The City of Cape Coral is surrounded by water on three sides. Additionally, the City includes over 150 linear miles of saltwater canals and over 250 linear miles of freshwater canals. The environmental health and appearance of these waterways is very much dependent upon the quality of the water that drains from our yards and landscaping. The quality of this water can be improved through implementation of environmentally friendly landscaping and landscape maintenance techniques. Communicating these techniques to residents, and encouraging their implementation are the goals of the Florida Yards and Neighborhoods Program.
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The Florida Yards and Neighborhoods (FYN) Program is a partnership between the landscape industry, the University of Florida Cooperative Extension Service, Florida's National Estuary Programs, Florida's Sea Grant College Program, and various State and local environmental agencies. The program focuses on yards, as they are the first line of defense for estuaries, rivers, lakes, aquifers and the City's canal system. The connecting link between yards and waterways is stormwater. Rain water, or water from sprinkler systems, travels through yards and driveways, and down streets and drainage swales until it reaches a waterway. Along the way, the water picks up trash, fertilizers, pesticides, oils, silt, sand and pet wastes. These pollutants are then discharged into the waterway where they can have harmful impacts to aquatic life and contaminate public water supplies. Unlike wastewater from our homes, which can be cleaned and reused for irrigation purposes, stormwater receives little or no treatment and is not captured and cleaned for reuse. Thus, the way that Cape Coral residents manage their lawns and landscaping can affect the environmental health of the City's waterways.
The Florida Yards and Neighborhoods Program adheres to nine (9) basic principles that, if implemented properly, are designed to reduce the adverse impacts of a yard on water quality. Each principle contains a series of actions that landowners can take to improve the environmental health of their yards and the health of the waterways these yards drain to. Through implementation of the principles and actions program participants are awarded points, or 'inches.' When a participating yard achieves 36 inches (a 'yard'), the yard receives a sign, which can be placed in the yard to let everyone know that the subject property is a "Florida Friendly Yard." The FYN's 9 principles are:
- Right plant, right place: Placing plants in the proper growing conditions for each type of plant reduces the plant's needs for watering, fertilizers, pesticides and pruning. Plants can be grouped according to their tolerance for sunlight or shade. Trees and shrubs can be used to shade the air conditioner, thus reducing energy usage and cost. Increasing the size and extent of plant beds reduces the amount of yard that must be mowed and watered.
- Water efficiently: The best way to use water in landscaping is to design and maintain a yard that thrives on rainfall. Native Florida plants should be used for landscaping as they are more drought tolerant than most exotic plants. Lawns should be watered only when they show signs of stress, to encourage deeper root systems.
- Stormwater runoff: It is important to reduce the volume of potential pollutants that can be generated by a yard. Grass clippings should be left on the lawn; not picked up. Pet wastes should be removed from the yard and properly disposed. Gutter downspouts should be directed toward the lawn or plant beds. Downspouts should not be directed toward a septic system drainfield, as this can cause pollutants to be washed from the yard. Wherever possible, walkways should be constructed with porous surfaces.
- On the waterfront: Waterfront lots allow stormwater to drain directly into a waterway. It is important that waterfront property owners take extra steps to reduce the volume of pollutants generated by their properties.Owners should establish a 10 - 30-foot wide "No fertilizer/ No pesticide" zone from the seawall or shoreline toward the home. If possible, a row of native, low-maintenance plants should be established between the seawall or shoreline and the yard. These plants will absorb nutrients seeping from the yard toward the waterway. Rip-rap should be placed in front of seawalls to provide much-needed habitat.
- Mulch: Mulch keeps moisture in the soil, improves soil makeup, minimizes erosion and helps to reduce weeds. The FYN Program can provide information on the amount of mulch required for various portions of the yard.
- Recycle: Grass clippings, leaves and twigs should be recycled by being left on the ground. Leaves and pine needles can be reused as mulch around trees and shrubs. Alternatively, plant clippings and kitchen wastes can be placed in a compost pile for later use on the lawn.
- Fertilizing: Manufactured fertilizers should be used sparingly, if at all. The best fertilizers are slow release formulas, and these should be used only when needed. Iron can be used to make lawns green during winter months.
- Managing yard pests: Most insects found in a yard or garden are actually beneficial predators that control pests. Most weeds are generally harmless to plants that have been properly selected for location and soil conditions. It is unrealistic and expensive to strive for a weed-free and pest-free yard.
- Wildlife: Landowners should plant native trees, shrubs and vines that provide food, shelter and nesting materials for wildlife. Bird and bat houses attract voracious mosquito eaters, making for more pleasant summer evenings. Dead trees should be maintained, if possible, for cavity nesting birds. Small backyard ponds are also beneficial for wildlife.
Area residents are invited to attend classes and receive training materials on the nine principles. Introductory classes are offered monthly at Rotary Park through most of the year. FYN Yard Tours are offered in March and September. FYN Home Garden Design Classes are offered in April, and Rain Barrel classes are offered in April and July. Native plant sales are held in conjunction with the Rain Barrel classes. Depending on the type of class, there may be an associated cost.
2017 Class dates are here!
Introductory Classes -- no charge!
Friday, July 21, 2017 6 p.m. - 9 p.m.
Friday, November 3, 2017 1 p.m. - 4 p.m.
FYN Yard Tours* (Ideas and inspiration from others) -- $10.00 per household
Saturday, October 14, 2017 9 a.m. - 12 p.m.
FYN Home Garden Design* (Series of classes: do-it-yourself landscape design) -- $18.00 per household
Coming in April, 2018 9 a.m - 12 p.m.
Rain Barrel Class* (Build your own barrel) -- $45.00 per barrel/materials provided
Saturday, July 29, 2017 9 a.m. - 10 a.m.
Tree Pruning* -- $10.00 per household
Saturday October 7, 2017 9 a.m. - 11 a.m.
* Classes require advanced registration
All classes are held at Rotary Park in Southwest Cape Coral, 5505 Rose Garden Road. For directions, or to register for classes or yard tours, call (239) 549-4606.