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Frequently Asked Questions 


Special FAQ Document - Revised January 2011
Florida-Friendly FAQs
for FDEP, FDACS, and UF-IFAS on
2009 Legislative Bills SB494 and SB2080

What is Nonpoint Source Pollution?

Nonpoint source (NPS) pollution, unlike pollution from industrial and sewage treatment plants, comes from many diffuse sources. NPS pollution occurs when rainfall, snowmelt, or irrigation runs over land or through the ground, picks up pollutants throughout the watershed, and deposits them into rivers, lakes, and coastal waters or introduces them into ground water. Imagine the path taken by a drop of rain from the time it hits the ground to when it reaches a river, ground water, or the ocean. Any pollutant it picks up on its journey can become part of the NPS problem. NPS pollution also includes adverse changes to the vegetation, shape, and flow of streams and other aquatic systems.

NPS pollution is widespread because it can occur any time activities disturb the land or water. Septic systems, urban runoff, construction, recreational boating, agriculture, forestry, grazing, physical changes to stream channels, and habitat degradation are all potential sources of NPS pollution. Careless or uninformed household management also contributes to NPS pollution problems.

For pointers on how you can help prevent NPS pollution, see the NPS Pointers Fact Sheet

What is the 319 program?

Congress amended the Clean Water Act (CWA) in 1987 to establish the section 319 Nonpoint Source Management Program because it recognized the need for greater federal leadership to help focus State and local nonpoint source efforts. Under section 319, State, Territories, and Indian Tribes receive grant money which support a wide variety of activities including technical assistance, financial assistance, education, training, technology transfer, demonstration projects, and monitoring to assess the success of specific nonpoint source implementation projects.

In Florida, the program is administered by the Nonpoint Source Management section of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.

FAQ for Florida Friendly Landscapes, FYN, Golf BMPs, Green Industry
 BMP, Design Standards, and Model Ordinances.

What is Florida Friendly?

A. In plain language, Florida Friendly describes practices, materials, or actions that help to preserve Florida’s natural resources and protect the environment. All are based on the nine principles: Right Plant, Right Place; Efficient Watering; Appropriate Fertilization; Mulching; Attraction of Wildlife; Responsible Management of Yard Pests; Recycling Yard Waste; Reduction of Stormwater Runoff, and Waterfront Protection.  These practices promote the prevention of nonpoint source pollution of surface and ground waters, water conservation, and species diversity within the Florida landscape. 

What is the DEP Nonpoint Source Management section and where does it fit?

The Nonpoint Source Management section (NPSM) administers Section 319 of the federal Clean Water Act, which addresses state Nonpoint Source Management Programs.  In addition to administering federal grant funds, the section develops best management practices and other educational materials and promotes educational outreach throughout the state to all levels.   The section’s scientific and engineering staff does some of this. Our partners, such as the University of Florida’s Center for Landscape Conservation and Ecology, carry out other parts, often with grant funding and technical assistance from the section.

How does the Florida Yards and Neighborhoods (FYN) Program fit in with the Golf and Green Industry BMPs, model ordinances, and the Florida Friendly program.

 All Florida Friendly programs are consistent in their message and scientific recommendations.  DEP provides funding through USEPA 319 Grants as a part of Florida’s core nonpoint source management program.  Academic oversight is through the UF/IFAS Center for Landscape Conservation and Ecology in Gainesville. 

  • The Landscape Irrigation and Florida Friendly Design Standards were published in December, 2006 by DEP in accordance with directives in 373.228 Florida Statutes.  By law, any local government adopting an ordinance addressing these issues must use these standards.

  • The FYN homeowner program is written for the average homeowner with no academic or professional horticultural training. A new edition is being published by UF/IFAS in 2008.

  • The FYN Builder-developer program is an outreach effort to change the way subdivisions and homes are landscaped when they are originally designed and built.

  • The Green Industries manual and the associated training program is written for the worker in the lawn/landscape industry who may work with equipment, chemicals or formulations not readily available to the homeowner, and who works under the supervision of, or is themselves, an experienced, horticulturally trained professional.  It was published in June 2002 by DEP, and is being revised for 2008.

  • The golf course manual is comprehensive and covers all the environmental aspects of golf course design and operation.  It was published in January 2007 by DEP.

  • The model ordinances are drafted to provide sound guidance to community planners and elected officials who may be considering an ordinance for their community.  Because the service areas of stores, nurseries, and landscape related businesses transcend political boundaries, consistent, science-based regulations are necessary to avoid a hodgepodge of confusion on the part of all concerned. 

Are Home Owners Associations (HOAs) able to prevent people from removing their lawns?

The law (373.185 F.S. and other chapters) does not invalidate architectural control committees or landscaping committees. It merely states that covenants, restrictions, and ordinances may not prohibit Florida-Friendly Landscaping practices.

  • US Supreme Court: Police powers of the States to protect public health and welfare may trump private contracts.
  • Does not invalidate Landscape Committees or Architectural Control Committees – It does apply reasonable limits.
  • Does prohibit mandates that require:
    • water-wasting practices such as overwatering of plants or inappropriate site design;
    • inappropriate placement of plants such that regular irrigation is required to keep the plants healthy or  prohibitions on attractive, well suited plants in the landscape in favor of other plants that are less well suited to the site (wrong plant, wrong place);
    • excessive or improper fertilization;
    • excessive use of pesticides.
  • Does prohibit any watering mandates that are in violation of Water Management District water use restrictions.
    • Does forbid prohibitions on
    • reasonable and appropriate use of mulch, 
    • plants attractive to wildlife such as butterfly or hummingbird gardens or other non-nuisance wildlife,
    • swales or rain gardens, waterfront buffers or other protective practices,
    • composting bins or rain barrels, etc.,
  • However, it does not prohibit reasonable limits such as to be well maintained or limited to a backyard, side area or screened, where feasible.
How can HOAs learn about Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ principles that will fit in with their desired lifestyles?
You may hire a landscape architect with experience in this area, or you may contact the local Cooperative Extension Service /a>office and ask for the Florida Yards and Neighborhoods agent, or the Master Gardener supervisor. You may be able to arrange a presentation to your association’s architectural control committee detailing the appropriate styles of Florida-friendly yards that would work well in your neighborhood. The Florida-Friendly Landscaping web site is at http://fyn.ifas.ufl.edu/index.html.”
Are model Covenants available?
Model Florida-Friendly Covenants are available in “Florida Friendly Guidance Models for Ordinances, Covenants, and Restrictions” available from DEP at the NonPoint Source Management Publications page.

What is the history of the program?

The FYN program began in the early 1990’s in the Sarasota/Tampa Bay areas.  It began as a totally voluntary educational effort under the auspices of the National Estuary Program, and focused on very low input landscapes.  In 1994 the DEP NPSM Section began funding UF/IFAS to expand the program to more counties, and eventually statewide, although not all counties have continued with the program after grant funding for startup expired.  As of 2008, approximately 44 of 68 Florida counties offer at least some FYN programming.   Several of the Water Management Districts and other partners provide support for the county programs, but the statewide office located in Gainesville is primarily run by UF/IFAS with funding assistance from NPSM section 319 grants.

The Golf BMPs began in 1994 to address pesticide and hazardous material contamination and were printed in 1995.  As a BMP manual, it was limited to the subject of pollution prevention in the maintenance shop area.  In 2007, FDEP published Best Management Practices for Enhancement of Environmental Quality on Florida Golf Courses, a 136 page manual on design, operation, and maintenance. 

The FYN program that was started for the Indian River Lagoon area in the mid-1990s had a special emphasis on Commercial Landscape Industry Professionals.  Also known as the CLIP program, this project attempted to broaden the Florida Friendly audience beyond homeowners in order to influence landscape management practices on a larger scale.  The pilot program was a success but the concept languished for several years until 2000, when various professional landscape maintenance groups and others approached the DEP under the umbrella of “Green Industries” to write a BMP manual for lawn and landscape maintenance statewide under the authority of urban BMP provisions of the Florida Watershed Restoration Act (403.067F.S.).  This was a watershed event in the evolution of the Florida Friendly program. 

At an early organizational meeting in Orlando, it was decided that one document could not cover all audiences, and that at least three would be required.  These would be: (1) for the landscape professional, who often uses different equipment and chemicals than the homeowner, is horticulturally knowledgeable (or should be) and has responsibilities as a licensed business entity; (2) for the homeowner, who may have little or no horticultural training and may be from another climate where practices and plant species are very different;  and (3) for golf courses, and possibly athletic fields, which are too specialized to be addressed in either of the others and where the management is almost always by degreed horticultural professionals. 

Subsequently, it was decided that the FYN Handbook would become the homeowner BMP manual for all Florida yards, but that it would have to become more inclusive in that all types of yards, not just very low impact yards, would have to be addressed in the book.  The focus of the FYN program continues to be minimizing environmental impact, but the audience now includes those desiring high-end landscapes and typical suburban landscapes. Whatever type of landscape you have, or choose in the future; the FYN Handbook will guide you in maintaining it in the most environmentally responsible manner.

The Green Industries manual is focused on the professional, with detailed discussions of fertilizer chemistry, irrigation systems, pesticide licensing, storage, selection, and handling, landscape design and installation, etc.  It should be noted that the Green Industries manual and the FYN handbook are consistent in their recommendations of irrigation and fertilizer application rates, only the level of detail is different and customized to the audience.  In 2008, the manual was revised to reflect new laws, rules, and research.  The title, "Florida-Friendly Best Management Practices for Protection of Water Resources by the Green Industries", was revised to reflect incorporation into the formal Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ program

Why do the Green Industry BMPs allow as little as 3 feet of buffer for fertilizer application? Some think 10, 15, or even 50 feet is more appropriate.

The “Ring of Responsibility” for fertilizer applicators is not based on the attenuation of landscape pollution, like a filter strip or riparian buffer. Rather, it is to prevent the applicator directly applying fertilizer to water bodies when operating near a bank or shoreline.  A rotary broadcast fertilizer spreader can throw a particle about 5 to7 feet out to the side.  Professional spreaders, and some homeowner types, have a deflector shield that can be set to block off one side, providing a knife-like edge to the fertilizer pattern.  Three feet was considered by the BMP committee to be a minimum margin of safety to avoid deposition in the water.  This is expanded to 10 feet if a deflector shield is not used because a 7-foot throw would still be 3 feet from the edge.  Since many homes in South Florida have 30 feet or less of back yard facing a canal, this can be very limiting./p>

Larger buffers to address pollutant attenuation are strongly encouraged, but they are not considered the responsibility of a landscape worker, who is paid to care for a homeowner’s lawn that is allowed by local laws to extend to the water’s edge.  Rather, the responsibility for these buffers lies within the land development code, which may contain riparian buffer requirements of 15 to 150 feet from the edge of the water, depending on soil types, slope, pollution threat, and other factors.  Unfortunately, many land development codes do not have any buffer requirements and allow lawns or developed landscapes to extend to the water’s edge.

Q. Why do the Florida Friendly guidelines say to apply only ½ lb. /1000ft2 of quick release fertilizer, but the state fertilizer rule allows 0.7 lb./1000ft2?

As of early 2009,

  • The 2002 BMP manual recommended a maximum application of 0.5 lb.N/1000ft2 as quick-release nitrogen. 

  • Up to 1 lb/1000ft2  total N was permitted if using at least 30% slow release fertilizer.

  • However, if 1.0 lb/1000ft2  total nitrogen is applied using a 30% slow release product, the actual amount of quick-release N is 0.7 lb/1000ft2

This trade-off was negotiated in 2001 while developing the Green Industries BMP manual, in order to promote the use of slow-release products. By law, BMPs must be feasible. At the time, most of the products available were 30%-50% slow release. On the other hand, the label rule is a legal limit. The 0.7 limit in the rule allows the manufacturer to recommend 1.0 lb/1000ft2 of materials with as little as 30% in slow release form.

Q. What is the purpose of the 6 foot no-mow zone in the 2003 model ordinance?

When putting together the original “strawman” ordinance for the working group, many ordinances and clauses were gathered from all around the nation.  Unfortunately, DEP staff has never found the original source again.  The oldest version we found also prohibited mowed grass on greater than 4:1 slopes, and it is thought to have been a mowing safety issue to prevent tipping of mower and operator into the water.  It seemed like a good setback at the time to act as a “trash catcher”, and nobody on the working group spoke up to change it or take it out.

Q. Why are the professional manuals less enthusiastic about promoting slow release fertilizer as compared to the FYN homeowner manual?

Slow release is more forgiving of error in application, but also more expensive.  To an individual, this increased cost is minor, but to a large company it can mean tens of thousands of dollars.  By law, BMPs must be economically and technically feasible.  The ½ lb-N/1000ft2 limit on quick release application in the BMP ensures that large amounts are not applied at one time, which might pose a serious leaching or runoff hazard. There are times when a shot of quick release is just the thing, such as recovering from pest damage or wear injury.  In general, the quick vs. slow release decision is left to the professional judgment of the trained applicator.  DEP underwrites and strongly promotes the BMP training program to help professionals make the best possible decisions.

Q. What is IPM? (Integrated Pest Management)

Integrated Pest Management, or IPM, is the practice of using ALL of the tools available to reduce pest populations below an economically viable threshold. IPM uses cultural practices such as varying planting times or irrigation practices, crop rotation, and interplanting with plants that are naturally repellent to the pests. It also requires cultivation of an environment friendly to beneficial organisms such as the pest's natural enemies, like parasitic wasps, ladybugs, and birds. It includes the use of disease and insect resistant varieties of crops, and the use of scouting before using any active method of pest control. Chemical pesticides may be used in IPM, but only as really needed to keep pest populations below the economic threshold, and only after scouting to actually determine pest populations and their stage of growth. IPM requires meticulous record keeping to determine the effectiveness of each practice for future decision making.

Contact your local County Extension Agent or independent crop consultant for more information on IPM for your needs.

Q. Are golf courses a serious threat to our environment?

Golf courses are often singled out because they are seen as large users of pesticides and fertilizer, and large consumers of water for irrigation. This may or may not be true, depending on the management of the golf course. While any human development will have some impact on the environment, steps can be taken to minimize the adverse impact. Some golf courses have gone so far as to become urban wildlife sanctuaries.

In the last several years many golf courses have dramatically reduced their use of pesticides through the use of sophisticated IPM programs. Use of fertilizers has also been reduced at most golf courses. Agrichemicals, especially pesticides, are very expensive, and savings in this area directly impact the maintenance budget of the golf course. Many golf courses use no water other than the rain, which collects in the lakes on the course, and others use only reclaimed water from municipal water reuse facilities.

The homes surrounding the golf courses may be a greater environmental hazard. Homeowners are often unaware of urban IPM or even the basic safe practices to be followed when using fertilizers and pesticides at home. The result is often improper and excessive use of these chemicals at rates far higher than used on the golf course itself. Contact a Master Gardener with your County Cooperative Extension Service for more help in this area. ALWAYS READ AND FOLLOW THE LABEL INSTRUCTIONS ON PESTICIDES.

In 2007, FDEP published Best Management Practices for Enhancement of Environmental Quality on Florida Golf Courses, a 136 page manual on design, operation, and maintenance.  Some of the best environmental management programs available are the Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program For Golf Courses and the Audubon Signature Program. These are voluntary programs developed by the Audubon International in cooperation with the United States Golf Association.

Q. Are similar Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Programs available to schools, businesses, or homeowners?

Yes, Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Programs are available for schools, businesses, and homeowners. 

Q. What are cattle dipping vats?

Cattle dipping vats are concrete lined pits in the earth, about 3 or 4 feet wide, 5 feet deep, and 25 feet long. One end has a sharp drop into the pit, the other end is gently sloped so that the cattle could walk out. From about 1906 to 1961, about 3,500 of these vats were built and filled with strong solutions of arsenic, or later, synthetic pesticides such as DDT and toxaphene. Most of the vats were required to be built by state law in an attempt to eradicate the cattle fever tick, and so release the state from a federal quarantine. State officials supervised the construction and paid for the vats and the chemicals used in them.

In 1994, the Legislature acknowledged this and released landowners from the environmental liability associated with owning a vat. If you have a vat on your property, or know of one nearby, call your FDEP district office or the FDEP Bureau of Waste Cleanup in Tallahassee at (850) 245-8927.

Dipping vats may be a serious environmental hazard to people living or working nearby. The arsenic and other pesticides may have contaminated the ground water and the soils around the vats, and may put your family at risk. 

Cattle Dipping Vats known to exist in Florida, by County.

Nonpoint Source Management Program
Division of Water Restoration Assistance
3900 Commonwealth Blvd MS 3570
Douglas Building
Tallahassee, FL 32399-3000



Last updated: August 06, 2015

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