Landscaping techniques that help keep Sarasota bays clean and healthy

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The tidal lagoon at Selby Gardens is an oasis of nature in downtown Sarasota. The installation of the lagoon began in 1997 with the removal of a grass lawn that extended from the mansion down to Sarasota Bay. After the excavation of the lagoon, native plant species were added creating several habitats ranging from brackish marsh to upland hammock.

This restoration project addressed the need to re-establish coastal habitats along the Sarasota bayfront as well as to provide a stormwater retention function. The lagoon intercepts and filters polluted stormwater runoff, allowing it to percolate through vegetation and sediment before flowing into the bay.

Nitrogen in lawn fertilizer is one source of water pollution. You too can help protect our water bodies from pollutants by using only slow-release fertilizer, following package directions, and never fertilizing before a heavy rain.

According to Rob Wright, coordinator for Sarasota County’s Neighborhood Environmental Stewardship Team (NEST) program, there are three simple rules that homeowners can put into practice in their own backyards to keep Sarasota County’s coastal waters pollution-free:

1) Plant more Florida native and Florida-friendly plants. Not only are these plants beautiful and easy to care for, but they are drought-resistant so they use less of our precious water resources and they need little-to-no additional pesticides or fertilization which eventually winds up in our regional waters due to stormwater runoff.

2) Consider replacing sod by adding more trees – again, these are less maintenance-dependent AND they add shade as well as valuable wildlife habitat.

3) During summer months, cut grass a little taller than usual. This helps the lawn develop deeper root systems, which in turn, makes the grass draw the nutrients it needs from the soil rather than being reliant on people feeding the plant from above. The less chemical a homeowner adds to their lawn, the less of it winds up in the bay.

In celebration of Florida’s fantastic flora, guests to Selby Gardens will enjoy enhanced displays of Florida native plants in and around Selby Garden’s tidal lagoon beginning this fall. The lagoon area, located on the north end of the property directly behind the Christy Payne Mansion is an intriguing environment of marsh and hammock habitats. Thanks to financial support from Sarasota Bay Estuary Program, visitors will glean new insights into a habitat that is rich with diversity and purpose.

These Florida native plants are specially adapted to living in or near the coastline in order to provide critical habitat for wildlife. The enhancements provided by the SBEP grant will also make this area a practical demonstration center where homeowners can pick up practical tips and guidance for how to use Florida native plants in their own landscapes.

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