I’ve been approached by so many people lately asking me how they can help Florida with the terrible water crisis in South Florida. The answer isn’t a simple one, but a really good place to start is in our own yard.
All of us need to change our habits with fertilizer and water usage. I’m so passionate about this conservation effort that I created a television series about it called Flip My Florida Yard. The idea for the series was to inspire Floridians to be stewards of their own land, their yard. I wanted viewers to understand that we are all connected to our waterways (even the Everglades), and if everyone used reduced our consumption and put fewer chemicals in our water, it would make a huge impact. So, if you want to help your neighbors in South Florida, you should start with your own yard.
My county is a perfect example of how we can make small (but significant) changes to lessen the impact on our environment. Last year, Seminole County enacted some of the toughest fertilizer regulations in Florida, including a summertime ban, which is typically the rainiest time of the year. Water restrictions for Seminole County have been in place for some time, but county officials realized that excess nitrogen and phosphorus from homeowner yards could end up down storm drains and into our lakes, rivers, and aquifers — creating terrible algae growth and polluting our waterways. Seminole County even created a calculator to measure your fertilizer use (or overuse).
Here are some tips to creating a Florida-friendly yard (and lowering your water bill!):
- Fertilize only in the spring and fall, and make sure it’s slow-release nitrogen. Click here for a list of Florida-friendly fertilizers.
- Replace large, grassy areas that are directly in the sun with drought-tolerant native plants or alternative ground cover like slow-growing ivy or mulch.
- Make sure your sprinkler timer working properly and set to the water restrictions in your area. Also, check sprinkler heads to make sure you’re not watering the street instead of your sod.
- Take it easy with pesticides, or use non-toxic horticultural sprays to keep the bad bugs at bay and the good bugs (like ladybugs, spiders, and butterflies) around.
Brevard, Volusia, Pinellas, St. Lucie, Martin, and other counties have had similar restrictions on fertilizer use, but, not every county in Florida is participating. That’s where you can get involved. Encourage your local county commissioner to follow in Seminole County’s footsteps in limiting fertilizer use and support conservation groups like Captains for Clean Water. And, please, educate yourself with groups like Be Floridian Now and 1000 Friends of Florida. It’s time for all of us to protect our waters.
Thank you for loving Florida,
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