Water contributes immensely to quality of life in Florida and to our economy. For all we gain from it, we should carefully guard our waterfront to ensure it holds its value. Anything that goes on a waterfront landscape has the potential to go in the water. This includes garden chemicals, decorative objects and any debris. Waterfront owners and renters can help protect these fragile aquatic treasures by following a few simple guidelines.
Establish a minimum ten foot “no fertilizer, no herbicide, no pesticide” zone along their shoreline.
Creating this buffer minimizes the chance of harmful agents getting into the water and it sets up a filtering system to catch runoff. Follow these guidelines:
- Do not mow the area. Allow it to thrive in a natural state. Hand clip to maintain a reasonable height if necessary.
- Consider alternatives to grass at the waterfront. Native ground covers and smaller bushes provide a neat appearance with little maintenance.
- Never use garden chemicals of any kind int he buffer zone.
Follow guidelines for fertilizer, pesticide and herbicide use.
Every chemical that gets sprayed, sprinkled or poured onto your plants and ground has the potential to run into the water where it can do great harm. Follow Florida-friendly Landscaping Principles #3 Fertilize Appropriately and #8 Reduce Stormwater Runoff to ensure that what you do to help your garden does not ending up hurting the plants, fish and animals who live in our waterways, nor the quality of the water itself.
Remove invasive aquatic plants.
Invasive plants can take over the water's edge quickly when allowed. These plants create an imbalance in our ecosystem by stealing space and nutrients from native plants and disrupting the food chain for native animals. This can have serious consequences, for example on the mix of fish living in our waters, which in turn can affect everything from the mix of animals on land to the viability of our sportfishing tourism industry. Learn which aquatic and water's edge plants are invasive, or ask a professional for assistance. Use the University of Florida's webpage on Florida's Most Invasive Plants as a resource to get started.
Never prune mangroves or remove any vegetation without first seeking proper permits and guidelines.
Mangroves, and similar native water's edge plants, prevent erosion and act as natural filters. They trap and process organic and chemical materials. Mangroves have strong root systems that provide a home to fish, crustaceans and young marine animals. The branches are nesting areas for coastal birds, such as brown pelicans and roseate spoonbills. Mangroves also protect people by acting as a natural storm barrier.
Prevent and clean-up litter. Remove pet waste and grass clippings too.
Litter is unsightly, but it is also a terrible danger to our ecosystem. Larger birds, fish and other marine mammals mistake many forms of litter for food. Boaters and swimmers can be endangered by litter. Litter that washes to shore is especially dangerous to children. Take care to secure all solid waste containers and storage boxes to ensure that litter and other items do not blow out and onto the water on windy days. And, please, when you see litter, whether it is yours or not, pick it up and dispose of it properly.
Pet waste is an organic substance, but like any bodily waste, it is not something we want in our canals, rivers and ponds or in the ocean. The bacteria from a land mammal is not necessarily the same bacteria that should be present in the water. Please take care to follow all guidelines for Pet Waste disposal.
Grass clippings act as a natural mulch when left on your lawn, but they are not helpful when blown into the water. Their high nutrient content can be a pollutant in the water.
Florida Yards and Neighborhood Handbook #9: Protect the Waterfront. This is a quick four-page read full of practical advice and photo examples.
This is a comprehensive guide to living on the water's edge. It is suitable for individual property owners, as well as for management companies or developers.