Florida receives an average of 54.02 inches of rainfall per year. You might think that sounds like a lot, but Florida’s rainfall is seasonal, and landscapes that require extension irrigation during the long dry season deplete the groundwater supply and put Florida’s aquifers, or natural water supplies, at risk.
Xeriscaping is a method of landscaping in arid and semiarid climates that uses water-conserving techniques such as drought-tolerant plants, mulch and efficient irrigation.
Design Efficient Irrigation
Group plants together based on water requirements, and set your irrigation system appropriately. For example, a vegetable garden and a row of mature shrubs have different water needs and shouldn't be watered on the same schedule. Mature shrubs with good drought tolerance require little supplemental irrigation while tomato plants may require daily watering. Use soaker hoses and micro jet sprayer heads, when possible, to reduce the amount of water lost to evaporation. Florida state law requires that automatic sprinklers be equipped with a rain shutoff device that prevents the sprinkler system from activating when it has recently rained.
Choose the Right Plants
Choosing the correct plants requires learning about your landscaping site. Take advantage of low-cost soil testing at your local county extension office to learn your soil type and pH. Make a note of the sunlight exposure (full sun, partial shade, shade) and special factors like salt spray near the coast. These factors greatly influence the success of your plantings. Select plants that are well adapted for your site. Florida’s native plants are often drought tolerant and better adapted to withstand the extremes in climate. Trees like the gumbo limbo, red maple and sweet acacia thrive in their native Florida habitat.
Spread a layer of mulch two to three inches deep around shrubs and trees and in planting beds. Mulch helps keep the soil moist and prevents weeds from growing as well. Don't mulch citrus trees, however, as they are susceptible to root rot and fungus when heavily mulched.
Reduce Grassy Areas
Turf grass requires supplemental irrigation to remain green during the dry season. Centipede grass and zoysia grass require slightly less irrigation than the popular St. Augustine grass. Reduce the need for turf grass as much as possible by adding shrubs, mulched areas, trees and alternate groundcover like Asiatic jasmine. Use native clump grass or groundcover in narrow spots between the street and the sidewalk. These areas are hotter and require more frequent irrigation. Mow your grass on the highest blade setting for a healthier lawn with a lower water requirement.
- Photo Credit stairway to the beach image by Pix by Marti from Fotolia.com sprinkler image by palms from Fotolia.com southern home image by Denise Kappa from Fotolia.com
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