Like to lie in the hammock? That – and other variables — will trigger how you fertilize, irrigate

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Some urban residents see their landscapes as havens for birds or pollinators. Some like the sheer beauty of a well-kempt lawn or a place to relax. Still others prefer the profit they might make from improving their lawn when they sell their home.

Urban residents value their lawns through their own prisms, and those values lead to a range of efficiency in how they irrigate and fertilize, a new University of Florida study shows.

For instance, homeowners who believe their landscapes offer habitat benefits are most likely to use water efficiently. Those who believe their landscapes offer monetary benefits are least likely to conserve water.

This means UF/IFAS Extension professionals can connect with residents’ personal values to improve water stewardship, said Laura Warner, a UF/IFAS assistant professor of agricultural education and communication and lead author of the study. The research also suggests homeowners should talk to each other more often about what they value in their landscapes. Those conversations may persuade them to use best practices in irrigation and fertilizing, Warner said.

“Behavior change is incredibly complex,” Warner said. “By viewing the home landscape as a complex system comprised of the values residents associate with this space, and the way they care for it, we can encourage proper irrigation and fertilizer practices.”

Warner and her colleagues found their results through a national online survey of 540 homeowners. Researchers asked respondents questions about:

  • Aesthetics: Is the lawn enjoyable to look at?
  • Environment: Does the lawn decrease erosion? Does it absorb pollutants?
  • Food: Is the lawn a source of food?
  • Habitat: Does the lawn attract desirable wildlife?
  • Health and comfort: Does the lawn reduce noise, or increase privacy?
  • Monetary: Does the lawn increase the property value or the home’s resale value?
  • Social: Does my lawn show my neighbors that I care?
  • Well-being: Is my lawn a place to relax?

Researchers also asked respondents to answer questions about how they irrigate and or fertilize. For instance, do they irrigate only when needed? Do they ensure any fertilizer spills are cleaned up?

Results showed those who believe their landscape offers environmental benefits are most likely to engage in good fertilization behaviors, while those who believe their landscape provides monetary benefits are least likely to engage in good fertilization behaviors.

The new study is published in the journal HortTechnology.

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By: Brad Buck, 352-294-3303, bradbuck@ufl.edu

The mission of the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences is to develop knowledge relevant to agricultural, human and natural resources and to make that knowledge available to sustain and enhance the quality of human life. With more than a dozen research facilities, 67 county Extension offices, and award-winning students and faculty in the UF College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, UF/IFAS works to bring science-based solutions to the state’s agricultural and natural resources industries, and all Florida residents. Visit the UF/IFAS web site at ifas.ufl.edu and follow us on social media at @UF_IFAS.

 

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