Most people who look at Scott and Lisa Freeman’s yard probably assume it takes a lot of water to keep it so green and lush. They couldn’t be more wrong — this sub-tropical oasis requires nearly no water at all, thanks to its Florida-Friendly Landscaping.
The Freeman’s yard won the 2015 Water-Wise Award for single-family residence in Pinellas County. This annual award is co-sponsored by the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension and Tampa Bay Water.
This award goes to landscapes in the Tampa Bay area that use little water but are pleasing to the eye. UF/IFAS Extension Pinellas County staff will spend this coming summer visiting these landscapes to judge their water-wise design.
“The purpose of this program is primarily to promote water conservation and Florida-Friendly Landscaping principles,” said Brian Niemann, a UF/IFAS Extension Pinellas County agent and one of the landscape judges.
However, the program isn’t just aimed at residents. “The awards are presented in front of elected officials in the Tampa Bay Area, and this keeps the issue of water conservation and Florida-Friendly Landscaping in their minds,” Niemann added.
Water-wise landscapes are particularly important in densely developed regions such as the Tampa Bay area. More development means more landscaping, which, in turn, means more water usage, Niemann said. The program focuses on Pinellas, Pasco, and Hillsborough counties, but it could easily expand to other areas of Florida as well, he added.
Awards are given in several categories, including single-family homes, condos and apartments, commercial real estate, government property and schools, Niemann said. He and his colleagues assess basic landscape design — such as the use of mulch and grouping plants with similar watering needs — as well as how efficiently water is used in the landscape.
Scott Freeman has been designing and establishing his water-wise yard over the course of the last decade. Before that, his idea of a perfect yard was one with a big green lawn, but he eventually got tired of getting on his riding mower every week, and paying for fertilizer and irrigation. He decided to transform his yard into raised beds filled with native plants and connected by gravel walkways.
“I only use our sprinkler system during extreme drought — maybe six to eight times a year,” he said. “Our water bill is only 26 dollars a month.”
He likes both the savings and the way the yard looks. “The thing I’m most proud of about my yard is that it is so beautiful to look at and yet requires hardly any water,” he said. “I would absolutely recommend Florida- Friendly Landscaping to other people — sell the lawn mower!”
Residents can enter their landscapes until June 30 by going to http://tampabaywaterwise.org/. Awards are announced in the fall.
Photo courtesy of Tampa Bay Water