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OUTSTANDING River Friendly Yard Award kicks off!

OUTSTANDING River Friendly Yard Award kicks off! Bonnie Sinatro, winner of the 2018 River Friendly Yard Award in Jacksonville

Annually, St. Johns RIVERKEEPER, Florida Native Plant Society's local chapters, and other native plant experts 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.

WE'RE EXPANDING!
This year, we're excited to expand our River Friendly Yard Award contest and awareness campaign to incorporate Central Florida where our middle basin office is located in DeLand. We'll have two panels of judges: one in the Jacksonville area and the other in the DeLand and surrounding area.

There will be TWO lucky winners this year - a Northeast Florida and a Central Florida River Friendly Yard Award winner.

HOW TO ENTER

  1. Residents and businesses should meet most of the criteria based on the University of Florida's Florida Yards and Neighborhoods principles.
  2. Submit a photo and statement about the yard to kelly@stjohnsriverkeeper.org, or on social media (Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter) using the hashtag #SJRiverFriendlyYardAward. You may nominate yourself, a neighbor, family member, or business.

This contest is open to ALL. Even if you're unsure, but are working toward making your yard more River Friendly - we encourage you to submit your photos so we can learn your river story! 

PRIZES
Northeast Florida:

  • Winner of the contest will receive a $500 gift card and a complimentary landscape analysis with a native landscape expert, compliments of Earth Works Jacksonville.
  • OUTSTANDING RIVER FRIENDLY YARD signage for your home.
  • A recognition photo session with leaders from St. Johns Riverkeeper, Florida Native Plant Society Ixia Chapter, and other native plant experts;
  • Coverage in the local news and in St. Johns Riverkeeper social media and communications.

Central Florida:

  • Winner of the contest will receive a $150 gift card from DeBary Nursery, native plants from Twinflower Nursery, and complimentary landscape analysis with a native landscape expert.
  • OUTSTANDING RIVER FRIENDLY YARD signage for your home
  • A recognition photo session with leaders from St. Johns Riverkeeper, Florida Native Plant Society Paw Paw Chapter, Twinflower Nursery, and other native plant experts;
  • Coverage in the local news and in St. Johns Riverkeeper social media and communications.

DEADLINE AND JUDGING PROCESS
The contest launches March 1, 2019 with judging in late April - early June. The deadline to submit a photo and statement is Earth Day on April 22, 2019. Based on the information submitted, three finalists will be selected that best exemplify a commitment to native plants and River Friendly Yard practices. Our NEFL and Central FL committees will then visit the yards of the finalists and select a winner using the attached criteria. 

RIVER FRIENDLY YARD AWARD CRITERIA
River Friendly Yard Award recipients will meet most, if not all, of the following criteria based on the University of Florida's Florida Yards and Neighborhoods principles:

Right Plant, Right Place – your plant selection should match the yard’s soil, light, water, and climatic conditions to create a drought-tolerant, low-maintenance yard. Landscape your yard with drought-tolerant plants and groundcover, including at least 50% or more native plants. Avoid invasive plants. Here are two great websites to help you find the right plants for your yard – www.floridayards.org and www.fnps.org (Florida Native Plant Society).

Water Efficiently – Follow your local irrigation ordinance and only water as needed. If your home has an in-ground irrigation system, ensure it is as efficient as possible by utilizing water efficient components and individual plant needs. Inspect and repair the system in accordance to changing weather patterns.

Use Fertilizer and Chemicals Sparingly – or not at all. Only use slow-release fertilizers (50% or more of Nitrogen is slow-release or water-insoluble) with little or no phosphorous to minimize runoff into the river or leaching into the groundwater. Adopt Integrated Pest Management (IPM) techniques to spot-treat and minimize the use of toxic chemicals.

Use Mulch – Mulch retains moisture, slows runoff, and controls weeds. Don’t use Cypress for mulch as the harvesting of cypress for mulch destroys living trees and important habitat for wildlife. Recycle your yard waste and leaves by using as mulch and compost.

Attract Birds and Bees – Use native plants to provide valuable habitat for birds, pollinators, beneficial insects and other wildlife.

Protect Waterfront - Maintain a 10’ buffer next to waterways or directly adjacent to impervious surfaces where chemicals and fertilizers are not used. Also, use berms or swales when feasible. Point downspouts toward yard/garden and away from driveways and sidewalks. Use permeable materials when possible for walkways, paths and patios. All of these practices can help reduce runoff that can pollute our waterways.

Benefits of a River Friendly Yard include:

  • Reduces the exposure of people, pets and wildlife to harmful chemicals.
  • Reduces nutrient pollution and helps prevent algal blooms and fish kills.
  • Provides important habitat for wildlife.
  • Conserves water.
  • Creates beautiful yards, while saving time and money by reducing the need for water, fertilizers, chemicals, and mowing.

CLICK HERE for more information and tips about River Friendly landscaping practices.  

Questions? Please contact Outreach Director Kelly Thompson at (904) 256-7614 or kelly@stjohnsriverkeeper.org.

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