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OUTSTANDING River Friendly Yard Award kicks off!

OUTSTANDING River Friendly Yard Award kicks off! Winner of the 2016 River Friendly Yard Award

Annually, St. Johns RIVERKEEPER and Florida Native Plant Society’s Ixia Chapter recognize individuals or businesses that have implemented River Friendly landscaping and maintenance practices to reduce their impact upon the health of the St. Johns River and our environment. Eligible candidates for the Outstanding River Friendly Yard Award help to protect our waterways by using low-maintenance native plants, preventing stormwater runoff, and minimizing the use of irrigation, fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides.

How To Enter
Duval County residents must meet criteria based on the University of Florida's Florida Yards and Neighborhoods principles, be a member of St. Johns Riverkeeper and/or Florida Native Plant Society, and submit a photo and statement about the yard to shannon@stjohnsriverkeeper.org, or on social media (Facebook or Instagram) via #riverfriendlyyardaward. You may nominate yourself, a neighbor, family member, or business.

Winner of the contest will receive a $100 gift card and a complimentary landscape analysis with a native landscape expert, compliments of Native and Uncommon Plants. Winners also receive OUTSTANDING RIVER FRINEDLY YARD signage for your home, a recognition photo session with leaders from St. Johns Riverkeeper and Florida Native Plant Society, and potential coverage on the local news.

Deadline and Judging Process
The contest launches March 1, 2018 with judging in late April - early June. The deadline to submit a photo and statement is April 22: Earth Day. Based on the information submitted, three finalists will be selected that best exemplify a commitment to native plants and River Friendly Yard practices. A committee composed of representatives from St. Johns Riverkeeper, Florida Native Plant Society – Ixia Chapter, and Duval IFAS Extension office will then visit the yards of the finalists and select a winner using the attached criteria. 

River Friendly Yard Award recipients will meet most, if not all, of the following criteria:

  • Homeowner uses fertilizer and chemicals sparingly or not at all, waters only as needed, and is tolerant of some weeds and pests.
  • Landscaped area is maintained and attractive (does not contain excessive or overgrown weeds).
  • Landscaped area utilizes drought-tolerant, low-maintenance plant material and groundcover, preferably including 50% or more native plants.
  • Yard does not include invasive plants.
  • If home has an in-ground irrigation system, it is designed to be as efficient as possible, by utilizing water efficient components and strategies (e.g. drip or micro irrigation, soil moisture sensors, rain barrels) based on the type of plants and their individual needs. Homeowner frequently inspects, repairs, and calibrates the system and adjusts timer in accordance to changing weather patterns. 
  • Landscaping and maintenance practices are consistent with University of Florida’s Florida Yards and Neighborhoods principles:
  • Right Plant, Right Place – The plant selection matches the yard’s soil, light, water, and climatic conditions to create a drought-tolerant, low-maintenance yard.
  • Water Efficiently – Follows local irrigation ordinance and only waters as needed. Uses mulch and mows properly to increase plant health and drought tolerance.
  • Fertilize Appropriately - Sparingly uses slow-release fertilizers with little or no phosphorous, and only as needed to minimize runoff into the river or leaching into the groundwater.
  • Mulch – Uses mulch to retain moisture, slow runoff, and control weeds. Does not use cypress mulch. The harvesting of cypress for mulch destroys living trees and important habitat for wildlife.
  • Attract Wildlife – Uses native plants to provide valuable habitat for wildlife.
  • Manage Yard Pests Responsibly – Uses Integrated Pest Management (IPM) techniques to spot-treat and minimize the use of toxic chemicals.
  • Recycle Yard Waste – Leaves clippings on lawn and composts.
  • Reduce Stormwater Runoff - Uses berms or swales, when feasible. Downspouts are pointed toward yard/garden and away from driveways and sidewalks. Permeable materials are used when possible for walkways, paths, etc.
  • Protect the Waterfront - Maintains a 10’ buffer adjacent to any waterway where chemicals and fertilizers are not used to minimize runoff. Is careful to keep chemicals and fertilizers away from impervious surfaces (roads, driveways, sidewalks) to avoid entering storm drains. Storm drains eventually lead to the river, meaning we all essentially live on waterfront property.


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