GAINESVILLE — Florida-Friendly LandscapingTM (FFL) celebrates its 28th birthday this month, giving the state’s residents ways to install and maintain great yards — while preserving the environment.
Kicking off in February 1993 with a $75,000 grant from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP), UF/IFAS and FDEP partnered to form FFL.
“With that first grant — for a pilot project around Sarasota Bay called the Florida Yard Program — the FFL seed was sown, and it has since grown and evolved into the premier UF/IFAS Extension program for sustainable landscaping in Florida,” said Esen Momol, director of FFL.
“Our partnership with UF/IFAS has been truly beneficial to the citizens of Florida,” said FDEP grants manager Michael Scheinkman, who has been with the program from the start. “The program leverages the research power of UF/IFAS to continually improve science-based landscape design and plant selection practices for installing and maintaining resilient, aesthetically pleasing landscapes that require little, if any, irrigation, fertilizer or pesticides.”
Based on a core of nine principles, FFL promotes low-impact, sustainable, environmentally friendly landscapes that conserve water, reduce pollutant loading to Florida waters and protect Florida’s natural resources.
Since its modest start, FFL has grown into a comprehensive statewide program that is active in 51 of Florida’s 67 counties. It includes three major components:
• The Florida Yards & Neighborhoods (FYN) Program, which targets residential landscape audiences and youth education.
• The Florida-Friendly Communities (FFC) Program, which works with local governments, homeowners’ associations, property and community association managers, and the building/development industry.
• The Green Industries Best Management Practices (GI-BMP) Program, which provides legislatively mandated training to landscape professionals seeking the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Fertilizer Applicator license.
In addition, many local governments require landscape professionals to be GI-BMP certified to register their landscaping business.
County and municipal governments statewide often adopt FFL and incorporate it into local ordinances. Over time this adoption has come to play a significant role in protecting water quality by reducing landscape generated nitrogen loading to natural waters.
Here are some ways to measure the impact of FFL:
• As quantified through the FDEP Water Quality Restoration Program, the FFL program was credited in 2019 (the most recent reporting year) with reducing nitrogen loading in the measured drainage basins by 123,000 pounds per year, which is the same amount of nitrogen contained in 41,000 50-pound bags of 6-6-6 fertilizer.
• In addition, county-based FFL agents and Master Gardener Volunteers statewide conduct numerous workshops year-round that cover the FFL principles. During 2020, the workshops reached about 53,895 participants.
• Follow-up surveys indicated that over 92% of participants had positively changed their landscaping practices because of what they learned at the FFL workshop, Momol said.
• County-based home irrigation assessment programs use FFL recommendations to optimize homeowner’s irrigation water use. During 2020 these irrigation assessments are credited with conserving some 255,346,151 gallons of water, which is enough to supply 3,682 homes with water for an entire year.
• The FFL/GI-BMP training program was instituted in 2006 and, as of 2014, the Florida legislature has statutorily mandated the best management practices training it provides. Since 2006, the GI-BMP program has trained 67,705 landscape professionals – 3,002 in 2020 alone.
For more information about the Florida-Friendly LandscapingTM Program, visit https://ffl.ifas.ufl.edu/