VERO BEACH - The Vero Beach City Council has approved a request from the city’s Tree and Beautification Commission to offer up to four annual awards honoring property owners for landscape projects. The goal is to recognize and encourage residential and commercial landscapes that “contribute to the beauty, livability, and enjoyment” of Vero Beach.

Among several criteria for consideration is that the landscaping use “Florida Friendly” and native vegetation wherever possible.

At its Dec. 15 meeting, the council unanimously approved the resolution. Councilmember Bob McCabe suggested that the city consider similar awards for the cleanup of the Indian River Lagoon.

The resolution authorizes the Tree and Beautification Commission to supervise the award process, and pay expenses from sponsorships and donations.

The commission was authorized to bestow up to two annual awards for existing residential and commercial landscaping, and two for newly renovated or constructed residential and commercial properties.

According to the resolution, "exterior improvements" include planting and/or decorating with trees, shrubs, flowers, fountains, rain gardens, butterfly gardens, art, sculpture, lighting, painting, and renovation projects using innovative construction methods. The use of "Florida Friendly" and native vegetation is strongly encouraged wherever possible.”

Florida-friendly landscaping, according to the UF/IFAS Center for Landscape Conservation and Ecology in Gainesville, means using low-maintenance plants and environmentally sustainable practices.

There are nine principles that the UF/IFAS lays out for a Florida-friendly yard.

1. Right Plant, Right Place

Select plants that match a site’s soil, light, water, and climatic conditions. Buy plants that welcome wildlife, and aim for a diversity of trees, shrubs, groundcovers, and flowers. Select plants that require little or no supplemental water, fertilizer, or pesticides. Help stop the spread of invasive plants by removing them from your yard.

2. Water Efficiently

After choosing plants that require less watering, group plants with similar water needs together, and zone your irrigation system appropriately.

3. Fertilize Appropriately

Fertilize according to UF/IFAS recommended rates and application timings. Never fertilize within 10 feet of any water body, and don’t fertilize before a heavy rain.

4. Mulch

Mulch helps retain soil moisture, protects plants, and inhibits weed growth. It is a Florida-friendly choice for hard-to-mow slopes and shady spots.

5. Attract Wildlife

Select plants with seeds, fruit, foliage, flowers, or berries that animals can eat. Leave dead trees, if they do not create a hazard, for birds to perch and nest in. Increase vertical layering to provide more cover and feeding for wild critters. Reduce insecticide to allow for animals and beneficial insects that eat pests and pollinate flowers.

6. Manage Yard Pests Responsibly

Manage pests with as few chemicals as possible. To prevent disease and insect outbreaks, select pest-resistant plants and put them in suitable locations.

7. Recycle Yard Waste

Mowing, pruning, and raking generate yard waste that you can recycle to save money. Decomposed organic matter, like pruned branches or grass clippings, releases nutrients back to the soil in a form that plants can easily use. Try composting.

8. Reduce Stormwater Runoff

Retain and use as much of the rainfall and irrigation water that lands on your home landscapes as possible.

9. Protect the Waterfront

Maintain a 10-foot “maintenance-free zone” around any body of water. Do not mow, fertilize, or use pesticides in this zone.

For more information about Florida-friendly landscaping, visit https://ffl.ifas.ufl.edu/.

For more information about the Vero Beach Tree and Beautification Commission, including information about these awards, visit www.covb.org/306/Tree-Beautification-Commission and click “View Most Recent Agendas and Minutes”.

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