Miami Green Homes

South Miami (SoMi) Mag going green article
October 19, 2009, 7:47 pm
Filed under: Building knowledge, Landscaping, Resources, Sustainable Living

A great article by Donna Shelly for the South Miami Town Center magazine, now called SOMi…. Look for a copy around town.

Contact Donna for freelance writing @


Going “green” to reduce greenhouse gasses, shrink the size of our carbon footprint and wean ourselves off an insatiable thirst for petroleum involves a wide variety of potential solutions. In some cases, the remedies are complicated and costly; in others, they are straight-forward and downright economical.     

We would like to share some of those environmentally-responsible practices with you through a series of columns over the next year. We hope to inspire you to adopt new habits and make informed choices for a healthier planet. And we want to hear from you. Tell us your success stories and share your greening tips with us and the readers of SoMi Mag.

The choices you make regarding what you plant in your backyard or on your balcony can have a profound impact on the environment. That is especially true in our neck of the woods where certain exotic plants, freed from the ravages of frost, went from being pretty to being a pest. In some cases these species were brought here decades ago to dress-up the native scrub, sand and palmetto landscape. The list of invasive-exotic flora is quite extensive in Florida. In SoMi, we fight two of the State’s most noxious plants:  rosary pea vine (Abrus precatorius), with enough poison in one pea to kill a human and Brazilian pepper (Schinus terebinthifolius), a particularly adaptive member of the sumac family that thrives in all eco-systems from hammock to mangrove swamp.

Selecting appropriate landscape materials can save water, reduce the need for pesticide and fertilizers, and make gardening a whole lot easier for you. Not bad when you think of it—cheaper, less work, and good for the environment.

To start “Going Native,” we recommend some websites that are packed with great information about native, non-native and invasive plant life, xeriscaping, integrated pest management, composting, capturing rain water for irrigation, and more.  (Narrative wc = 309)  Is chock full of information.  Warning! You could spend hours here. This is the University of Florida’s site with particulars about plants that help you make an informed decision before venturing out to your local plant nursery.  Florida Native Plants descriptions and prices Listing and links for many Florida Native Plant providers  Association of Florida Native Nurseries  The Florida Native Plant Society  Your Florida Backyard with a lot of information about all aspects of gardening in Florida, including how to attract butterflies.  Florida’s Online Composting Center  Rain barrel workshop information Make your own rain barrel, with pictures to help you along.




Landscaping 102. Irrigation
September 17, 2009, 1:21 am
Filed under: Landscaping, Water Efficiency | Tags:

Irrigation must be the next important issue to talk about in regard to landscaping, and this goes beyond just proper landscape selection and planting techniques but also crosses into water savings. In South Florida irrigation accounts for almost 70% of residential water use. This is a very high number and is not necessary to be that high. Look at Landscaping 101 for proper plant selection and watch out for upcoming plant tips.

Install gutters to start. This should be a basic feature of each house, but the building code does not require them….so request them from your design professional and builder or retrofit them if applicable.

Once installed, channel the water and make it work for you. Rain gardens are a great way to have some more intense landscaping. You can create a natural pond and have it overflow into a gravel bed or other water managing feature.

If possible, collect the water. Rain barrels are cheap and there are many affordable options ( You can of course also create your own with any size barrel, a hose bib and some wire mesh as a filer. Here is a good YouTube clip for a how to build your own (the 40% do apply to the rest of the nation, we are closer to the noted 70%): .


South Florida Landscape 101.
September 15, 2009, 4:57 am
Filed under: Landscaping

To start of, landscaping is different in South Florida than the rest of the country. As the only continental sub tropical area in the US, we have the benefit of year round growth. So this end of summer, beginning of fall rainy season is actually the best time to plant something here. Anything you put in the ground will hardly need any manual watering and is likely to take roots before the season is over.

So what to plant? There are a few things that do not benefit from the above rain, such as vegetables, herbs and other flowering plants, as the excess rain will likely harm their growth. You can plant these types in pots and move them to the inside or covered patio.

Natives and plants that are adapt to this climate are the way to go. I personally like plants that have a benefit beyond aesthetics and some of best ones are Mango and Avocado trees. Another great growing mid size tree is star fruit, or Carambola as it is called here. You can also plant something smaller and go for limes or key limes. A great resource for Florida natives can be found here at the Florida Native Plant Society ( In Miami-Dade, DERM also has good resources ( and they also feature the Adopt-a-Tree program to get some great native trees for free. The prohibited plant list can be found here:

In the even smaller scale we have a huge variety of grasses and shrubs appropriate for this climate. I would recommend to install some citronella plants as they provide natural mosquito control. If you have the time and space plant a neem tree…( It has so many positive uses, it really is the “Tree of Life”. I got mine at the Neem Tree Farm ( This will grows into a large tree, so plan for it and beware of any setback encroachments or future neighbor disputes.

Plan for mature sizes when locating your plants. Figure 2-3 years for small plants and 5-6 years for trees and large bushes. If you need, help get professional advice. There are number of good licensed Landscape architects in town and most architects are hobby landscapers, like myself.

Learn more at or the “Greenign of Chamber South” ( partner Geomantic Designs (