Homeowners can save the Lagoon too!

The President’s Hoot
by Richard H. Baker, Ph.D.
September 2013

Big Thank You to County Commissioners Peter O’Bryan, Joe Flescher, and Tim Zorc for showing leadership in passing a strong fertilizer ordinance that includes a summer fertilizer ban (June through September), 50% slow release nitrogen, no phosphorus without a test, and ban within 10 feet of a water body.  This is a Big Deal and our cities now need to do the same.

Fertilizer is TOXIC, not a nutrient to our lagoon!   ALL human introduced chemicals, oil, mercury, PCBs, sunscreen, herbicides, insecticides, anti-depressants, hormones, body wastes, fertilizers are TOXIC to our natural environment.

Photo: Bob Montanaro

What can we homeowners do to save it?   Commissioner Bob Solari is getting rid of his turfgrass as the best way to save the lagoon.  Moreover, he wants to lead a community effort to do so. 

Lawn care is now a huge industry including, researchers, equipment manufacturers, chemical companies, grass cutters, chemical applicators, and even the Vero Beach and County’s reuse water is mostly for turf. The alternative of planting our native plants that survive on less water and chemicals is commendable, because if everyone did this, it would be better than the summer ban, as less water and chemicals are needed.

Most homeowner associations (HOAs) requiring turfgrass should change rules to allow native plants and natural ground covers. Some even require St. Augustine turfgrass that requires excessive precious water resources, fertilizers and herbicides that pollute our Lagoon.

The insanity of our infatuation with lawns becomes obvious when we see lawn care personnel applying fertilizer on grass surrounding lakes and canals while, at the same time, water-management personnel are spraying herbicides to kill the aquatic weeds that feed on those fertilizers. As homeowners and taxpayers, we are paying doubly for pretty lawns and weed-free lakes! Folks spend so much money to plant turfgrass, fertilize/water/mow it over and over again wasting time, money plus polluting.  Not to mention the contribution to global warming from constantly running gas-powered boisterous lawn mowers and blowers. Let’s remember our relationship to our Earth.

Neighborhood associations and HOAs are the ideal groups to ask Commissioner Solari and experts to speak about yards with reduced turfgrass that do not add toxic chemicals to our Lagoon and take irrigation water from our depleted aquifer. If you cannot afford lawn maintenance nor even a sprinkler system, and do not live in a community with an HOA, there are ways to have attractive yards without much expense.  Each homeowner in Indian River County can thus help save our Lagoon by reducing turfgrass. Perhaps the County Commission can showcase and award attractive, low-polluting yards.

The websites www.PlantRealFlorida.org and www.fnps.org show how to add native plants to landscapes and bring home the beauty of real natural Florida.  They provide resources for working and preserving within an HOA and how to revamp landscapes to:

  • Work within HOA rules requiring a minimum percentage of turfgrass
  • Compost and recycle to reduce energy and chemicals
  • Save water, money, and time with a beautiful distinctive and low-impact landscape
  • Bring life to your backyard with diverse native plants-birds, butterflies and more
  • Enrich your home and community
  • Select native plants (over 3000 in Florida) that use little water and no chemicals to survive.

Other ideas to save our lagoon:

  • If everyone in our county planted just one tree, we would reduce grass coverage and our electricity bills by providing shade. This would lower our community’s carbon footprint, reduce global warming, provide more habitats for birds, butterflies, and other wildlife while conserving water and reducing runoff to the Lagoon. Research shows that cities with trees in neighborhoods also reduce the crime rate. Let’s be known as the “Garden County!”
  • 4×4 foot vegetable and herb gardens can also replace turfgrass in our year round planting seasons:
  • Connect to your available sewage system.

These positive actions will help reduce algae blooms, increase seagrass habitat, provide nurseries for fish, clean water for swimmers and boaters, and help our economy.

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