TogetherWeAreAble.org Water Conservation Logo

Spring Into Landscaping the Right Way!

Landscaping has a big impact on the appearance of a home or business. That’s why so much time, money and resources are spent making our yards look their best. Luckily, there are a few simple things that can be done to make maintenance easier, conserve water resources, and save you money. UCNSB has collected some of the best Florida-friendly landscaping tips to share with our community.

When beginning a beautification project on your property, it’s important to do a little research before choosing which plants to purchase. In our unique subtropical environment, considerations must be taken for extreme heat throughout a large part of the year, paired with heavy rain during other months.

The University of Florida’s Agriculture program outlines standard principles for eco-friendly landscaping. Here are the ones that are directly related to our cause of water conservation:

Right Plant, Right Place

When selecting a plant, be sure to consider the type of soil that you have in your yard. Many of our beachside properties in New Smyrna Beach are built on very sandy lots, that can only sustain very hearty varieties of turf and other plantlife. It is also important to envision the amount of shade that each plant will receive as the sun moves through the sky each day, based on where it is placed. Plants that receive full sun require much more water than those that are shaded for part of the day.

Water Efficiently

The upkeep and design of irrigation systems is key to using water resources efficiently. Sprinkler heads should be positioned based on where they are most effective. It is smart to check regularly for leaks, as not to waste water. Sprinklers should also have shut-off switches, timers, and sensors that detect rainfall. Another important addition to your irrigation plan is to implement the use of a rain barrel, which collects rain as it flows off of your roof to be used later. This can be a very helpful tool in conserving water while lowering your utility bills.

Fertilize Appropriately

It is often not necessary to add supplements such as fertilizer to grass or foliage, especially if you choose the correct ones for the type of soil you have. For example, if you have sandy soil in your yard that drains quickly, grass varieties with longer roots would be ideal. Turfgrasses like Bermuda grass, bentgrass, or St. Augustine would need little or no fertilizer to remain healthy because their substantial root system allows them to absorb the nutrients and moisture they need. The same is true for various decorative shrubs or trees, and this information can be provided by the nursery where you purchase them, or located easily online. If you decide to fertilize, be sure to follow local guidelines to prevent runoff to the local water supply.

Mulch

The use of mulch in your yard helps to retain moisture and keep it available for your plants to use rather than sinking into the ground. Mulch also encourages the soil that your plants are rooted in to maintain an even temperature. A coating of mulch prevents the soil from getting too hot on our scorching summer days, which makes any water evaporate quickly. The use of mulch allows you to water less frequently.

Reduce Stormwater Runoff

Stormwater runoff happens when rain does not have the opportunity to seep into the ground in certain areas, and instead pools in another area or washes further away from where it originally fell. This creates a problem because rainwater evaporates instead of soaking into the ground to join our water supply in the Florida Aquifer. This stream of runoff also picks up traces of everything it travels through on its way to drains. So any fertilizers, pesticides, or debris can make its way into our water as well. You can help minimize this problem by keeping as much of your property as possible natural, and keep paved walkways and concrete ground coverings to a minimum. When driveways or patios are installed, it is important to use materials that are permeable to allow water to pass through to the soil underneath.

Protect The Waterfront

If your home or business islocated close to a body of water, it is important to leave about ten feet near the water’s edge of minimal landscaping. This will prevent fertilizers, pesticides or other contamination of the environment.

Another take on water conservation through yard maintenance comes from the St. Johns River Water Management District. They promote what they have dubbed Waterwise landscaping, which they define as “a common sense way to landscape that conserves water and protects the environment. The goal of this practice is to establish and maintain a healthy landscape by matching the right plants with existing site conditions so that the use of additional resources – such as water, fertilizer, pesticides and labor – is minimized.”

Sustainable landscaping relies heavily on common sense. The basics include choosing plants that are found growing naturally in Florida. Since they are already thriving in our climate, in the wilderness, it follows that they will be hearty enough to grow in your yard with little to no maintenance. These native plants have evolved to take on anything that our coastal climate has to throw at them – including hurricane-force winds in most cases.

Once you’ve chosen a nice collection of native plants, group them according to their needs in different areas of your yard. For example, all of the plants that have similar water needs should be planted near each other. This means that you can set up your sprinklers in that portion of the yard to water more frequently than the other side of the yard, instead of having to water the entirety of your property to reach them.

Taking the time to plan out your landscaping in a thoughtful way will ultimately save you a lot of time, energy, and money. You’ll be able to spend less time on maintenance. Plants that you purchase will thrive instead of wither away under the harsh Florida sun. The best part is that you’ll conserve water, which will lower utility bills and conserve our valuable resources.