The 2020 Community Water Wise Awards are now open to residents.

Does your landscape have what it takes to win? Enter today to find out!

The 2020 Community Water Wise Awards, sponsored by Tampa Bay Water, were created to recognize individuals and businesses committed to conserving our water resources and protecting the environment by using Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ (FFL) principles.

There are nine FFL principles, which include: right plant-right place, water efficiently, fertilize appropriately, mulch, attract wildlife, manage yard pests responsibly, recycle, reduce stormwater runoff and protect the waterfront. Many of these principles are used as part of the landscape evaluation process for this award program.

The retention of existing trees and vegetation is evaluated, as are landscape design, utilization of mulch and plant selection. Stormwater runoff prevention and efficient irrigation techniques are reviewed, including the use of rain gardens, rainwater harvesting and functioning rain sensor devices. Winning landscapes balance attractive designs with plants, landscape elements and water efficient irrigation techniques that have a positive impact on our environment.

You can view photographs of past winners at http://tampabaywaterwise.org and watch a short video which includes several of them. The deadline for entries is Tuesday, June 30, so you can complete an application now, submit it and get a head start on the 2020 contest!

It takes approximately 10 minutes to complete the application and submit online at the link mentioned above. Attaching a photo or two is helpful. On-site landscape evaluations will be scheduled and conducted in June, July and August with homeowners and business owners present.

Winning entries will receive a handmade mosaic stepping stone for homeowners or a plaque option for businesses. If you have questions regarding the Community Water Wise Award program, please contact me at 744-5519, ext. 54105.

This is a great time to get outside, go for a walk, get the bicycle out of the garage and enjoy nature. If you need a garden stroll, we feature the Bette S. Walker Discovery Garden in our courtyard, a perennial garden, Girl Scout-created native plant garden and a Garden Goodies area.

For more information about the nine principles of the Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ Program and for assistance with gardening-related questions, contact the UF/IFAS Extension in Hillsborough County at 744-5519 and visit http://sfyl.ifas.ufl.edu/hillsborough/upcoming-events/ for upcoming workshops.