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Heavy Rain Brings Water Quality Concerns; Part 2 of 5: Florida-Friendly Landscaping

Rain barrel in a Florida-friendly landscape. Photo Credit: Carrie Stevenson

Rain barrel in a Florida-friendly landscape. Photo Credit: Carrie Stevenson

Last week, Rick discussed how a wide range of pollutants contained in stormwater can cause increases in bacteria, algae, and turbidity in local water bodies. Part 2 of our Water Quality series relates to the Florida Friendly Landscaping (FFL) program.  Begun in Escambia County in 2003, the aim of FFL is to reduce the contributions that most Florida residents unwittingly make to stormwater runoff. FFL is based on nine principles: Right Plant, Right Place; Water Efficiently; Fertilize Appropriately; Mulch; Attract Wildlife; Control Yard Pests Responsibly; Recycle Yard Waste; Reduce Stormwater Runoff; and Protect the Waterfront. The principles of the program are taught in both Horticultural and Coastal Sustainability Extension workshops, including community expos, demonstrations, student field trips, and Continuing Education programs for landscape and building professionals.

Low-maintenance groundcover and native trees line the landscape of a county building with Florida-friendly landscaping.  Photo credit: Carrie Stevenson

Low-maintenance groundcover and native trees line the landscape of a county building with Florida-friendly landscaping. Photo credit: Carrie Stevenson

 

 

 

 

During these workshops and demonstrations, participants may learn a wide variety of methods to reduce their impact to water quality.  For example, at our periodic rain barrel workshops, participants learn to take direct advantage of our heavy rainfall by collecting and using the rainwater for irrigation later.  Earlier today, Master Gardeners taught workshop participants how to choose native plants for their landscapes, not only improving the aesthetics of their yards, but reducing the need for additional fertilizer and pesticides.  Later in November, agents will teach professional lawn care workers about proper use of pesticides, fertilizer, and cultural practices that can help reduce the negative environmental “side effects” of lawn maintenance.  As seen in the photo above, we also work with local municipalities to reduce the impact of their properties as well.  At our annual fall garden festival (or any time you’d like to visit–the garden is open to the public)  you can wander through the Master Gardener Demonstration Garden to see examples of butterfly gardens, well-suited plants for the area, microirrigation in raised beds, and composting.

While it may seem that a few homeowners making these sorts of changes can’t make a big difference, there is much evidence to the contrary.  The US Environmental Protection Agency recently recognized the success of a Florida community that took assertive stormwater pollution prevention measures.  As a result of their actions, a polluted water body, Roberts Bay (Sarasota) was removed from the state’s list of impaired waters.

In addition to talking with Extension Agents, there are many great online tools to help you transition from a conventional yard to a more Florida-friendly landscape.  A few sites include the interactive plant-choice database at www.floridayards.org and the statewide website.  We also have lots of excellent resources in the form of books, pamphlets, and handbooks that are available at the Extension Office.  If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to call Carrie at 850-475-5230, email at ctsteven@ufl.edu, or come by the office at 3740 Stefani Road in Cantonment.

Permanent link to this article: https://escambia.ifas.ufl.edu/blog/2013/09/20/florida-friendly-landscaping/