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rain garden in florida

Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ – Reduce stormwater runoff

Florida is an amazing state, in many ways. Chief among these is the variety of water resources available to us. We can boast of nearly 3,000 miles of shoreline, more than 650 miles of coastal beaches, some 7,800 freshwater lakes, 700-assorted springs, and a whopping 11 million acres of wetlands. And underlying all this – literally – is the Floridan aquifer, an underground water-carrying system of rocks and caves that is the source of 8 billion gallons of water used by Floridians each day.

It’s critical to note that, no matter where we live, our actions can and do impact those water resources. And it is incumbent upon all of us to do our utmost to protect them.

Nine Principles of Florida-Friendly Landscaping™

Right Plant, Right Place – Enjoy healthier plants and reduce work by using plants suited to your landscape conditions
Water Efficiently – Reduce water bills, pest problems, and maintenance needs
Fertilize Appropriately – Prevent pollution and maximize plant health
Mulch – Keep moisture in the soil, help control weeds, and reduce stormwater runoff
Attract Wildlife – Bring your yard to life by providing water, food, and shelter for birds, butterflies, and other creatures
Manage Yard Pests Responsibly – Create an effective defense against pests while minimizing your impact on the environment
Recycle Yard Waste
Re-use your yard waste to save money and enrich your soil

REDUCE STORMWATER RUNOFF – Filter rain through your landscape to protect waterways and replenish the aquifer

Protect the Waterfront – Help preserve Florida’s waterways, plants, and wildlife

That brings us to our latest stop on our journey through the nine principles of Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ (FFL): reduce stormwater runoff. We need to find ways to slow the movement of water from our landscapes and properties, and clean the water that does trickle away.

Understand that stormwater runoff is not waste water; at least, not the kind of waste water we typically think of, like that generated in our homes and businesses. Municipal governments typically treat that waste water in sewage plants.

But, storm water generally receives no treatment. Instead, it often moves directly from yards and parking lots into storm sewers, and then on to nearby bodies of water. Along the way, it can pick up fertilizers and pesticides used on landscapes, oils and other petroleum products leaked from vehicles, pet and animal waste, and a host of other pollutants.

The pollutants then can move from one water body to the next, posing serious problems for ecosystems and wildlife at each point along the way.

Many of the FFL principles help cut this waste. Using the right plant in the right place reduces the need for chemical treatments. Fertilizing appropriately and managing yard pests responsibly also cuts chemical applications. Watering efficiently, by its very nature, curbs runoff.

There are other steps we can take, as well.

Add a rain garden – a low, water-collecting area with plants tolerant of periodic flooding and drought – and point downspouts from gutters to that area. Water will pool in the area, and gradually seep into the ground rather than wash into the sewers. (Note: water should seep away quickly enough to avoid mosquito issues). Downspouts also could empty into rain barrels or cisterns, to be used later for irrigation during dry times. We offer monthly rain barrel workshops.

Berms and bioswales – sunken areas, like wide and gently sloping ditches – slow down water movement or guide it to areas where it can percolate into the ground. We installed a bioswale at our Twin Lakes Park office, in part to collect and purify runoff from a nearby parking lot but also to demonstrate what can be done. Stop by to learn more, or visit the county page about bioswales.

Another way to keep water on the landscape rather than in storm sewers is to use porous walkways and driveways, where possible. Gravel, spaced bricks or flagstones, mulch, and even ground-cover plants create beautiful paths while still allowing water to percolate through to the ground. Mulch and plants also help to slow soil erosion.

It’s unrealistic to think we can keep all the rain that falls on our yards in our yards. But, we can help our environment by slowing down the storm water moving across our landscapes, and then using what we can while allowing as much as possible of the remainder to percolate into the ground.

Even small steps can have a big impact. And the more steps we take, the bigger the impact.

Contact your local Extension office to learn more:
Sarasota County: 941-861-9900 or
Manatee County: 941-722-4524 or
Charlotte County: 941-764-4340 or

2 Comments on “Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ – Reduce stormwater runoff

  1. I’ve been ask to do a beach project on Casey Key. I know what beach plants to use after hours of research,and that with the removal of the invasive plants I need to provide suitable coverage for new plantings. I wanted to see about if I can use natural shell from my stairs down out through my dune area? If you could lead me to who I can get this info from, I would love your help. Who do I contact. Thanks so much for your time.