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August's Shoreline Spotlight

A monthly submission from the Marine Resources Task Force

August 1, 2018
Shannon Mapes - Marine Resources Task Force Member , Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

Go Native! Replanting Florida Friendly

Estero Boulevard and side streets are almost halfway done with much-needed drainage and safety improvements. Where trees, shrubs and grass used to be there is now dirt, and opportunities!

The easiest and most fitting choice is all native Florida plants. The Nine Principals of Florida-friendly landscapes provides a blueprint to an easier and healthier landscape.

Article Photos

August Murphy Award: Jennifer Rusk. Submitted photo.

We are fortunate to live on a small island, we have an ecosystem much different than anywhere in the continental US and many of the northern gardening rule don't apply here. Trying to make your yard just like 'home' (your Northern home) is often like swimming upstream. Many plants that thrive up North do OK here but aren't well suited to our flora and fauna. The white sap on an Oleander can make your grandkids sick, and innocent houseplants like Pothos vines can grow up the trees here and get big enough to actually kill the tree.

Native plants promote the ecological balance that has developed in South Florida over millennia, without expensive and toxic pesticides and fertilizers. Natives save time, money and energy. They require less maintenance and are less expensive. A yard full of native wildflowers doesn't have to be mowed. Natives also require little or no extra water and virtually no fertilizer (except the occasional composting) compared to exotics (non-native plants). Non native lawns also require regular watering and fertilizer which waste water and pollute our bay, and green lawns can lead to green water. Our town's new fertilizer ordinance spells out how harmful fertilizer affects our Bay and water quality is directly tied to our livelihood.

What can you do with a native yard? Flowers! Butterflies! Birds! Our native wildlife loves native vegetation! We live in a paradise for butterflies and other wildlife. Invite them you your house for a garden party!

Fact Box

August's Murphy Award: Jennifer Rusk

The Marine Resource Task Force, or MRTF, is an all-volunteer advisory committee for the Town of Fort Myers Beach. MRTF meets the second Wednesday of the month, the next meeting is on August 8th, at 4:30, in council chambers at Town Hall. The public is encouraged to attend and invited to comment.

MRTF, pronounced "murph", honors people caught demonstrating good environmental stewardship on the island with a monthly "Murphy" award. This month's Murphy goes to Island resident Jennifer Rusk. Jennifer was spotted hauling some heavy ropes and plastic trash off the beach after Alberto, all while patrolling the beach at the crack of dawn for Turtle Time. Jennifer makes the effort to protect our beach for the wildlife and for the future. So a double thanks to Jennifer, for the trash and for the turtles!

The Nine Principles of Florida Friendly Landscapes are:

1) Right Plant, Right Place: Plants in the correct placement will thrive with minimal water and virtually no pesticides or water.

2) Water Efficiently: With natives, irrigation is only necessary when signs of wilt are observed. Our Town's Watering Ordinance prohibits watering between the hours of 10 a.m. 4 p.m. to maximize absorption. Watering is best during cooler times of the day.

3) Fertilize Appropriately: Only slow-release Nitrogen fertilizers should be used, at the right time, and never before a rainstorm, to prevent leaching and runoff.

4) Mulch: A 2-3" layer of mulch in flowerbeds retain moisture, prevent soil erosion and suppress weeds.

5) Attract Wildlife:Florida has many edible berries and fruit trees. Some migrating bird species love the Cabbage Palm berries. Watching the birds come to your yard to feed is enjoyable and they eat bugs too!

6) Manage Yard Pests Responsibly: Practice Integrated Pest Management (IPM) for a healthy approach to keeping pests out of your landscape.

7) Recycle: Compost!! Rapidly growing plants create the building blocks for some great compost that help build soil and retain water.

8) Reduce Stormwater Runoff: Rain gardens, rain barrels, and swales keep rainwater where you want it. We don't necessarily want it all to go rushing down storm drains, carrying oil, gas, fertilizer, trash, etc. Letting it soak into the landscape where it can be filtered and taken up by plants and trees is preferable.

9) Protect the Waterfront: If you are lucky enough to live on the water, help protect it and keep a 10' maintenance free zone on the water. This means no fertilizer, pesticides or mowing should occur in that area. This prevents chemicals and debris (grass clippings) from ending up in the water.

All of this information is available from Lee County's University of Florida Extension Office. Florida Yards and Neighborhoods (FYN) is an outreach program for homeowners. It is part of the Florida Friendly Landscaping Program (FFL) and it is offered through most UF/IFAS Extension Offices.The Marine Resource Task Force is in the process of integrating a 'Green' Certification Program for Fort Myers Beach residents and condominiums. One aspect of this program is to promote Florida Friendly landscaping to benefits our Bay and contribute to the aesthetics of our island. We encourage everyone with a yard to go native! It's good for your health, good for your wealth and that's wise! Overwhelmed? Talk to someone from MRTF, we will help discuss your project. We love this kind of stuff.

- Shannon Mapes, Marine Resources Task Force member



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