New Law Addresses Florida Friendly Landscaping

Sheila Dunning
Commercial Horticulture Faculty
Okaloosa County

With Florida in a multi-year drought, it’s critical that everyone does his or her part to conserve water resources. Florida-Friendly Landscapes are great water and money savers. By choosing plants appropriate for the site and maintaining them with correct cultural practices (irrigation, fertilization, mowing and pruning), one can significantly reduce not only the amount of water a landscape needs to thrive, but also the chance of plant disease and pests associated with overwatering. Other Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ techniques will reduce the amount of water lost to evaporation or runoff. Mulching a garden bed helps keep the soil moist for longer. Using pervious pavements like crushed shell or gravel allows rainwater to soak into the ground rather than running into storm drains.

Florida native wildflowers provide a colorful Florida landscape Photo Credits: Theresa Friday, Santa Rosa County

Applying Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ principles helps protect Florida’s surface and ground waters. Using UF/IFAS recommended application rates and timings of pesticides, fertilizer and irrigation can help prevent nonpoint source pollution (water pollution that is associated with everyday human activities and driven by rainfall, runoff and leaching) from urban landscapes.

When combined with low-impact design principles such as rain barrels, cisterns, swales and berms, and pervious pavements, these correct cultural practices can reduce the flow of stormwater, which can carry trash, pet wastes, plant clippings, and loose soil into storm drains and water bodies.

On June 18, 2009, Florida Governor Charlie Christ signed into law SB 2080. The new law (together with SB494) will change the way municipalities, green industry personnel and the homeowner address landscape maintenance issues. SB 2080 deletes references to “xeriscape”.

It requires water management districts to provide model Florida-Friendly Landscaping ordinances to local governments and each district to use materials developed by FDEP, UF/IFAS, and the Center for Landscape Conservation & Ecology/Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ Program, as well as coordinate with FDEP & UF/IFAS if revisions to the educational materials are needed. A local government ordinance, deed restriction or covenant may not prohibit any property owner from implementing FFL on his or her land. Additionally, local governments must use the standards and guidelines when developing landscape irrigation and Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ ordinances.

SB 494 requires that all commercial fertilizer applicators have an FDACS license by January 1, 2014. Passing the Green Industries Best Management Practices (GI-BMP) training is mandatory to obtain that license. FDEP, in cooperation with UF/IFAS, shall provide training and testing programs in urban landscape management practices and may issue certificates demonstrating satisfactory completion of the training. After receiving a certificate of completion, a person may apply to FDACS to receive a limited certification for urban landscape commercial fertilizer application. A person possessing such a certification is not subject to additional local testing. Beginning January 2014, any person applying fertilizer to an urban landscape must be certified. A limited certification expires 4 years after the date of issuance. Before applying for recertification, the applicant must complete 4 classroom hours of acceptable continuing education, of which at least 2 of those hours are fertilizer best management practices.

Be sure to watch for upcoming classes in your county.