How to Maintain a Florida-Friendly Landscape with a Landscape Maintenance Company
Many home and business owners have a yard service or landscape contractor maintain their lawn and landscape. These companies make those who lack the time, ability or desire to do yard work much easier. When you choose a landscape company make sure they are working to promote Florida-Friendly Landscaping™. Follow the checklist below to make sure that your contractor is using environmentally sound practices in your yard.
1. Ask your maintenance company if they have been trained in the Florida Green Industries: Best Management Practices (BMP) for Protection of Water Resources in Florida. If they have, they should be able to show you a certificate for each employee that completed the training. If they have not, refer them to the county extension service, where they can get an upcoming schedule of training. By the year 2014, it will be mandatory for anyone applying fertilizer to have received certification through the BMP program.
2. Make sure they practice IPM (Integrated Pest Management). This means they monitor your lawn and landscape for pests rather than routinely spraying. They will provide you with evidence of a problem before you allow and pay for the treatment.
3. Ask the company to use environmentally friendly insecticides such as horticultural oil, insecticidal soap or products containing Bacillus thuringiensis.
4. Proper fertilization is key in maintaining a Florida-friendly yard so make sure that the company follows the guidelines recommended by the Florida Green Industries: Best Management Practices for Protection of Water Resources in Florida as well as the Florida Yards and Neighborhoods Handbook.
5. Avoid using weed-and-feed fertilizers or fertilizers containing insecticides.
6. Ask the company to use a mulching lawnmower or collect your grass clippings for use as mulch or compost.
7. Check for licenses: If they spray insecticides or herbicides in your plant beds, they should have a Limited Commercial Landscape Maintenance License. With this license they are not authorized to spray anything on the turf. A Pest Control Operator-Lawn and Ornamental License holder can spray anything authorized for use in a residential landscape (both herbicide and insecticide) on lawn and in landscape beds.
If you have any questions, or would like to obtain a copy of the Florida Green Industries: Best Management Practices for Protection of Water Resources in Florida handbook or the Florida Yards and Neighborhoods Handbook please contact the UF/IFAS Polk County Extension Service at (863) 519-8677 or visit us at 1702 Highway 17 South in Bartow.