If you aren’t blessed with a green thumb but want a sustainable yard or garden, I suggest you contact Sally Scalera (sscalera@ifas.ufl.edu) at the Brevard County branch of University of Florida Extension Service in Cocoa.  In a short time, you will have all the information you need, from what and when to plant to where to purchase plants locally.

First and foremost, remember: It’s different here. All we have is sand, not soil.  If you plant natives they won’t need as much water, fertilizer or tending. The choices are beautiful, fragrant and plentiful: from the sleek, curvaceous gumbo limbo that grow along the river, to magnolias and passion flowers, especially “Susan Joy, a beautiful red. The vines that dramatically hang from palms make you want to commit to careful watching for that reward the night of their bloom.

Your choices are many for flowering trees, shrubs, plants and ground cover.  The lovely, tall purple flower of echinacea, giant sunflowers and sweet smelling coral honeysuckle grow beautifully here.

Along with their beauty, many Florida plants are edible and have health benefits.  Who would have thought that Passion Flower would relieve sleeplessness, stress, nervousness and headache? Grow your own fennel and enjoy the lacy top before you harvest.  Also consider planting herbs, fruit shrubs and trees, with their fragrant blossoms.

Right plant for the right spot:  Consider pH content, light conditions, soil moisture, and correct hardiness zones devised by the extension service: 9B for the mainland and 10A for Merritt Island and the beaches. Also, keep in mind the mature height and spread of the plant or tree-will it interfere with power lines?

What you need to know about native plants and trees and how to attract wildlife like bees, birds, hummingbirds and butterflies, as well as recipes for non-toxic weed control, disease control, pest control and fertilizers are available at http://solutionsforyourlife.ufl.edu/lawn_and_garden.

There’s also a chart of all Florida produce and what months each grows., and master gardener clinics are available throughout the county during most of the year.

So, let nature be your guide and have fun with your sustainable yard.

Lists of all native plants, ground cover and trees and where to purchase them locally are available at Naturewise in Cocoa, www.naturewiseplants.com and Maple Street Natives www.maplestreenatives.com in Melbourne.

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