Changing the paradigm one yard at a time.
For many who are fortunate to live in our sub-tropical coastal community, a beautiful new landscape begins with large canopy trees, tropical palms, and colorful shrubs. It ends with ample expanses of green lawn and a hefty price to keep it maintained and looking pristine. The underlying cost is what all of that ‘beauty’ is doing to our local waterbodies. As we know, the overuse of herbicides, pesticides, and fertilizers are causing irreparable damage to the Indian River Lagoon.
So how does one create a more responsible landscape without sacrificing beauty? The answer is to begin by asking questions about the water on and around your property and use those answers to help guide design decisions.
If you live on a Lagoon-front property with a concrete seawall; install a 6’ – 10’ buffer along the edge of the wall using native grasses and groundcovers. This will prevent fertilizer and pesticide runoff into the Lagoon. The buffer will also keeps nutrient-rich lawn clippings from entering the water. For the finishing touch, add crushed shell mulch that stays put in heavy rains, keeps organics from washing over the seawall, and gives a natural coastal look to the new landscape feature.
If you live in a house built prior to 1987, create a rain garden that captures and holds pollution-laden stormwater. These older homesites were built to allow stormwater to flow down streets, sidewalks, and driveways into a drain which often empties directly into the closest body of water. Rain gardens are shallow depressions in the landscape that feature a variety of plants and grasses that filter water before letting it flow naturally into the ground. Planting your rain garden with native plants that tolerate both wet and dry conditions not only enhances the beauty of your yard, but also provides valuable habitat for butterflies, birds, and other wildlife.
Lagoon-friendly landscape design is a mind-changing process. Whether you choose to start small by adding a rain garden or seawall buffer or go big by renovating to a water-wise native landscape, remember that someone is always watching for what’s new in the neighborhood. These beautiful and functional landscape features just may prompt others to take similar action.
Robin Pelensky is a registered landscape architect, LEED Accredited Professional, and President of Surlaterre Landscape Architecture, LLC. Robin has designed and overseen the installation of functional Lagoon-friendly landscapes for municipalities, commercial property owners, and homeowners who live close to or adjacent to the Indian River Lagoon. She frequently speaks on sustainable landscape design and has earned numerous awards and recognition for her environmental contributions to the Florida landscape.