April is Water Conservation Month!

April is Water Conservation Month. We all know how important water is for our gardens and lawns here in Central Florida. Now that warmer weather is approaching, we tend to use more water, especially from our sprinkler systems. Lets talk about the balance of keeping our plants healthy and using water wisely, since drought conditions in Florida are common. 

What that Means for the Home Gardener

For those of us who love gardening at home or taking care of our lawns, it’s essential to pay attention to how we water and the water requirements of the plant. We don’t want to waste water or harm our plants by giving them too much water. We need to be water wise (pun intended). It is important to remember that plants are seasonal. Is your plant actively growing? If it’s not, chances are it doesn’t need as much water.

Watering by how the plant looks and how the soil feels will lead to a much healthier garden in the long run, with less guessing. Following a routine watering schedule, regardless of the plant’s condition, can lead to over-watering and water waste. To water wisely, stay updated on the weather conditions and apply that to how it will affect the need for watering. Not only can this lower your monthly bill, but it will help reduce pest and disease problems in your garden. You can read more about Water Efficiently from our Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ Program

And remember, the rules about when and how to water your lawn can vary depending on where you live. So, it’s a good idea to check with your local government or water company to find out what’s allowed in your area. Read more about water restrictions here.

Gardening in Florida

In Florida, understanding water’s importance is crucial for all gardeners. Our state’s hot weather means plants need more water. To support your garden, you can take simple steps to beat the heat and conserve water.

  • One good practice is to use mulch. Mulch locks moisture and regulates the temperature of the soil. To add mulch to your garden, spread 2 to 3 inches of plant-based mulch around your plants, ensuring it doesn’t touch their stems or trunks. This will also help reduce weed growth.
  • Another way to reduce water use is to hold off on pruning until after the rainy season starts. Pruning encourages plants to grow, which means they will demand more water.
  • The same concept applies to fertilizing. Hold the fertilizer until regular rains return. Applying fertilizer will encourage plant growth, which means it will require more water.
  • Remove any struggling plants and weeds to save resources. These practices help maintain a healthy garden while conserving water and promoting plant growth.

A Friendly Reminder

We all want that vibrant green lawn, but managing turf in Central Florida involves understanding the type of turf you have in your landscape. The common types are St. Augustine (‘Floratam”), Bermuda, and Zoysia, and each have distinct care needs. St. Augustine needs at least 6 hours of sun and requires watering during times of drought (usually spring, and then again fall). Bermuda prefers full sun and is drought resistant, so it requires little supplemental water. Zoysia adapts to various conditions and requires watering during times of drought.

When you see a patch of yellow in your lawn, don’t assume its water related. Excess watering isn’t the solution. It can lead to shallow root systems and disease. Instead, try to determine what the problem is, call your local extension office for help. Focus on proper watering schedules, soil testing, and adjusting mowing heights. Efficient water management, tailored to each turf type’s requirements, ensures lush, healthy lawns in Central Florida’s climate.

Be mindful of your water use. When you over water, or water improperly, not only do you damage your beloved plants, but that fertilizer you just purchased will run off with the water and pollute the environment instead. Here are Ten Ways to Save Water.
Janet Bargar 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. She says the ideal time to water is before sunrise and that residents should check irrigation systems regularly to be sure they’re working properly and not watering the sidewalk.

Water Awareness in Florida

We as gardeners can do our part in conserving water. We can also establish cultural practices that serve to support our garden and the environment. Please make sure to follow directions and labels on any supplemental resources you use in your garden. Always follow Best Management Practices(BMPs) guidelines to reduce pollution of Florida’s waters. You can read more about BMPs here.

Nutrients from lawns and other sources can seep into our ground and surface water. This poses a threat to our water quality and the environment.  It is also financially wasteful. When you over-water, or water improperly, the very nutrients (fertilizer) you just purchased will run off with the water into the environment and pollute the water. By conserving water and reducing pollution, we can protect Florida’s beauty and ensure a healthy future for our gardens and landscapes.

Tips for the Floridian Gardner

To be water-wise in Florida, follow these guidelines:

  • Choose native and drought-tolerant non-invasive exotic plants that thrive in our climate and soil without needing lots of supplemental watering once they are established.
  • Use plant-based mulch to retain moisture and prevent evaporation.
  • Irrigate efficiently by watering early in the morning or late at night to reduce evaporation.
  • Use a rain gauge to measure rainfall. Turn off irrigation systems when adequate rainfall has occurred, this will avoid overwatering.
  • Check your irrigation system at least quarterly, look for leaks, misdirected sprinklers, broken or missing heads etc.
  • Fix leaks both inside and outside promptly, to prevent water waste.
  • Consider installing a smart irrigation system that adjusts watering based on weather conditions.
  • Minimize turfgrass areas and replace them with low-maintenance alternatives.

Summary

By being mindful of how we use water in our gardens and on our lawns, we can help conserve our precious resource, while keeping our plants happy and healthy. Think of the big picture. Promoting conservation, efficiency, and responsible practices ensure clean water availability. Have a hand in protecting Florida’s environment for future generations.

For more information about water use and conservation in Florida, see Water Resources.

Stay tuned as we breakdown the types of irrigation. Read our other blogs for more tips and tricks on maintaining a home garden!

Supervising Agent: Dr. Whitney Elmore County Extension Director, Urban Horticulture Agent, and Master Gardener Coordinator

Have a question?

If you have any questions about gardening in Central Florida, please contact the UF/IFAS Extension Pasco County at 352-518-0156. For more information on UF/IFAS Extension Pasco County Community Gardens, and how you can join one, visit http://sfyl.ifas.ufl.edu/pasco/.

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Julia Sirchia, Program Assistant at UF/IFAS Extension Pasco County
Posted: April 26, 2024


Category: Crops, Fruits & Vegetables, Horticulture
Tags: #RightPlantRightPlace, #SaveWaterFL, Central Florida, Community Garden, Community Gardens, Dade City, Florida Friendly Landscaping, Garden, Gardening, Gardens, Health, Healthy, Horticulture, Irrigation, Landscape, Landscaping, Nutrition, Resilient Landscaping, Right Place, Right Plant, Saving Water, Smart Irrigation, Soil, Turf, UF/IFAS Pasco Extension Office, Vegetables, Water, Water Conservation, Water-wise


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