Florida averages 54 inches of rain a year, but as the state’s population grows, more fresh drinking water is needed. An estimated 9.1 billion gallons of fresh water is needed each day.
As demand increases, water supply needs already exceed capacity in some areas of the state. All of us have a stake in water conservation. This should be taken into consideration when landscaping.
Minimizing use of water is easy by following these Florida-friendly landscaping principles and practices.
Grow drought-tolerant plants. Consult the Florida-Friendly Landscaping Guide to Landscape Design and Plant Selection to find out if your plants are drought tolerant. Choose plants that require little to no water after establishment.
Hydrozone your plants. Group plants according to their watering needs. The plant selection guide shows the soil moisture needed by the plants—from well drained to wet and four categories in between. An example of poor planning is planting an herb garden and cactus together. If you water the herbs to meet their needs, the cactus will be overwatered.
Plant ground covers. The plant selection guide identifies several types of ground cover that will work in your area of the state.
Note the site conditions in your landscape—sun, shade, soil texture, soil pH and soil moisture—and select plants accordingly. If you live in a deed-restricted community, check the restrictions and meet with your landscape review or architectural control committees as required before making changes.
Mulch landscape beds 2-3 inches deep after settling. Mulch retains moisture in the soil, moderates soil temperature, reduces runoff and erosion, improves soil structure, suppresses weeds, enhances the beauty of the landscape, provides increased area for root growth, and protects plants from lawnmowers and weed eaters. Recommended organic mulches include eucalyptus, melaleuca (punk tree), pine bark, pine straw and oak leaves.
Micro-irrigate landscape beds. This method provides gallons per hour versus per minute from an inground irrigation system. It not only conserves water, but is less subject to current water restrictions.
Measure the water. Apply one-half to three-quarters of an inch of water from irrigation or rainfall, which is all plants need per watering. Use a rain gauge to determine when this amount is reached, and empty the rain gauge after viewing it. Do a catch-can test to determine the amount of water your inground irrigation system provides by zone.
Install a rain shutoff device. Florida Statute 373.62 adopted in 2009 requires a functioning rain-shutoff device where inground irrigation has been installed. The life expectancy of these devices is one to five years. Is yours working? If your irrigation system runs while it is raining, chances are it is not functioning.
Harvest rainwater. Use it to water ornamental plants, if captured from your roof. Do not use harvested rainwater on edible plants.
For more information on Florida-Friendly Landscaping, visit ffl.ifas.ufl.edu.