What are the best ways to save water?
To save water—which comes from our under- ground aquifer that feeds recreational springs, wildlife and agriculture alike—start by looking at your yard. Between 50% and 60% of home water use goes to irrigate the yard.
The first step is to put the right plant in the right place. Selecting drought-tolerant and Florida-friendly landscape plants—instead of sod like St. Augustine—will make your landscape more resilient to weather extremes, beautify the landscape and increase your property value while saving you money on your water bill.
Learn more about plant options in the FFL Guidebook, https://bit.ly/2Oa133b.
After you select Florida-friendly plants, calibrate your irrigation system. It might sound daunting or expensive, but it doesn’t have to be. Watch a three-minute video to learn how to accompish this using tuna cans at https://youtu.be/8es5lxhQdXw.
What is the difference between sanitary and storm sewers?
Many people think the water going into the storm drain on the side of the road gets treated just like their sanitary sewer lines that pipe out of their home. It does not.
Water from our homes goes to a waste-water treatment facility, but everything in the storm drains ultimately flushes into our lakes, rivers and streams. When people blow leaves and grass clippings down there—or worse, dump chemicals such as fertilizer or gas—it ends up in our waterways. This is called nonpoint source pollution, which can add up in an urban area.
County, state and federal governments spend thousands of dollars each year trying to remove nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorous from our waterways.
These nutrients come from yard debris, fertilizers, pet waste and other sources. This costs a lot in tax dollars and can be complicated to solve.
Storm drains must remain free of debris, trash and materials so they can function properly during our hurricane and rainy seasons.
What are the best ways to properly dispose of yard waste?
Nationally, yard waste contributes more than 35 billion tons to our landfills each year. We can reduce that number by reusing our yard debris in our landscape or composting it.
Many people bag their leaves and go to the store to buy mulch; however, mulch and leaves can serve the same purpose in the landscape. I recommend people rake their leaves into landscape beds and pathways.
If there is concern about them blowing around again or the aesthetics, add a small mulch layer over the top. This will put much-needed organic material back into the soil and defer waste from the landfill.
Our sandy Florida soils are fairly devoid of organic material, which is important for plant health. We can retain that organic material on-site for our plants and turf by using leaves in our landscape beds, leaving grass clippings in the yard and composting larger yard debris with kitchen scraps.
For help with horticultural questions, contact your county extension office. Note that staff may be working outside offices during COVID-19. For extension information, visit ffl.ifas.ufl.edu.