Sunday, March 1, 2015

Floridians, It's OK to Clean and Weed Your Garden Now!

Before and after pics of my own yard. I have a 150 ft. long fenceline where most of my wildflowers are...

Before: the poinsettias and porterweed are spent. There are lots of seeds down in the leaf litter, so it will come back.
You probably can't see it, but there is a brand new baby blue porterweed to the left of the main plant in this bed, and lots of little plants getting ready to grow tall.


After. Still lots of plants but all ready for spring!

After. My blanket flowers are blooming like crazy!

Yes, It Really Is This Easy!

I took this picture just 2 days ago. A beautiful bee came to my NATIVE tropical sage, a Florida wildflower that does not require ANY special conditions or assistance. I never use fertilizer or pesticide in my yard, NEVER.  The wildflowers I have planted along the fence line readily reseed year after year, so all I need to do is clear it out of dead plants in the spring. I get at least 7 species of butterfly at any given time, lots of native insects (bugs are beautiful!) of all kinds, many of whom prey on other insects to keep everyone in check, and others who are also pollinators, and lizards and toads. Yes, some are exotic, unfortunately. But lots of natives too. And of course, all the insects and caterpillars are food for the birds.

Wherever you live, find a native nursery, add more natives to your yard, stop using chemicals, and you too will become a haven for wonderful wildlife.

It really is this easy.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Plant Real Florida is AWESOME!

I will never be able to say enough good things about the Florida Association of Native Nurseries.  Cammie Donaldson has put together a retail and wholesale group of native plant enthusiasts and professionals who really have made Florida a better place because of the work they all do.
The retail website is absolutely LOADED with good, inspirational information, videos, and the best part of all, just type in your zip code or look up your county and find the native plants that are historically native to your area.

And yes, they are on Facebook!

And, coming soon for landscape professionals, the Native Plant Show!

They also are responsible for the Guide for REAL Florida Gardeners! FREE at native nurseries and lots of other organizations who believe in native plants.  The Back Ten Feet was mentioned in the 2012 issue.

FANN also has designed this beautiful yard sign and we need to see more of these all over Florida. They are metal, and available at most retail native nurseries, or just order one online! By the way, when you go to their website, that pic you see of this sign in a yard with blue porterweed by a fence...that's MY sign!

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Now is NOT the Time to Prune!

I imagine everyone out there not covered in snow is getting anxious to "clean up" their gardens. My advice is...don't. Not yet. Even here in south Florida, more 48 degree nights are still to come, and fire season hasn't started. Right now, little animals are making use of my garden for safety and for warmth. If I prune now, and start removing dead plants, what will they have? 

The plants themselves still need those dead branches and leaves to help protect them from cold weather. Pruning would make the plants have to heal themselves, producing new tender growth. I can wait til March to redo some of it, to get ready for summer. I can wait. You can too!

This blue porterweed was absolutely gorgeous through the summer and fall. In spring I'll remove it and add a new one. They last about two years, pretty cool for a wildflower. A lot of our Florida native wildflowers will last more than one season.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Doug MacGregor Got it Right!

Lee County Commissioners Obviously in Pockets of Big Development at a Huge Cost to the Average Residents Who Voted For Them

It's Official: Our Lee County Commission is no better than the radical right now in power in congress. They give huge incentives and money back to the wealthy, and expect the average worker to pay for it and them. Please remember all this next election and make a REAL change: out with everybody!

These commissioners are absolutely shameless, shameful and despicable!

Thank you LPV Network for sharing this information, and shame on you News-Press for siding with ugly politicos instead of the people.

LPV Network:
Below are links to all the pieces in today's News-Press' opinion section on impact fees.  Each of the pieces is also included as an attachment.  

News-Press has reversed its previous editorial position on the need to return impact fees to 100% when the 2-years were over (see last attachment), and has now come out with a very lengthy editorial (full of factual errors) that basically says...keep the rates low for now, impact fees won't solve the problem, so take your time and look for other solutions.  It appears that the editor only talked to commissioners, Horizon Council and BIA types, although LPV reached out to them. 

Guess what you hear...the same lines you heard from Kiker...we have $600 M problem...impact fees are the wrong conversation, impact fees are only small part of how infrastructure funded, don't want to hurt affordable housing (even though the current Lee Plan includes a waiver provision for affordable housing organizations, such as Habitat), etc.  No mention of the revenues lost to taxpayers as a result of the 80% reduction policy or the cost to taxpayers of continuing the policy. No mention of the facts of Bonita Springs permitting up more than Estero's even though Bonita Springs was collecting 100% rate impact fees and Estero only 20%, i.e., that development will occur here whether or not impact fees are at 100% or's the market that drives where developments occur, not impact fee rates. No discussion of quality of life impacts. No mention of the fact that the Board had two years to explore alternative ideas and did nothing. No mention of the fact that the 80% reduction policy was a temporary measure that was to automatically end in two years. Lots of factual errors and incorrect analysis. (see a few examples at the end of this email)

And this is what Chairman Hamman has to say about us:  "There’s a small group of environmental special interests who want to put the brakes on affordable housing and new businesses in Lee County by making the fees as high as they can. They distort the facts and levy personal attacks on anyone who dares to side with the taxpayers and small business owners. Don’t be fooled – they’re looking for more money to spend."

We hope that you will make your voices heard--come on Feb. 3rd to BoCC and speak; write letters to BoCC members, to News-Press (responding to their biased reporting and editorial), and come back with all three of the above for the March 3rd final vote on whatever is proposed by BoCC at their 2/3 meeting.

Links below (and documents attached):
1.  Editorial
2.  Mann video
3.  Aubuchon video
4.  Daltry op ed
5.  Hamman op ed
6.  Letters to Editor
7.  News-Press 2/17/14 editorial

News-Press Editorial (10 pages long but here's the bottom line)"
"Our recommendations:
Slow down, take a breath and look at the bigger picture. Commissioners say they need about $600 million over the next 20 years to fund various critical road projects, including Homestead Boulevard, Alico Road and Estero Boulevard widening, important to the infrastructure and population demands of this county. This will not happen by just using any amount of impact fees; they simply don't bring in that kind of cash.
Go into policy discussions about the revenue sources available to help fund these projects. The other primary funding resources used for capital projects — gas tax and excess toll revenues — can be looked at, as can mobility fees and increased sales tax.
Keep the rates reduced for now — either at the current 20 percent, or 45 percent, which will be proposed by Kiker, while discussions continue among commissioners, county staff, education advocates, environmental groups, as well as other residents.
 Seek other solutions for school growth; the school district can't rely on impact fees. Even at 100 percent, the fee doesn't come close to covering a fourth of the cost of a new school.
The bottom line: Commissioners, you have time. Let's get this right, so that our infrastructure needs are adequately met as our population — now over 650,000 — continues to grow and new roads, schools and parks are needed."
Closing paragraph:
"We see no justification to return fees to 100 percent at this point. We should not be rushed into this decision. The smart move is to keep fees at a reduced rate to maintain the economic momentum, continue policy discussions on alternative revenue sources to fund future road and school projects, and come up with a plan that improves the quality of life for those in Lee County. Funding growth and meeting needs of a growing population demand such thoughtful attention."

"There’s a small group of environmental special interests who want to put the brakes on affordable housing and new businesses in Lee County by making the fees as high as they can. They distort the facts and levy personal attacks on anyone who dares to side with the taxpayers and small business owners. Don’t be fooled – they’re looking for more money to spend."

14 letters (including 1000 Friends of Florida commentary)--overwhelmingly support restoring impact fees, some focus on schools issue, a couple alternative ideas. 
plus they included 7 short comments pulled from their FB page.

Also Doug MacGregor cartoon focused on schools.

All documents are included as attachments (since they disappear from NP website in about 2 weeks).

Just a few of the factual errors in NP Editorial:
  • "only $5.37 M was collected in impact fees during last fiscal year..that compares with $9.37 M had fees remained the same."
  • WRONG--here are the FY 2014 numbers:  $4.2 M was collected (at 20% rate) ..that compares with $21.2 M had fees remained the same (100% rate).
  • Same with the impact of taking fees from 20 to 85% "would bring in an additional $4 M"....where did that figure come from??  If you used FY 2014 actual experience to estimate the annual revenues in the future, it would be $21.2 M/yr. at 100% and $18 M/yr at 85%...NOT $4 M.

  • "impact fees account for the smallest portion of money available to Lee County through major funding sources"--WRONG:  during 9 yr. period (2005-2013)--impact fees were the largest single share :
    • impact fees 36% 
    • gas taxes    32%
    • gen. reven.  15%
    • tolls              7.5%
    • other             2.5%

  • Then there's this nonsensical logic:  "the history of impact fee collection in Lee County shows that when fees were low, the county collected more revenues"...and then proceeds to show numbers of impact rates vs. impact fee revenues...when the reason for fluctuation was the economy, NOT the impact fee rate!, example, "In 2010, when the fee was $15,425, the county made only $5.1 M...In 2012, with a $12,612 price tag on a new home, only $5.7 M was made, compared with the current fee of $2,943 producing $5.37 M last year."