Basics of Landscaping in Florida cover. PHOTO COURTESY UF/IFAS

Andra Johnson: New UF/IFAS Guide Offers Landscaping Need-to-Know | Guest Column

July 3, 2024

Florida’s green industry faces a number of challenges, including a high employee turnover rate and a multi-lingual workforce. Landscape companies are also squeezed between local ordinances, HOAs and clients who may have misconceptions about landscaping. To help level the playing field, a handy new reference guide from UF/IFAS Extension offers the basic rules of thumb for sustainable landscaping.

Basics of Landscaping in Florida doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but it packs need-to-know information in a tidy package.  The guide, pocket-sized and printed on indestructible card stock, contains basic information on landscape plant selection, establishment and maintenance--everything from the ideal mow height for St. Augustinegrass and where to aim the leaf blower, to how to prune palms and avoid committing “crape murder.”

Best of all, the guide is 100 percent bilingual, with Spanish translations on facing pages.  

Basics of Landscaping is the product of four UF/IFAS Extension County agents who saw the need for a training tool that could readily be passed from hand-to-hand in the field.

“As Florida-Friendly Landscaping agents and commercial horticulture agents, we all started to notice that many of the problems that result from more fertilizer and more pesticides came from improper basics of landscape maintenance” said Hannah Wooten, the Orange County Extension agent who led the project. “That prompted us to come together to simplify some phenomenal resources that we already had.” Educational materials from the GI-BMP certification program and other resources could be adapted to target unlicensed workers and new employees, she explained.

After securing a USDA-NIFA grant, Wooten recruited an experienced team of Extension horticulture experts. Morgan Pinkerton is a Doctor of Plant Medicine and sustainable agriculture and food systems agent; Tina McIntyre is a Florida-Friendly LandscapingTM agent with 16 years of field experience; both work in Seminole County. Tatiana Sanchez-Jones is a Doctor of Plant Medicine and commercial horticulture agent in Alachua County; as a native Spanish-speaker originally from Colombia, she served as the translation editor.

Hannah Wooten displays the Basics of Landscaping in Florida Guide.

The authors combined their expertise and came up with a list of their greatest hits, the most frequently taught lessons about sustainable landscaping.

The guide is highly visual and easy to read. It’s a lean 50 pages—25 if you don’t count the translations. The nearest thing available for landscapers is Florida Friendly Landscaping’s BMPs for Protection of Water Resources by the Green Industries, which weighs in at 90 pages.

Narrowing the guide down to the bare necessities was easier than they thought, Pinkerton said. “When we’re teaching for certification, these basic skills are the things we don’t get a chance to talk about much, but we get hundreds of questions about them.”

Translating the guide into Spanish was a more pain-staking process, said Sanchez-Jones.
“There are many Spanish speakers in Florida who use different dialects,” she said. “It can be tricky to arrive at a translation that would be understandable by all.”

The book came out in April and has seen steady sales at the IFAS Extension Bookstore. One surprise the authors received was the heavy demand for the guide from homeowners, who weren’t the intended audience at first. However, there’s a high level of interest from homeowners who want to learn the basics of landscaping.

“Landscapers tell us that they often get requests from clients who don’t understand the impacts landscaping can have on the environment”, said McIntyre.  “They can pull out the guide and tell them a certain practice isn’t recommend, and here’s why.”

The authors are promoting the guide at conferences, trade shows and workshops. Ultimately, they plan to package it with CEUs to become an industry standard.

For any landscape company, Basics of Landscaping in Florida is a good tool to keep in your pocket to train employees and a handy reference guide to settle arguments.

To order copies, visit the UF/IFAS Bookstore at   

Andra Johnson, Ph.D., is the Dean for UF/IFAS Extension and the Director of the Florida Cooperative Extension Service.

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