What’s more of a threat – the python or the grass? Millions upon millions of Florida lawns have displaced and impacted more native plants and animals than the exotic reptiles making headlines. Our front and back yards were once a diverse landscape feeding wildlife and filtering rainwater. Now the millions of acres of residential and business landscapes are a monoculture of St. Augustine Grass – connected to our underground aquifer, streams, rivers, lakes, bays, ocean, and gulf waters. What we put on our grass directly impacts the waters we play in, fish in, and drink. But you don’t have to tear up the grass!! Follow these simple money-saving tips to improve our waters:
Do Not Use Fertilizer
- Red tides and algae blooms are fed by nutrients from lawn fertilizers
- Our heavy tropical rains flush fertilizers out of your yard into nearby waters that are all connected (see image below)
- When the nutrients get flushed below the shallow roots of the grass they accumulate in our drinking water
- Apply natural and organic soil amendments if your grass is on top of sandy soils or in need of additional food
Collectively, our St. Augustine grass lawns add up to the largest polluting crop in our state – and puts zero food on our table!
Stop Using Pesticides
- Insecticides are not bug specific – the chemicals kill bees and other pollinators
- Insecticides are typically applied to kill little bugs, however, the chemicals impact the entire food chain
- Herbicides migrate into our surface and ground waters and have been found to cause cancer in humans
- The chemicals get flushed into local waterways killing bait fish and impacting larger bird and sport fish species
- “Stay Off The Grass” signs warn that the chemicals are harmful to dogs, kids, and 170-pound adults – imagine how they impact much smaller animals: bees, earthworms, shiners, bass, snook, hummingbirds, cardinals, hawks, eagles, raccoons, fox, deer, etc
Often we think that putting a little bit of pesticide on our yard won’t hurt – when 20 MILLION residents have that same thought, it has a huge impact.
Turn Off The Sprinklers
- Florida receives over four feet of rain every year – your lawn will not turn into a desert
- Turning off your irrigation system will make the grass grow deeper roots making it more drought tolerant
- Conserving water will help keep our Biscayne & Floridan Aquifers more full – fending off the saltwater intrusion from the rising seas
We depend on our groundwater to drink, irrigate food crops, support industry, and to flush the toilet – let’s save it for these more important uses. Our kids will thank us tomorrow!
Additional Tips & Tricks
- Leave a corner of the yard to grow natural and untrimmed to benefit wildlife
- Plant native species of flowers, shrubs, and trees to help offset the non-beneficial lawn
- Replace sod with a butterfly garden to help the bee & butterfly population while teaching your kids about the food web
- Create a rain garden to catch your roof and lawn stormwater runoff to filter out nutrients and pollutants
- Do not use mosquito foggers or bug zappers – keep your yard natural and healthy for mosquito-eating dragonflies
- Tell your Homeowners Association that the value of your home is dependent on healthy waters not a perfect lawn
- Tell your lawn maintenance company to skip the fertilizers and pesticides – it’s better for the environment (and their health too)
No tourist in the history of our state has ever bragged about a Florida lawn – just our beautiful waters…
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*Thumbnail image and top banner photo is of a Ball Python snake – it is smaller than the Burmese Python. Currently the exotic Burmese Python is wreaking havoc in the Florida Everglades as the reptile has a voracious appetite, the ability to lay many eggs, and not many enemies that can keep its population in check.