Florida Friendly Landscaping Principle #8 – Reduce Storm Water Runoff – Janetta Fox

Florida Friendly Landscaping Principle #8 – Reduce Stormwater Runoff

April 1, 2021
By Janetta Fox - Garden Club of Cape Coral (Special to The Breeze)Cape Coral Breeze

Click Here for full article in the Cape Coral Breeze

Florida receives a considerable amount of rainfall, especially during the summer. The storm water can remain and soak in where it falls, evaporate or wash away. This latter occurrence is known as stormwater runoff. Why should we be concerned about runoff? After all, it is just water, right? Not quite. Let’s look at residential areas as an example.

Rainfall that flows off the property does so without the benefit of the natural filtering of impurities that trees, turf, ground cover and other permeable surfaces such as paved walkways provide. Therefore, the flow, and the various sediment and pollutants gathered up along the way, work their way, unchecked, into sewer systems, aquifers, streams, canals, rivers and other waterways.

No matter where we live, whether or not in the vicinity of a body of water, we all live in a watershed and our local actions have considerable impact “downstream.” Until I began looking into the negative impact runoff has on the environment, I never gave much thought to it. I now recognize that, as homeowners, we can help reduce the amount of runoff on our properties by asking a few questions, a handful of which are shared below, and then taking mitigating action.

Are grass clippings allowed to remain on the lawn? After mowing, if you notice that portions have migrated to your driveway or into the roadway, sweep or blow the clippings back into the landscape, where they will add beneficial nutrients for turf health during decomposition. The same goes for leaves and other yard debris. Otherwise, the vegetation and the nutrients they contain, i.e., nitrogen and phosphorus, will get caught up in the flow. And, as we know, these two nutrients have been known to feed algal blooms which lead to fish kills.

How are downspouts positioned? Are they positioned so water remains in the landscape and away from the driveway? By making simple adjustments to spouting, rainwater can flow into landscaped areas for use by vegetation. You could also consider placing a rain barrel or cistern in the area to capture downspout water, which would serve to harvest the rainwater for future use.

If you observe that an area accumulates too much water in a storm’s aftermath, think about turning the area into a rain garden, making certain that the native or other Florida friendly plants you choose for inclusion not only enjoy wet feet but are also drought tolerant. With proper selection and a focus on right plant/right place you will better ensure that, once established, the plants will prove hardy with no special care or use of fertilizers and pesticides normally needed. A win-win for both your wallet and the environment!

And speaking of fertilizers and pesticides, do you use only as needed and according to label directions? When applying more than necessary for either, the excess nutrients that fertilizers contain and chemical content of pesticides have to go somewhere and when it rains that somewhere is into our waterways.

Is animal waste disposed of properly or left where deposited? And, if you have a septic system is it well-maintained? Animal waste and leakage from a malfunctioning system contribute bacteria and harmful microorganisms to the runoff mix. Therefore, be sure to pick up waste when walking your dog and get your septic system inspected every couple of years.

So, there you have it, a very brief introduction to the impact of stormwater runoff on the environment and actions homeowners can take to lessen that impact. For additional information regarding Florida Friendly Landscaping and the nine principles, visit https://ffl.ifas.ufl.edu.

Janetta Fox is a Lee County Master Gardener volunteer and member of the Garden Club of Cape Coral.


Stormwater runoff. (n.d.). UF/IFAS University of Florida Gardening Solutions. Retrieved from https://gardeningsolutions.ifas.ufl.edu/care/florida-friendly-landscapes/stormwater-runoff.html

Watersheds. (n.d.) Southwest Florida Water Management District. Retrieved from https://www.swfwmd.state.fl.us/ watersheds

Florida Friendly Landscaping Principle #6: Manage pests responsibly

Florida Friendly Landscaping Principle #6: Manage pests responsibly

Feb 18, 2021
By JANETTA FOX - Garden Club of Cape Coral (Special to The BreezeCape Coral Breeze
Click Here for full article in the Cape Coral Breeze
“Insects all business all the time.”

— David Foster Wallace
Recognizing that there are thousands of insect species, it would be impractical for homeowners to strive for an insect-free landscape, nor should we want to since the great majority of the insects that visit our yards are beneficial. However, we can maintain some semblance of control over that 1% of “bad bugs” which feast on our landscape plants and try our patience. Scientists recommend an approach called Inte-grated Pest Manage-ment, the goal of which is to provide for a safe and low risk approach to pest problems. With this goal in mind, IPM focuses on smart planning, proper maintenance and natural or low toxicity controls.

There are a variety of strategies associated with IPM, moving up the chain from prevention to suppression. Always begin with cultural measures as the first line of defense. This involves the proper selection of landscape vegetation, with a focus on Florida-friendly, pest resistant plant species (think right plant, right place). Oftentimes, beneficial insects are predators of other insect pests so consider creating an environment that serves as an invitation to good bugs such as lady beetles, green lacewings, green lynx spiders and native bees to your yard.

Keeping landscapes healthy reduces susceptibility to disease and pests, thereby reducing the need to take curative measures that could have otherwise been unnecessary had proper care been taken. In the aftermath of plant selection, apply tried-and-true maintenance strategies focusing on proper mowing, fertilizing, pruning and irrigation. Avoid cutting lawns too close. Longer blades means a healthier root system and more drought tolerance. Keep in mind that, with the exception of palms, most established shrubs and trees seldom require supplemental fertilization and, so, apply only as needed and according to label directions. Always clean and sanitize garden tools and avoid over-pruning of trees and shrubs, which can easily cause stress and lead to decline. Water only as needed with the recognition that over-watering stresses your turf and landscape plants and makes them more vulnerable to pests and diseases.

Vigilance is key to catching issues before they get out of hand. Therefore, take a stroll around your property regularly and look for signs of problems, keeping in mind that plant damage which initially appears to be the work of an unwanted insect could actually be the result of something quite different. If you have any doubt, take pictures and share with your local University of Florida Extension Office, where Master Gardener volunteers are available to respond to your questions or concerns. Once a determination is made that a “pest” is the culprit, start with the least toxic method to resolve the issue. Examples include: a spray of water to dislodge unwanted pests, the use of sticky traps and pruning affected parts of vegetation and disposing in the trash. Always remember that, when dealing with damage caused by pests or disease, never let pruned branches lay in the landscape.

Chemical treatments should only be used as a last resort and, then, begin with low impact products such as baits, horticultural oils and insecticidal soaps. Remember that wide-spectrum chemicals are indiscriminate and will kill the good bugs along with the bad. If absolutely necessary use these products only as spot treatments and always follow label directions.

To view more details regarding “Manage Pests Responsibly” and the other Principles of Florida Friendly Landscaping, click here... “The Florida Yards & Neighborhoods Handbook” is a great resource document for all things Florida Friendly.

Happy gardening!

Janetta Fox is a member of the Garden Club of Cape Coral and Lee County Master Gardener volunteer.

Florida friendly landscaping principle #5: attract wildlife — By JANETTA FOX

Florida friendly landscaping principle #5: attract wildlife

January 7, 2021
By JANETTA FOX - Garden Club of Cape Coral (Special to The BreezeCape Coral Breeze
Click Here for full article in the Cape Coral Breeze
As Florida’s population continues to grow, open/green space continues to be supplanted by increased residential and commercial development and their associated infrastructures. One of the negative impacts of this rapid development has been and continues to be the destruction of the natural habitat for our native birds and animals. Considering that Florida is the third most diverse state when it comes to wildlife and is a major stop for migratory birds, Florida friendly yards not only create a wildlife sanctuary but serve as a natural corridor for safe migratory passage.

Like people, wildlife need food, water, shelter and space. To satisfy these requirements, homeowners can begin by creating a backyard habitat plan (always good to plan first!), and then planting a variety of vegetation of varying sizes and heights. Diverse areas that provide reliable sources of nectar and food such as seeds, nuts and berries attract a wider variety of animals. And by layering vegetation, including ground cover, your yard becomes a refuge, providing shade and rest. Adding a small pond or birdbath as a water source will ensure all bases are covered and all basic needs are met.

It is important to note that, if left unattended, birdbaths will quickly accumulate algae and become a breeding ground for mosquitoes. As a control measure, change out the water frequently. When cleaning, scour and wash birdbaths without the use of harsh bleach or soap. For additional control of algae, consider adding a drop or two of algaecide into the birdbath periodically. Prior to the purchase of any algaecide, though, read the label to confirm that the product in question is safe for wildlife. You can also add Bti (aka Bacillus thuringiensis israelensis), which is a biological control for the larvae stages of mosquitoes. The great thing about Bti is that it is safe for humans and other animals. And adding an agitator to keep water moving can only help!

Snags are trunks of dead trees. If leaving them in place doesn’t pose a danger consider doing so, because they provide a place for birds to perch nest, and feed. And because the idea is to attract beneficial insects as well as land animals and birds, avoid the use of wide-spectrum pesticides as they do not discriminate and will enter the food chain. Along with problem pests such as aphids, mealybugs, whiteflies and the like, they will kill beneficial insects such as lady beetles (or lady bugs as I like to say) and bees and can be toxic to birds and other wildlife.

When selecting plants consider Florida native plants as these provide reliable sources of food and nectar for native wildlife. Disease resistant, non-native Florida friendly plants can also be an option. Consider providing nourishment for all stages of life. For example butterflies need specific plants during their life cycle i.e., nectar plants as adults and larval or host plants while caterpillars. And, depending on where you live, you may want to consider seasonal plants for year-round feeding.

So, there you have it, a brief introduction to the fifth principle of Florida friendly landscaping. For further information, visit Attract Wildlife

Happy gardening!

Janetta Fox is a member of the Garden Club of Cape Coral and a Lee County Master Gardener Volunteer.