April is Water Conservation Month!
April is often very dry in terms of rainfall here is Central Florida. In an effort to help and encourage you to save water this month, below are some tips you can use to save water in the landscape.
Maintain Your Irrigation System
Many lawns and landscapes utilize this function to keep plants watered. There are several practices and tools to help conserve water while using a sprinkler system.
- Use an automatic rain shutoff device like a rain sensor or a soil moisture sensor, as required by Florida Statute 373.62 .
- Adjust your irrigation in the summer and skip a week in the winter to meet the seasonal watering needs of your landscape.
- Calibrate your irrigation system to deliver 1/2 to 3/4 inch irrigation per application. This can save water and keep your lawn healthy by not over- or under-watering.
Use Mulch Around Plants
Mulch has many benefits including suppressing weeds, increasing soil organic matter, reducing soil erosion, and helping retain soil moisture. A two to three inch layer of mulch will slow the evaporation of water and reduce the need for supplemental irrigation. Remember to use tree-based mulches like pine straw, pine bark, eucalyptus, melaleuca, fallen leaves, or utility mulch.
Choose Drought Tolerant Plants
Choosing drought tolerant plants makes saving water easy. Of course, they will need to be watered when first planted to become established, but after that, they can survive on rainfall alone. For a list of drought tolerant Florida-Friendly plants, check out The Florida Friendly Landscaping™ Guide to Plant Selection & Landscape Design and select from plants that have high drought tolerance.
Install a Rain Barrel
Rain barrels capture stormwater runoff from roofs that can be used to water ornamental plants. A typical one-inch summer rainstorm running over a 1,000 square foot roof can collect around 600 gallons of rainwater. With a typical rain barrel capacity of 50-60 gallons, you may need more than one to capture all of that rain!
Follow Watering Restrictions
These guidelines are set by the water management district (Southwest Florida Water Management District-SWFWMD for Polk County) and may be more restrictive through local water utilities. These restrictions are to help reduce water use and make sure its use is efficient. Often these watering restrictions prohibit watering during daytime hours to reduce water loss to evaporation during the day when temperatures are warmer and winds may be more of a factor. Additionally, the days of the week and number of days watering is allowed are limited. To find out your watering days and times, contact your water utility. Regardless of your irrigation water source, such as a well, lake, or pond, you must still follow local watering restrictions. Bonus tip: microirrigation is an efficient way to water landscape beds while saving water and is exempt from watering restrictions.
Reduce Areas of Turfgrass and Convert to Landscape Beds
Turfgrass is beneficial and can provide a place for recreation, but do you really need an entire yard of grass? By converting areas of turfgrass to landscape beds with perennials, shrubs, and trees and using microirrigation, you can save between 15,569–31,767 gallons/1,000 sq ft/ per year (Boyer and Dukes). Check out Steps for Converting a Traditional Development Landscape to a Florida-Friendly Landscape.
When thinking about saving water, we can do so both indoors and outdoors. Remember, we are all responsible for the health and conservation of our water resources!
More resources to help you conserve water both indoors and outdoors:
- Polk Regional Water Conservation (PRWC) Rebates
- The Florida Yards & Neighborhoods Handbook
- SWFWMD Indoor Water Saving Tips
- Saving Water Using Your Irrigation System, UF/IFAS Gardening Solutions
- A Better Lawn on Less Water, UF/IFAS Gardening Solutions
References: • Boyer, Mackenzie and Dukes, Michael. Estimated Water Savings Potential of Florida-Friendly Landscaping Activities. AE515. Gainesville: University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, 2015. https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/ae515. • “Capturing Water with Rain Barrels”. UF/IFAS Gardening Solutions. https://gardeningsolutions.ifas.ufl.edu/care/irrigation/rain-barrels.html.
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