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Water Conservation Tips for Landscapes

For many homeowners, watering is a way of life. Central Florida is experiencing a mild winter. During winter, the grass is not actively growing and does not need as much water as during the Spring/Summer growing season. Irrigating the lawn once per week during the winter should be adequate. In my neighborhood I am seeing some homeowners’ sprinklers running daily. The lawn does not need that much water. Overwatering leads to increased disease pressure and high-water bills. The following tips will help you to reduce the water use in the landscape:

  • Limit Turf Area– Irrigating the lawn always consumes the greatest volume of water in the landscape. Reduce the size of the lawn by installing drought tolerant plants.
  • Put Plants in the Right Plant– Only install plants that are assigned to our USDA zone. Kissimmee and St. Cloud are in USDA zone 9B. Plants that are established out of their assigned zone require additional resources such as water. In addition, plants vary; place sun-loving plants in full sun and shade-loving plants in shade. Plants that are in full sun require additional water and will appear stressed.
  • Irrigate Efficiently– Turf should be irrigated at most twice per week and not daily. Deep watering wetting the entire root zone is more efficient. Each week adjust your water use based on temperature and the amount of rainfall received. 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. A 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. Since mulch can be a safe harbor for insects and facilitate diseases, it is a good practice to keep mulch a few inches from the trunks of the trees.
  • Best Management Practices– Conduct heavy pruning during late winter. We do not recommend heavy pruning during the summer; it will encourage new plant growth and increased the demand for water. Overuse of fertilizer leads to increased growth and increases the need for water. Turf should not be mowed as frequently in winter; frequent mowing promotes new growth and therefore results in the increased need for water. Mow lawn at a taller level during time of stress such as drought, this reduces the growth rate and water requirement. For more information on water conservation and other topics related to agriculture and natural resources, contact Grantly Ricketts with UF/IFAS Extension at gricketts@ufl.edu or 321-697-3000.

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