Dear St. Augustine Grass,



I know weíve been together for a long time. When I first let you into my life, it seemed like a good idea - you looked great and I was getting a lot of pressure to start a relationship with you. But now, I look out my window and see you sprawled out across my yard and I realize that youíre high maintenance, you drink too much, and you have an unhealthy relationship with the landscapers - I see them give you those chemicals. What Iím saying is that itís not me, itís you, andÖ. Iím going native. Yes, this is the right decision. Iíve been talking to my friends the manatees, dolphins, fish, and birds and they agree with me - weíre all sooo over you.Ē



Itís that time of year to start pondering New Yearís resolutions. One fantastic thing you can do for Floridaís environment is to convert your yard to Florida-Friendly Landscaping. This cuts down on water use, which protects Floridaís rivers and aquifer; reduces fertilizer use, which protects our coastal waters; and provides habitat for wildlife. If you live in an apartment complex or an HOA that just wonít budge, install a rain barrel, a compost bin, and plant native species of flowers, trees, and shrubs in those areas over which you do have control, and talk to your neighbors and the management about making changes to the property that could result in less grass, mowing, fertilizer, and water use, and ultimately, lower maintenance fees.



The University of Florida IFAS Extension offices can help provide tips and resources. Find your local office at http://solutionsforyourlife.ufl.edu/map/. The website http://www.floridayards.org/ also contains great information. Our individual choices DO make a difference. If we all resolve to do a little more, weíll make a big difference for this beautiful state we call home.



Dr. Katie Tripp is director of science and conservation for the Save the Manatee Club headquartered in Maitland. www.savethemanatee.org