Eckerd College Designates 9 New Wildlife Habitats

Eckerd College Designates 9 New Wildlife Habitats

Photo: Gabber

“Soon, signs like these — provided by the National Wildlife Federation to gardens that provide food, water, shelter, and breeding grounds to local wildlife — will be installed at nine new wildlife habitats on the campus of Eckerd College. The certification process is open to grounds of any size, from college campuses to backyard gardens.

When an Eckerd College student approached Grounds Manager Darla Ostenson about collaborating on a project to improve wildlife habitats for snakes on campus, she had a strong reaction.

She recalls: ‘I thought, snake habitat?! And then I thought: Yes! Somebody pinch me!’

For Ostenson, a landscape manager with a degree in conservation biology, this was a indeed a dream project. And further evidence that she’d landed in a place where animals, plants, and people could come together in ways that were not only sustainable, but educational.

New Wildlife Habitats

This spring, another eco-friendly landscaping project came to fruition: Eckerd designated nine areas across its campus as wildlife habitat, certified by the National Wildlife Federation.

Certification requires applicants to demonstrate that their habitat supplies food, water, cover, and breeding grounds for animals such as birds, butterflies, and other wildlife. It also calls for sustainable practices, such as using native plants or organic methods of pest management, for the habitat. The National Wildlife Federation states that 22,513 ‘wildlife gardens’ have been created through its certification process, which is open to all kinds of sites from Eckerd’s 188-acre campus to backyard gardens.

According to Ostenson, the process was simple. After surveying prospective habitats and gaining approval from Eckerd’s Environmental Affairs Committee, she was able to input the information directly to the National Wildlife Federation’s website. Eckerd’s student government and Office of Sustainability covered the certification fees, which defrays the cost of a stylish sign you can place in your habitat.

In spring 2023, a pair of Great Horned owls nested in a pine tree on Eckerd College’s campus, helping to inspire the idea of habitat certification for this and other areas of campus.

Eckerd’s newly certified habitats span a range of types, from meadow-like native flower gardens, to ponds fringed with aquatic plants, to pine groves. Some high-profile visitors have recently put one of the new habitats on the map: a pair of nesting great horned owls…”

— Amanda Hagood, The Gabber

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“Alternatives To Using Sod For Right-Of-Way Plantings Presentation to Sanibel City Council”

“Alternatives To Using Sod For Right-Of-Way Plantings Presentation to Sanibel City Council”

Photo: City Of Sanibel, Phillippi Creek project

“City initiates pilot program for right-of-way plantings”

“The city of Sanibel reported that at its recent meeting, the city council approved by consensus a pilot program that will study alternatives to using sod as a required planting in the city’s right-of-way.

Public Works and Natural Resources staff delivered a presentation that explained the history and purpose for using sod in the right-of-way and potential alternatives to sod. The city reported staff will identify locations in the right-of-way to plant native or Florida friendly plants for the pilot program.

Residents interested in participating in the pilot program, by planting approved plants in the right-of-way, can contact Natural Resources at 239-472-4135. Planting in the right-of-way requires a permit from the Public Works Department…”

— City Of Sanibel, in Captiva Sanibel Island Reporter

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Equitable Tree Program in Miami: “Caleb Center tree planting”

Equitable Tree Program in Miami: “Caleb Center tree planting”

Photo: Miami-Dade County

“Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava and District 3 Commissioner Keon Hardemon were joined by other county officials and a group of children from Easter Seals for a tree planting ceremony last week at the Joseph Caleb Center. The event kicked off the mayor’s initiative to increase the tree canopy in low-income neighborhoods, beginning with county buildings.”

— The Miami Times

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“Tampa man started as a tree planting vigilante. Now he’s planted 30,000.”

“Tampa man started as a tree planting vigilante. Now he’s planted 30,000.”

Photo: Jefferee Woo, Times – From left, Lauren Mones of St. Petersburg, Florida Urban Forestry Council executive director Deborah Hilbert and Tampa Bay Reforestation and Environmental Effort president Will Moriaty plant an Olympian fig tree at the 22nd Street South Community Garden in St. Petersburg on April 13, 2023.

“Tampa man started as a tree planting vigilante. Now he’s planted 30,000.

William Moriaty founded the Tampa Bay Reforestation and Environmental Effort 40 years ago.

A mysterious phenomenon occurred all around Tampa Bay in the late 1970s and early 1980s. When the sun went down and the streets were empty, someone clandestinely planted trees in parks, thoroughfare and empty lots.

‘People had no idea where they were coming from,’ William Moriaty laughed.

Photo: Will Moriaty, 1973

“Moriaty eventually admitted he was the culprit leading a group of volunteers in the rogue plantings. In 1983, he went legit by forming the Tampa Bay Reforestation and Environmental Effort.

In the 40 years since then, the organization has planted 30,742 trees, according to Moriaty, who still helms the nonprofit. He’s been nicknamed the Johnny Appleseed of Tampa Bay due to his efforts.

Moriaty considers it the highest compliment to be compared to the pioneer nurseryman who planted apple trees throughout Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois and West Virginia. But the nickname also does not give proper credit to the scope of the nonprofit’s work.

Yes, Moriaty’s group has planted apple trees — Anna and Dorsett Gold, which he said can be grown in Central Florida.

But the group’s 40 members don’t limit themselves to apple trees.

‘If it is native to this area, we have planted it,’ said the 68-year-old, who lives in (we can’t make this stuff up) Plant City.

In all, the Tampa Bay Reforestation and Environmental Effort, which Moriaty calls ‘T.R.E.E.’ because ‘Bay’ was only recently added to its name, has planted 266 different types of trees at 619 locations throughout the area…”

— Paul Guzzo, Tampa Bay Times

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Alternative Turf: “Longboat Island Chapel Using Clay Brick Pavers instead of Artificial Turf”

Alternative Turf: “Longboat Island Chapel Using Clay Brick Pavers instead of Artificial Turf”

Photo: Longboat Island Chapel

“In August 2022, the Longboat Island Chapel’s Board of Trustees approved the Grounds Committee’s request to replace dead turf around Friendship Garden’s gazebo with clay brick pavers in a decorative design installed by Seven Stars who maintains the Chapel’s brick pavers.

Turf around the gazebo in the Friendship Garden has not done well because of 1) lack of enough sunlight even though the tree canopy above it was opened, and 2) chairs and people atop the grass for weddings and events damage the turf.

The University of Florida IFAS Extension Service does not recommend synthetic turf, because it is not Florida-Friendly. They published the following:

Protecting and preserving Florida’s water resources through sustainable landscaping practices on living landscapes is the primary focus of the Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ Program.

 When considering the use of a synthetic turf system in the urban landscape, it is important to understand all the potential environmental impacts. Synthetic turf systems have not been shown to improve or create wildlife habitat, do not improve groundwater recharge, can heat excessively in the sun and, in more extensive installations, can cause a substantial heat island effect.

In addition, synthetic turf generates higher stormwater runoff than natural turf and has been shown to leach a variety of contaminants, including both organic compounds and heavy metals.

Finally, since synthetic turf is primarily plastic it has a finite lifespan and must eventually be disposed of in a landfill, a practice that is counter to the sustainability goals of the Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ Program.

So as to better accommodate weddings and events, the Grounds Committee recommended replacing the turf with the same style of clay brick pavers within the Friendship Garden but installed in a decorative design.

Benefits of the brick pavers are:

– They are Florida-Friendly.
– These areas will have the same height as existing pavers, reducing risks of tripping on raised turf.
– The areas will be level to place chairs.

The brick pavers were installed the next month in time for a wedding ceremony and reception at our Chapel in September on Labor Day weekend!”

Photo: Longboat Island Chapel

— Ingrid McClellan, Scenic Florida

Read about Longboat Island Chapel Weddings 

Alternative Turf: “Growing a Tapestry Lawn Will Transform Your Turf Into a Living Masterpiece—No Fertilizer, Aeration, or Water Needed”

Alternative Turf: “Growing a Tapestry Lawn Will Transform Your Turf Into a Living Masterpiece—No Fertilizer, Aeration, or Water Needed”

Photo: Johner Images, Getty Images on Martha Stewart

“Also called meadow lawns, this landscaping technique requires little to no maintenance or resources to thrive.

What Is a Tapestry Lawn? Best Plants How to Plant Mowing and Maintenance Zones and Regions Pros and Cons

A tapestry lawn is just one term for this natural landscape trend: Sometimes called a matrix garden, meadow lawn, prairie lawn, or patchwork lawn, this turf technique involves removing traditional grass and replacing it with a mix of native plants and flowers of varying heights, sizes, and textures for both aesthetic and ecological benefits.

As its name implies, a tapestry lawn consists of a mix of colorful plants that create a living piece of art in your yard. ‘They are alternatives to traditional grass lawns and are more colorful, visually intriguing, eco-friendly, and low-maintenance,’ says Jeremy Yamaguchi, the CEO of Lawn Love. ‘These lawns are essentially an interlaced spread of low-lying plants and flowers.’

While most homeowners opt for low landscapes, a tapestry lawn can vary in height; low-lying options clock in between 6 to 10 inches, but your site can be scaled to up to 48 inches depending on your turf and goals, says Benjamin Vogt, the owner of Monarch Gardens LLC. ‘In general, such a landscape will include plants that move about, fill gaps, and generally show a new arrangement season to season and year to year—just as they would in wilder nature,’ he says, adding that the main difference between your lawn and the wild is that the plants are purposefully selected to work on this site for aesthetic, practical, and environmental reasons.

The Best Plants for Tapestry Lawns

Tapestry lawns aren’t one size (or zone) fits all. Ultimately, the plants you choose when working within this landscape trend should be native to your area, non-invasive, and low-water. ‘You also want your selection of plants to all have similar water, light, [and] humidity requirements,’ Yamaguchi says…

Tapestry Lawn Regions and Zones

All the experts we spoke to agree that the secret to creating a successful tapestry lawn is to always choose plants native to your region. ‘The USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map has universal codes that will help you pick the right ground cover plants for your [region],’ Bucur says, noting that native plants are easier to care for and have a low likelihood of wilting or dying.

Pro: Environmental Impact

Tapestry lawns are far more eco-friendly than grass lawns, says Vogt. ‘Just the increase in flowers alone is a boon to adult pollinators, while the diversity of plant species provides more food for their young (think caterpillars that eat foliage and become butterflies and moths),’ he says. ‘The increased density and diversity also is much better for healing soils, capturing and storing carbon, cleaning and cooling the air, reducing stormwater runoff, and generally providing habitat (and an aesthetic show) all year round—yes, even in winter.’

Con: Foot Traffic

While there are certainly perks to this low-maintenance approach to lawn care, Yamaguchi notes that there’s a pretty obvious con to surrendering turf for tapestry: ‘The only major downside to this lawn type is that it is not well built for much foot traffic,’ he says.”

— Lauren Wellbank, Freelance Writer for Martha Stewart

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