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Water Conservation Tips for the Landscape

We are in the part of the year when we do not receive much rainfall and for many homeowners, watering is a way of life. We are experiencing temperatures in the 80s which means without rainfall, the landscape requires supplemental irrigation. High temperature, high humidity and low rainfall time will result in drought stressed landscape. Homeowners often irrigate their lawns and gardens without being mindful of the limited water supply we have in Florida. Yes, limited in that we have almost 1000 people relocate to Florida daily with no increase in water in water supply. Irresponsible irrigation causes runoff which takes soil which contains pesticides and fertilizer and leads to water pollution. Extra irrigation also increases your water bill. The following tips will help you to reduce the water use in the landscape:

  • Limit Turf Area- Irrigating the lawn always consume the greatest volume of water in the landscape. Reduce the size of the lawn by installing drought tolerant plants.
  • Install Right Plants Right Place- Only install plants that are assigned to our USDA zone 9b. Plants that are planted out of their assigned zone require additional resources. In addition, plants have different sunlight requirements; place sun-loving plants in full sun and shade-loving plants in shade. For example, ferns planted in full sun requires additional water and will appear stressed.
  • Irrigate Efficiently- Turf should be irrigated not more than twice per week and not daily. Deep watering to wet the entire root zone is more efficient. Each week adjust your water use based on temperature and rainfall pattern. Frequent watering encourages plants to have shallow roots which subsequently leads to drought intolerant plants. To further reduce water loss to evaporation, irrigate plants in the cooler hours of the morning before 10 am. Drip irrigation system is more efficient for ornamental plants that are planted closely and organized while sprinklers are ideal for turf.
  • Mulch- Placing a layer of 2-3 inches of mulch is a very efficient way of conserving moisture around the plants. Mulching maintains a cool soil temperature and protects the roots from the heat of the summer sun. Mulch can be a safe harbor for insects and causes the tree trunk to stay wet which will encourage disease, so it is a good practice to keep mulch a few inches from the trunks of the trees.
  • Appropriate Maintenance- We do not recommend heavy pruning during the summer; it will encourage new plant growth and increase the demand for water. Overuse of fertilizer leads to increased growth and increased need for water. Turf should not be fertilized during time of drought. Fertilization increases the need for additional water and subsequently increase the need for mowing. Mow lawn at an increased level during drought; this reduce the growth rate and water requirement.

For more information on water conservation and other topics related horticulture topics, contact Grantly Ricketts at gricketts@ufl.edu or call 321-697-3000.

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