Pilot program launched to protect Florida lagoon from lawn runoff

The Lagoon Friendly Lawn program is designed to reduce nutrient pollution. Photo: Keep Brevard BeautifulThe Lagoon Friendly Lawn program is designed to reduce nutrient pollution.
Photo: Keep Brevard Beautiful

In an effort to protect the Indian River Lagoon in Florida, Keep Brevard Beautiful is testing a program called Lagoon Friendly Lawns.

The pilot program is similar to the Florida-Friendly Landscaping program, which encourages homeowners to use low-maintenance plants and environmentally sustainable practices.

The Lagoon Friendly Lawns program is focused on preventing nutrient pollution like fertilizers and yard clippings from washing into the river. The influx of extra nitrogen and phosphorus can cause massive algae blooms that kill seagrass and fish and disrupts the ecosystem.

Lagoon-Friendly-Lawns-logoIn an effort to promote more environmentally sound practices, Lagoon Friendly Lawns is offering a county-wide certification system for lawn-care contractors that was developed in cooperation with the Satellite Beach Sustainability Board.

“Really, part of the solution to it is right in our backyards,” Keep Brevard Beautiful’s Allison Arteaga told News 13. “There’s a lot all of us can do to address nutrient pollution.”

Homeowners who hire certified contractors are qualified for the member level of lawn certification and can place reclaimed wood signs in their yard that let others know about their participation. Gold and Silver award winners also receive a special plaque and will be recognized on social media and Keep Brevard Beautiful’s website.

“People are going to see the signs in the yards and say, ‘How can I get involved with that?’” Arteaga said.

Gordon Agostini and his company, Beach Lawn Services, are already testing out the program and have applied for certification.

“It’s not just the people in the industry, homeowners play a big part of this,” Agostini said.

The four main practices the program promotes are minimizing nutrient pollution, reducing turf and stormwater runoff, and restoring ecosystem benefits.

In order to mitigate the harmful effects of fertilizer runoff, Lagoon Friendly Lawns suggests using at least 50 percent slow-release nitrogen fertilizer and to apply no more than one pound of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet. Soil tests should be conducted before applying phosphorus, the program guidelines say, and fertilizer should not be applied during the rainy season.

Lawn clippings should be kept off impervious surfaces so they do not wash down storm drains. Reducing turf areas and replacing them with garden beds is another option suggested to lessen the amount of nutrient inputs required.

Capturing stormwater in swales or rain barrels can keep nitrogen-rich water out of the river, while installing permeable surfaces allows the water to recharge aquifers.

The last concept of Lagoon Friendly Lawns is to replace what has been removed with positive additions, such as native plant communities that support the local wildlife and prevent erosion.

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