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Everyone Can Make A Difference

More Certified Florida Yards are in the making.

The 4th graders in Dolores Rebar's class at Providence Christian School in Brandon have been learning what everyone can do to make this world a better place to live.

From now on they are going to be recycling everything they can, especially newspapers, grass clipping, leaves, pine needles, kitchen and garden waste as compost and mulch around their yards. Beneath shrubs and flowers, such mulch keeps the moisture in the soil longer, keep weeds down and helps the earthworms underground that are such a help to plant roots.

A mulch around trees can also prevent damage by lawn mowers and weed eaters that all too often cause nicks or wounds in the bark where insects and diseases can enter and kill young trees. These youngsters already knew an impressive amount about gardens and mulch.

They were extremely polite and enthused. Their parents and teacher can be very proud of them. They are going to be saving water for their own old age and for future generations. No more long showers or deep water baths. They are going to turn off the water while they brush their teeth or scrub their hands and turn it back on to rinse.

They like the idea of rainbarrels. These are proper ones, closed on top with faucets near the bottom. Open ones benefit from goldfish to eat the mosquitoes. [Rainbareels 3 Fl botanic/April 05]

They will politely suggest their parents turn off the automatic sprinklers once the summer rains start and make sure the sprinkler heads are working right the rest of the time.

The students are very excited about rainbarrels and catching and saving rainwater. And just so this collected rainwater will not be a breeding place for mosquitoes, they may well do what I do and put feeder goldfish (about 15 cents each) in the barrels. It is great fun to have fish without having to clean a bowl or even feed them. Small goldfish can live on the mosquito larvae and other insects for months and months. They go to the bottom of the barrel when someone dips water out of the top to water plants, and so far I've never had any wash over the top in a storm. Such fish are definitely easy care and useful pets.

Since many of these students do the lawn mowing at home, they were glad to hear that the less lawn one has, the more water one can save. A little lawn is great for a ball diamond or a volley ball court, but putting much of a yard into trees, shrubs, flowers, ground covers, or just mulch is a wise idea and saves work, water, and worry.

They also liked the idea that every yard should produce some food. They tasted and liked mulberries and loquats or Japanese plums. It may not seem like a big deal for one family to grow two fruit trees, a few tomatoes, and a patch of strawberries or a hedge of blueberries, but if you multiply the land that would occupy by 20 million households, the results would be a half a million acres of producing land and a tremendous amount of food.

Sampling mulberries is more fun standing under the tree, but they were tasty in the classroom, too. A taste of the garden that day included mulberries and loquats or Japanese plums.

Homegrown food needs no poisons, no packaging, and no polluting transportation, and it tastes much better, freshly picked, than anything one can buy. In fact, there are many fruits like mulberries that can only be tasted if homegrown because they do not travel well and are not sold commercially. In Florida it is not difficult to have some fruits and some vegetables to pick even from a small yard almost every day of the year.

The children learned about a great program called Florida Yards and Neighborhoods. All took home a copy of The Florida Yardstick Workbook to learn more about making their own yards measure up. Anyone can have a beautiful and productive yard with any kind of plants without wasting water. And anyone can get a copy of the Handbook, a Guide to Environmentally Friendly Landscaping, a checklist, and much other helpful information from the County Extension Service (call 744-5519x146 or stop in and ask.)

If you fill out the checklist and have 36 points (I had 59 first try), you can send it in. Then a few Master Gardeners (very nice people) will come and check you yard, and if it qualifies, and it should, you will get a Certified Florida Yard sign.

It was a pleasure to meet these young people and it is reassuring to know that they are no longer part of the problems greediness and waste create. Now they are part of the solution to those problems.