According to the state of Florida, an estimated 900 residents moved to our state every day in 2019 and 2021. The number of incoming residents may be well over this amount for 2022. An increase in population demands more from our water supplies.
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The Central Florida Water Initiative reports that by 2040, we will not be able to pull any additional groundwater from our aquifer, our main source of domestic water. The Central Florida area will be maxed out at a with drawl of 850 million gallons of water per day.
While our local water issues may seem daunting, many professionals are evaluating additional water resources and the impacts of water conservation practices.
Our Florida landscapes offer an opportunity to save significant water as landscape irrigation accounts for approximately 50 percent of residential water use. Residents can take simple steps to help conserve water, especially in our landscapes.
Select plants adapted to your yard by observing your planting site and researching plants before making a purchase. Know the conditions of your site.
How much sun is available?
Does the soil hold water?
Is the soil mostly sand?
What type of plant would best fill the space: shrub, tree, groundcover, etc.?
These are a few examples of questions to ask when determining plants to choose for your home. UF/IFAS’s Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ Program developed a downloadable guide to Plant Selection and Landscape Design.
This guide offers a diversity of plant options for differing site conditions and varying landscape styles. To save water, look for drought tolerant plants preferring full sun and well-drained soils if this is your yard’s conditions.
Group plants together and irrigate based on water needs. Landscape plants and turfgrass often require different irrigation regimes, place these plant types on their own specific irrigation zones.
To irrigate a large turfgrass area, rotors and popup sprayers are typically used, while micro irrigation or drip tape perform well with landscape plants like trees, shrubs, and perennials. Consider reducing high volume irrigation (from spray heads and rotors) by installing plant beds with micro-irrigation.
The University of Florida states that for every 1,000 sq ft of turfgrass with high volume irrigation converted to landscape beds containing micro-irrigation, an estimated 15,569 to 31,767 gallons of water can be conserved annually.
Take into considerations that many landscape plants do not need regular irrigation, especially when planted in the right place. Instead irrigate temporarily or hand water when we are hot and dry, typically April through May and again in September through October.
Check your irrigation system to ensure proper functioning by performing a monthly walkthrough while allowing your irrigation zones to run. Check for blocked or clogged sprinkler heads. When a clogged filter occurs, you will notice a fine mist or no water at all emerging from the spray head.
Damage may also occur further up the irrigation line, be sure to check for leaks. A physical object, like a hose reel or mature plants could also block water from reaching its desired destination. Sometimes all it takes is a little pruning to correct obstructions to spray patterns.
Add a three-to-four-inch layer of mulch to conserve moisture in the soil. Select natural materials that breakdown over time and provide organic matter. Small pine bark nuggets, pine straw, and melaleuca fines make appropriate and easily accessible choices for central Florida gardeners.
Keep in mind that irrigation augments rainfall and provides supplemental water until the next rainfall event. Irrigation systems cannot replace the coverage provided by a good soaking rain.
Focus on installing a resilient landscape through proper plant selection, irrigating or watering as needed, and maintaining healthy plants.
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Brooke Moffis is the Commercial Horticulture and FL Friendly Landscaping Agent of UF/IFAS Extension Lake County. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org
This article originally appeared on Daily Commercial: Home landscapes offer chances to conserve water