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Take Steps at Home to Become a Responsible Water Steward

By Meaghan Goepferich Posted on June 9, 2021

By Steven Davis, Citrus County Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ Coordinator

Take Steps at Home to Become a Responsible Water Steward

Rainfall is lacking, irrigation is limited, and lawns may be stressed. Implement these measures to help landscapes survive drought conditions. First, mow the lawn at the highest possible setting. Tall grass blades prompt plant roots to dive deep into the cooler soil profile. A tall lawn produces a canopy that shades soil and minimizes soil temperature. Mowing is a stressor, even when done correctly with sharp mowing blades. Reducing mowing frequency and increasing height will limit injury.

This time of year, fertilizers are often applied to green up lawns. However, when drought exists, delay application of nitrogen-containing fertilizers until seasonal rainfall begins. Application of nitrogen-containing fertilizers will further stress and accelerate injury during dry periods.

Ensure the landscape receives a full ¾” of water each application. Again, this encourages roots to dive deep into the ground where they are more protected from the dry, hot conditions at the surface. Best management practices dictate that each zone contain the same type of irrigation head, either rotor, rotor-spray, or spray. Set each rotor or rotor-spray zone to irrigate about forty-five minutes. Spray heads apply water more quickly and can be set to run for about 20 minutes. Factors like low water pressure and too many heads in a zone affect actual output. So, if those issues apply, slightly increase each zone’s runtime. If a zone has mixed heads, schedule irrigation based on the rotor heads until the issue is corrected.  

Selecting the right plant for the right place is a guiding Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ principle. Reducing the size of thirsty lawns and expanding garden spaces with drought-tolerant plant choices are a coming and needed attraction in Florida. Create new additions to landscapes wisely. Consider choosing drought-tolerant lawn grasses like bahia that go dormant but remain alive during drought conditions. Use plants tolerant of both poor soil conditions and limited supplemental water. Local landscapes should be recognized as part of the larger natural system. Selecting the “right plants” should blend genuine Florida with the artificial, creating a visually appealing low maintenance landscape that is friendly to Florida.      

The importance of protecting water is becoming more complex as Florida’s population grows. According to the Demographic Estimating Conference, the state is expected to grow by an estimated 845 new residents per day, adding the population of a city the size of Orlando or St. Petersburg annually. In preparation, being a responsible water steward is becoming more of a necessity than a choice.   

For more information about water conservation and Florida-Friendly Landscaping™, call (352) 527-7669.

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