Water-Related News

Landscaping at SW Florida Regional Planning Council featured in "Back Ten Feet"

News Image

The offices of the Charlotte Harbor National Estuary Program (CHNEP) are within the same building as the Southwest Florida Regional Planning Council, on Victoria Street in Fort Myers, Florida. Not long ago, the CHNEP had "The Back Ten Feet", a multimedia information resource that shows people how to think creatively and sustainability about backyard landscaping, install a demonstration native garden alongside one long side of the building. The landscape includes a special coral bean outside CHNEP Director Lisa Beever's office window.

Thanks to additional support from the SWFRPC and the Florida Native Plant Society's Coccoloba Chapter, much more of the property has been converted into a demonstration site.

Here's more about the Back Ten Feet from the Harbor Happenings Winter 2011 edition (CHNEP's newsletter):

The “Back Ten Feet” is a starting point for the new native plant enthusiast, a plan of action, a way to turn 800 square feet of turfgrass into the beginning of a neighborhood greenway.

After teaching conservation landscaping classes for the last 10 years, I discovered that residents are more than willing to change their boring, lifeless sodded yards into havens for birds and butterflies once they receive the right information. They really don’t want to use pesticides and fertilizers. When shown that the right drought-tolerant, bulletproof, power line-friendly native plants only require organic mulch to get by, people getting started since they are unfamiliar with what plants to use. By offering a starter plan that takes a portion of their yard out of the mowing equation, while providing privacy and wind protection in just a few years, they are ready to go.

I have also seen people light up with excitement when I mention what a great way this is to start a greenway in their own neighborhoods. Imagine if the neighbor behind you also decides to implement the Back Ten Feet plan. Now, instead of a 10’ x 80’ strip, it’s a 20’ x 80’ strip. Think about the whole street getting on board. You’ve just created a greenway for about $150 per yard, plus mulch.

Using the Back Ten Feet template, native plant nurseries can help local residents pick their own starter plan. Just choose the natives in your area that are drought-tolerant with a mature height of no more than 15–20 feet and that tolerate typically alkaline or trucked-in soils. All native plants provide food and shelter for native and migratory birds and butterflies and are often larval host plants for butterflies as well.

Now, let’s get going and create thousands of miles of greenways in Florida this year, one yard at a time, starting with the Back Ten Feet!