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Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ – Water efficiently

I’ve often heard people say, “It’s Florida. You can’t water too much.” Don’t believe it. Overwatering is a frequent problem here, one that leads to unwanted weeds and pests, wasted resources, and higher-than-necessary water bills.

“Water Efficiently” is one of the nine principles in the Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ approach. It aligns closely to the “Right Plant, Right Place” principle, which encourages using plants suited to your specific landscape and, as a result, reduces water use.

And, in my role, I often see the need to reduce water use.

Array of Florida-Friendly plants used to landscape home

In this file photo from 2007, Janet Bargar, an agent with the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, checks the water flow and direction of a pop-up irrigation system at a home in Vero Beach. Bargar, a water quality expert, suggests residents check with their county extension office about local watering restrictions. [CREDIT: UF/IFAS Extension]

I conduct irrigation evaluations for Sarasota County residents on in-ground irrigation systems, one of the services provided free of charge by UF/IFAS Extension offices in each Florida county. I check for leaks and clogs, broken or damaged heads, calibrate the application rate, check for uniformity, find dry and wet areas, show you tricks for setting the timeclock, and teach you seasonal variations.One of the most frequent problems I encounter is – you guessed it – overwatering. That excess watering leads to soggy ground, which in turn promotes the growth of dollarweed and other weeds that only grow in wet areas. It also creates detrimental conditions for plants that may be stressed for other reasons.

Nine Principles of Florida-Friendly Landscaping™


Right Plant, Right Place – Enjoy healthier plants and reduce work by using plants suited to your landscape conditions

Water Efficiently – Reduce water bills, pest problems, and maintenance needs

Fertilize Appropriately – Prevent pollution and maximize plant health
Mulch – Keep moisture in the soil, help control weeds, and reduce stormwater runoff
Attract Wildlife – Bring your yard to life by providing water, food, and shelter for birds, butterflies, and other creatures
Manage Yard Pests Responsibly – Create an effective defense against pests while minimizing your impact on the environment
Recycle Yard Waste – Re-use your yard waste to save money and enrich your soil
Reduce Stormwater Runoff – Filter rain through your landscape to protect waterways and replenish the aquifer
Protect the Waterfront – Help preserve Florida’s waterways, plants, and wildlife

These issues can be avoided with simple changes in irrigation practices. Start by watering only when needed, not just because it is your permitted day. Install a rain sensor – required by law – so your irrigation system doesn’t turn on when there is adequate rain. Make sure the water spray hits targeted areas, and isn’t aimed incorrectly, blocked by foliage, structures, or a damaged sprinkler head. And water longer, when possible, so that moisture reaches deeper into the soil and encourages roots to grow deeper.

If incentive doesn’t motivate, consider the flip side.

Sarasota County follows water restriction guidelines from the Southwest Florida Water Management District, with the County Commission setting allowable irrigation days. Some city governments also have their own restrictions and guidelines. It’s up to you, the homeowner, to know and follow these restrictions or face possible fines.

So, what’s your takeaway from this? That’s easy.

Remember that excess water in a landscape causes as many or more problems as not enough water. Overwatering depletes the limited water resources and contributes to pest and disease problems, especially in turf. In short, you simply pay more for no benefits when you overwater.

You can have a healthy, thriving landscape by throttling back on the water. Just “Water Efficiently,” and reap the benefits.

Our “Florida Yards and Neighborhoods Handbook” gives you more about the Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ approach. And if you need further help, call us at 941-861-9900, email sarasota@ifas.ufl.edu, or stop by our office at Twin Lakes Park, 6700 Clark Road, Sarasota.


Wilma Holley is the Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ Program specialist for Sarasota County UF/IFAS Extension and Sustainability. She has worked for UF/IFAS Extension for more than a decade, and previously worked in nurseries and other landscaping-related operations. Contact her at wholley@scgov.net or 941-861-9900.

Contact your local Extension office to learn more:

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