grow in this spot! But the peanuts are touted to be tough, so to ensure success, I added a bit of composted cow manure (unfortunately, my compost wasn't ready for use at the time, so I had to buy some!- Drat!!) and mixed it in with the existing soil. I watered the plants once daily for 5 days, then let Mother Nature do the rest. I’m so tickled! Within 2 growing seasons, I should have a beautiful green lawn, speckled with bright, tiny yellow flowers! Awesome!
Another ground cover/turf replacement is called Sunshine Mimosa. It has the same features as the perennial peanut, however, since it is not a legume, it does require periodic feeding. The Sunshine Mimosa is a Florida native bearing pink to purple flowers, whereas the perennial peanut originates from South America.
Ok, so now our barren lawns have been addressed. It’s time to bring attention to one of our most delicate personal areas, our eyes.
Imagine a ball of cookie dough sitting on a hot cookie sheet. Or a ball of playdough sitting on the sidewalk in the hot sun. After a while, the ball begins to flatten out and lose it’s shape. The same happens with our eyeballs. Prolonged, unprotected exposure to the sun causes the orb to flatten some and acquire a football shape. This is know as astigmatism. My eye doctor told me the main cause of astigmatism is not wearing sunglasses! It’s especially important to wear them when driving, as the sun’s glare on the windshield throws a double whammy into the mix! Wearing sunglasses while driving or on a motorcycle will also help keep the wind and canned air from drying and irritating your eyes. If you suffer from dry eye, as do I, wearing them will help when running the air or driving with the windows open.
Another trick is to wear your sunglasses while driving in the rain – even at night. The lenses will help reduce the glare of oncoming headlights, thus increasing visibility. They also provide a “screen” allowing you to see more clearly through the downpour. I don’t know how or why this works (although, if challenged, I’m sure I’ll find out!), I just know it to be true.
That’s about it for this week, folks. As a famous Austrian once said, “I’ll be bach”!
Shauna L Bowling
Refining, Defining, or Rhyming
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© 2012 Shauna L Bowling
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