CAPE CORAL, Fla. — Marie Hauser's Cape Coral garden feels more like a paradise. It's certified through a program the University of Florida defines as Florida Friendly Landscaping Program.
“We don’t have to water, we don’t have a sprinkler system. We don’t get the hose out. They think this is soil.”
Marie's garden is full of plants that are native to the state. They can survive Florida weather, and they don't require harmful chemicals to stay alive.
“We know what’s being sprayed here. Nothing.”
The program provides "Volunteer Master Gardeners" like Mary Ann Parsons.
Their job is to get you thinking.
“How much do you fertilize? What kind of fertilizer do you use? How much water do you use?”, Parsons says those are questions the program challenges participants to consider.
She says environmental change requires everyone’s help.
“We always tend to blame. It’s Lake Okeechobee. It’s this. It’s that. No. It’s all of us,” Parsons said.
The program is free. Those interested attend a two-hour introductory class.
Master gardeners use a point system during home visits to figure out the “Florida Friendliness" of a garden.
According to the program, a landscape gains recognition if it contains qualifying (native) plants.
But, Marie says it’s not about the recognition.
It’s about water quality.
“The water tends to stay on the landscape longer so by the time it runs off …it’s cleaner.”
Hauser also says it’s about nature.
“(We are) inviting the birds and butterflies to our backyard by providing the trees that they need to live.”
Program organizers say the Florida Friendly Landscape Program shows an overall reduction in fertilier and irrigation usage.
The next Florida Friendly Landscaping Class is this Saturday, April 27th. It will be held at Rotary Park, 5600 Rose Garden Road in Cape Coral. It will be held from 9 - 11 a.m.