When I moved to Florida, our new home had a number of problems including the use of wood chips as landscape mulch, surface water, and sand that spread into the house. Worse, I felt depressed by the dark paint and monoculture green hedge landscape. I had no flowers and very few birds and other animals visited the yard.
Thus began a year-long project to relandscape our yard with native and drought-resistant plants that fruit and flower with four new gardens (one in progress) and three resurfaced — it will take two or three more years for the entire installation plan.
Step 1: Prepare a design and budget. For two months, I developed landscaping plans that showed the gardens around the house and selected plants for the soil, water, and light. Total budget was estimated at $5,000.
Step 2: Get approval for the native plant landscaping plan. We filled out and submitted an Architectural Review Board form to the homeowner association (HOA). Our paint colors and garden design were approved after three months.
Step 3: Remove existing monoculture hedge and paint the house. While we waited for HOA approval, we hired a man to dig out the existing hedge. It took about three weeks to complete. Our cost ran $10-$15 an hour. Paint cost was about $1,500 including equipment.
Step 4: Remove wood chip mulch and dig out lawn and weeds. It took about one day to pull out the wood chips from each of the small garden areas and recycle it. Behind the pool took about a month.
Step 5: Locate native plants that fruit and flower. Since I selected plants that would give me year-round flowers and fruits, it has taken most of a year to find them in stock. We hired the planting of our two sable palms and two pygmy date palms at a cost of $1,500. Other plants ranged from $3 to $100.
Step 6: Plant native drought-resistant flowering and fruiting shrubs and trees. When you plant new trees, shrubs, perennials, and vines, you need to dig a hole twice as big as the root ball, add mushroom compost, and mix it into the dirt, then place the plant in the hole and backfill. It took about an hour to plant one or two shrubs — call it about 60 hours of planting time.
Step 7: Dig drainage and fill with gravel as needed around pool and near drains. We had decorative stone around the pool that I wanted to keep, so it took several days to move it into a manageable pile. Then it took several more days to dig a 1-foot-by-1-foot deep trench along the edge of the pool and fill it with gravel. Afterward, I replaced the decorative stone and planted small herbs and bulbs.
Step 8: Locate and obtain gravel, flagstone, and shell mulch and ground cloth. We laid down ground cloth on all of the gardens, cutting holes for plants and attaching with pegs, afterward dumping and raking the gravel. We ordered delivery of gravel and shell in 1-ton bags. It takes two people about three or four hours to move a ton. It cost $150 per delivery. For the path, we dug about 1.5 inches below grade, laid the flagstone then leveled by backfilled with shell.
Step 9: Contractor planting of sable palms and pygmy date palms. Our planned installation took place in April instead of February. It took them a half day to dig, plant, and support the palms. They also provided directions for watering and fertilizing the palms.
Step 10: Recovery. It will take two to three years before most of the shrubs will be carefree. We need to provide water until their roots establish, not much. Our added water bill has been about $14.
Was it worth it? Me, the birds, frogs, snakes, butterflies, rabbits, cat, etc. all think so. The neighbors agree.