On the River: Outstanding River Friendly Yard Award

BY SHANNON BLANKINSHIP, Outreach Director, St. Johns Riverkeeper

Annually, St. Johns RIVERKEEPER and Florida Native Plant Society’s Ixia Chapter recognize individuals or businesses that have implemented River Friendly landscaping and maintenance practices to reduce their impact upon the health of the St. Johns River and our environment. Eligible candidates for the Outstanding River Friendly Yard Award help to protect our waterways by using low-maintenance native plants, preventing stormwater runoff, and minimizing the use of irrigation, fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides.

You may nominate yourself, a neighbor, family member, or business via #riverfriendlyyardaward on social media (Facebook or Instagram). Submit a photo and statement about the yard and the winner of the contest will receive a $100 gift card and a complimentary landscape analysis with a native landscape expert, compliments of Native and Uncommon Plants, plus yard signage. The contest launches March 1, 2018, with judging in late April – early June. The deadline to submit a photo and statement is April 22: Earth Day.  

What makes a yard River Friendly?

  • Homeowner uses fertilizer and chemicals sparingly or not at all, waters only as needed, and is tolerant of some weeds and pests.
  • Landscaped area is maintained and attractive.
  • Landscaped area utilizes drought-tolerant, low-maintenance plant material and groundcover, preferably including 50% or more native plants.
  • Yard does not include invasive plants.    
  • If home has an in-ground irrigation system, it is designed to be as efficient as possible, by utilizing water-efficient components and strategies.
  • Landscaping and maintenance practices are consistent with University of Florida’s Florida Yards and Neighborhoods principles:
    • Right Plant, Right Place – The plant selection matches the yard’s soil, light, water, and climatic conditions to create a drought-tolerant, low-maintenance yard.
    • Water Efficiently – Follows local irrigation ordinance and only waters as needed. Uses mulch and mows properly to increase plant health and drought tolerance.
    • Fertilize Appropriately – Sparingly uses slow-release fertilizers with little or no phosphorus, and only as needed, to minimize runoff into the river or leaching into the groundwater.
    • Mulch – Uses mulch to retain moisture, slow runoff, and control weeds. Does not use cypress mulch.  
    • Attract Wildlife – Uses native plants to provide valuable habitat for wildlife.
    • Manage Yard Pests Responsibly – Uses Integrated Pest Management (IPM) techniques to spot-treat and minimize the use of toxic chemicals.
    • Recycle Yard Waste – Leaves clippings on lawn and composts.
    • Reduce Stormwater Runoff – Downspouts are pointed toward yard/garden and away from driveways and sidewalks.
    • Protect the Waterfront – Maintains a 10’ buffer adjacent to any waterway.

If you or someone you know has a River Friendly landscape, nominate them via #RiverFriendlyYard Award and get details at www.stjohnsriverkeeper.org.  

About Shannon Blankinship

Shannon Blankinship is the Outreach Director for St. Johns Riverkeeper and contributes regularly via the “On The River” column building awareness for the many issues that impact the St. Johns River. Shannon received her B.S. from Purdue University in Natural Resources Economics and Policy and her J.D. from Florida Coastal School of Law in Jacksonville. She is currently an elected official in Duval County serving on the Soil and Water Conservation District. She is a board member for the local nonprofit The Girls Gone Green and regularly contributes articles affecting animals and health. She is a Springfield resident and works to promote all things great in the urban core neighborhoods.

october, 2021