Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Flip My Florida Yard: Florida-Friendly Landscaping Gets the Star Treatment

Thanks to alert undergraduate Sienna Turner, late last year I had the opportunity to participate in a shoot for the new reality series Flip My Florida Yard here in Alachua County. The concept: a family dissatisfied with their drab or derelict landscape has an army of landscaping professionals redesign their yard in the course of a work day to reflect the 9 Florida-Friendly principles. Ms. Turner saw a call for volunteers that Sustainable UF published online and off we went to pitch in and see the action.
Start at the Beginning
How exactly does one flip an entire yard in just one day? For starters, you have to rise and shine at the crack of dawn in 40 degree December weather! The Alachua-based Frontrunner’s Chapter of FNGLA was instrumental in gathering contractors, equipment and supplies for the day’s work. What I was told would normally take a crew of 4 workers two days to accomplish, would be tackled by a crew of 20 in 8 hours. 
The yard flipping crew gathers at sunrise in Newberry
Chapter president Stefan Liopiros (of Lawn Enforcement Agency, Inc.) described the day’s mission: “One of the reasons their yard doesn’t look so great is because they don’t like taking care of it so we want to go in and do something and make a change to it so it’s going to look great without a lot of maintenance. One of the objectives with our design today is a very low-maintenance, highly attractive water-saving landscape.”

Look familiar? This landscape is ready to flip 
The Look
Upon initial inspection the existing yard looked simple enough – minimalist, turf-centric, weedy, and with little shade and few ornamentals. You might call this a traditional Florida landscape design. I’ve certainly seen it countless times during irrigation system assessment work around the state. 

A look at the Florida-Friendly design plans 
Stacie Greco, Water Conservation Coordinator with Alachua County Environmental Protection, noted that one of the benefits of the Flip My Florida Yard program is showcasing different aesthetics. “We’re trying to switch, to shift that landscaping paradigm where people start to include more landscapes in what they think is beautiful and acceptable,” Ms. Greco said. “Not just a bright green, plush carpet-like lawn, but something that might have some more diversity and use a little bit less water and chemicals.”

Water on the Brain
Resource efficiency is the bread and butter of an FFL design. And I’ll be honest what I was interested in most was the site’s irrigation - what was already there pre-flip and what would it look like in the end. According to Mr. Lioprios this was one of the challenges of reworking the yard. “The question is: do you rip out the whole existing system and start over, or do you take the existing system and try to hybridize it and turn it into something that’s a low-volume system?”
FMFY host Chad Crawford (right) talks soil health with Stefan Lioprios
Mr. Lioprios continued, “based on the time frame we chose to use as much of the original pipe work as possible and convert it over into a low-volume drip system.” From what I saw the new ornamental–laden front yard was converted to drip and the remaining turf areas on the side of the house and in the backyard stayed the same.

8 Hours Later
As promised, the Frontrunners FNGLA Chapter flipped the yard in one work day. New features included boulders, palm trees, generous use of mulch, a sprouting container-vegetable garden, and an assortment of native and low-maintenance plants. 

Standing ovation for an 8-hour Florida-Friendly yard flip! (image via Frontrunners)
The takeaways for me: professional reality show productions might be fun to watch but are tedious to witness, and a well-designed landscape definitely makes for a more inviting living area. Title sponsor FNGLA funded 4 productions of Flip My Florida Yard in homes across the state. Preview a yard flip in Bradenton here and check your local listings for information on when Flip My Florida Yard broadcasts in your area.

Not bad for a day's work. Find out when Flip My Florida Yard airs in your area!

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