Make It A Block Party
Water doesn’t recognize property boundaries, and your water protection efforts shouldn’t either. Across the Suncoast, neighbors are working together to protect and improve the water they share. Get involved with your neighborhood association to change maintenance practices to reduce water pollution. Lead by example with a pilot project to show neighbors that healthy ponds bring back the birds, improve aesthetics, save maintenance costs, and increase property values. Community projects like planting trees and marking storm drains also help protect downstream creeks and bays.
Be a Water Quality Champion and changemaker by volunteering to serve on your HOA’s environment committee, or even on the HOA Board, so you can work to change deed restrictions and maintenance practices to support healthy yards and waterways.
Yards and common areas dominated by turfgrass aren’t very Floridian and contribute to water quality problems. Encourage your HOA to replace grassed street medians and easements with water-thrifty groundcovers and shrubs. The UF-IFAS Extension program has laid the groundwork for you – check out the Suggested Florida-Friendly Landscaping Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions. This model language can be adapted by HOAs to encourage landscapes designed to flourish with minimal care once established.
Landscape maintenance professionals in Sarasota and Manatee counties are required to complete training in Best Management Practices (BMPs) to protect water quality through proper mowing, irrigation, pruning, and disposal of yard waste. Landscape pros who apply fertilizer must get an additional certification demonstrating their knowledge of responsible fertilizer use. Make sure your in-house or contracted landscape maintenance crew is properly certified and following state-approved BMPs (certification look-up). You can even make these professional standards a part of your HOA’s service contract. This model provides a contract example you can customize to suit your own neighborhood’s needs.
Cost: Free – Variable
Lead your community to better pond maintenance practices by starting a neighborhood pilot project to show neighbors that healthy ponds improve aesthetics, increase property values, and bring back the birds.
An easy and impactful first step towards a healthy pond is maintaining at least a 3-foot no-mow zone around neighborhood stormwater ponds. Letting grass and ground cover grow a foot tall in the buffer area stabilizes pond banks from erosion—which can be a seriously expensive problem for HOAs. Keep a 10-foot fertilizer-free buffer around all shorelines.
For a bigger impact, follow this guide and plant spike rush, pickerel weed and other colorful native plants along pond borders to absorb nutrients that would otherwise feed algae blooms. Planting a pond shoreline with stabilizing aquatic plants costs a few dollars per linear foot, while restoring an eroded shoreline costs one hundred times more! Vegetated shorelines also provide homes for fish, frogs and turtles, along with foraging and nesting habitat for waterfowl, wading birds, and pollinators.
Trees are the solution to everything! They help protect water by capturing it in their leaf canopy, reducing runoff, and filtering the water that does infiltrate the soil. They stabilize pond and stream banks, keeping sediment from entering storm drains and waterways. They suck up and store carbon dioxide. And they provide shade and oxygen for us and homes for all sorts of wildlife. A well-located mature shade tree near your home can even save up to 20% on cooling costs.
Organize a group of neighbors to plant trees and reforest an open area in your neighborhood. You can create a functional microforest in a plot as small as 1000 square feet.
The i-Tree Design Calculator can estimate the environmental benefits of your tree planting project. Use i-Tree to find your location, input the types and sizes of trees, estimate past or future timespan, then be amazed at how much rainfall, carbon dioxide, and pollutants your mini-forest can capture!
The Florida House is a water-and-energy conserving demonstration house in Sarasota, Florida that showcases water efficient technologies, such as on-site stormwater retention through a combination of infiltration, pervious pavers and rain water cisterns. Location: 4454 South Beneva Road.
Find out what’s happening and join in with our comprehensive community events listing.
A stormwater pond is engineered to collect and manage rainfall runoff. When rainwater lands on roofs, parking lots, streets, driveways and other hard surfaces, it doesn’t soak into the ground. It flows into your neighborhood stormwater pond through an engineered system of grates, pipes, shallow swales or ditches picking up pollution along the way. Stormwater ponds have been required for new housing developments in Florida since the 1980s. They are designed to help prevent flooding and to intercept litter, fertilizers, pesticides, and pet wastes, keeping them out of nearby streams, rivers, lakes, wetlands, bays or the Gulf of Mexico. The ponds capture and contain the first inch of rainfall where most of the pollutants in stormwater runoff are concentrated. Since they are designed to capture pollution, they are not intended to look pristine like a natural lake. Stormwater ponds are man-made, and like all utilities, they need regular maintenance to work properly.
Free-floating algae are the most common cause of green pond water. Blooms of algae in ponds are a sign of an unbalanced system. Imbalances can be caused by past landscape management decisions and current inputs of lawn fertilizers, grass clippings, or pet waste. Fish waste also can contribute to algae blooms; too many fish stocked in a pond can overload the system. Healthy stormwater ponds reduce flooding and help prevent pollution downstream. They can also be a valuable urban oasis for birds and other wildlife. To protect your neighborhood pond, maintain a 10-foot fertilizer-free and no mow buffer from the water’s edge; blow grass clippings back into yards and not down storm drains; and pick up after your pets promptly.
The Green Industries Best Management Practices (GI-BMPs) are a science-based training program for members of the lawn care and landscape maintenance professions, collectively known as the Green Industries. Developed by the UF/IFAS Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ program, the GI-BMPs teach environmentally safe landscaping practices that help conserve and protect Florida’s ground and surface waters. These practices cover both the establishment of new turf and landscapes and the care of existing turf and landscapes, including construction activities, irrigation, nutrient management, and pest management. All lawn or landscape professionals who apply fertilizer as part of their business must complete the BMP training and be certified in fertilizer application. Look for the GI-BMP certification sticker on their trucks, and if you don’t see it ask.
While there is no solution to completely eliminate mosquitoes in Southwest Florida, there are things you can do to keep populations a bit more under control. Adding fish, tadpoles, or copepods (tiny crustaceans) that eat mosquito eggs or larvae can help reduce overall numbers. Adding pond vegetation that provides shelter for these animals will also help them thrive and consume mosquito pests. When selecting plants for your pond, consider avoiding those that encourage mosquitoes, like cattails, water lettuce, and water hyacinth. Choose plants, like pickerelweed, duck potato, tapegrass/wild celery, or swamp milkweed, that attract dragonflies, which eat mosquito larvae.
Rip rap is a hard barrier that will prevent erosion, but it does not help maintain a healthy pond. If you have turf grass down to the water line, then a No Mow Zone is a good start in preserving the shoreline, because it restricts heavy mowing machinery from compacting and eroding the bank. Still, when the grass is trimmed with handheld trimmers, care must be taken to keep the grass clippings out of the pond. Ideally the No Mow Zone is densely planted with a variety of native shrubs and grasses which have root structures that are better able to hold the bank and can “clean” runoff from adjacent yards and roads. A No Mow turf buffer is a first step (good) and planted buffers are the next step (better). See the Healthy Ponds Guide for details.
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