Population growth and thriving development is making water conservation more important than ever. Everyone has a stake in making sure water conservation is successful in Fort Lauderdale, and throughout the country.
While year-round sunshine and long stretches of hot, dry weather make Fort Lauderdale a desirable place to live and visit, it also creates a high demand for water.
Irrigating landscape puts the greatest demand on our urban drinking water supply and accounts for more than 50 percent of water consumption. That consumption can be greatly reduced creating Florida-friendly landscapes, which provide a water-efficient way to create beautiful landscapes without taxing the water supply.
What is Florida-Friendly Landscaping?
This is a landscaping practice utilizing Florida-friendly drought resistant plants and trees, which is an essential part of conserving, protecting and restoring water quality and supply.
Utilizing Florida-friendly principles doesn’t mean your landscape has to look dry or barren, nor does it mean that maintenance isn’t required. It does mean that you can create a carefully designed, properly installed landscape that will provide year-round beauty even in times of drought using low maintenance plants and environmentally sustainable practices
A Florida-Friendly Yard doesn’t merely offer a good-looking landscape; it also becomes an asset to the environment, protects natural resources and preserves Florida’s unique beauty.
Why Landscape Using Florida-Friendly Principles?
Florida-friendly landscaping saves water, money and energy, protects the environment, and provides a natural habitat for native wildlife. It also provides other benefits. It saves time and money as landscapes designed using these principles typically require less maintenance, tolerate droughts better, and resist diseases and insects. Also, using native drought-resistant plants, trees, shrubs and turf often eliminates the need for irrigation, special soil, fertilizer, pesticides, and weeding.
The easiest way to save water is to reduce the need for irrigation. By following Florida-friendly landscaping principles, you can conserve 40 to 60 percent of the water that traditional landscapes require.
Making your landscape more water efficient does not require completely redesigning it or spending a lot of money. Simple changes such as altering watering schedules, relocating plants, or adding mulch are an easy way to get started.
Whether you have already established your landscape or are starting anew, Florida-friendly landscaping can start small and can be phased in over time. The steps below will provide the foundation you need to create an attractive, water-friendly landscape.
1. Right Plant, Right Place
Almost any plant will survive in your landscape if you plant it in the right place. You can drastically reduce the need for water, fertilizer, pesticides and pruning if you choose and group plants according to their water and sunlight needs, as well as the type of soil, sunlight exposure and water conditions of your planting sites. Be sure to also remove invasive exotic plants that may steal water and nutrients from your Florida-friendly plants.
2. Water Efficiently
Efficient watering will not only help you save money and conserve water, it can also create a healthier landscape. Avoid overwatering, use micro-irrigation, and water your lawn and plants only when you know they need it or when they show signs of stress.
3. Fertilize Appropriately
Plants, animals and people depend on clean water for survival. When too much fertilizer is applied to landscapes, it seeps past the root zone of the grass, plants or trees and into the aquifer or runs off into water bodies. Avoid weed-and-seed products, use slow-release fertilizers, and fertilize lawns, trees and plants only to maintain health. Fertilizer will not help poor growth caused by poor plant placement, disease or pests.
Keeping 2 to 3 inches of mulch on your plant beds helps control weeds, retain soil moisture and reduce erosion and stormwater runoff. Cut down on mowing by replacing grass with mulch in areas that are shaded or difficult to mow.
5. Attract Wildlife
Friendly visitors, like butterflies and beneficial insects, will enjoy your landscape if you provide food, water and cover. Plant vines, shrubs and trees to create cover, nesting areas and food. Protect your visitors by limiting pesticide use or by spot-treating only the areas that need attention.
6. Manage Yard Pests Responsibly
When it comes to pest management, nature takes care of itself! Misused pesticides in your yard can run off into waterways and harm beneficial insects. Learn to identify beneficial insects and let them do the work for you. If pesticides are needed, choose the least-toxic pesticides, such as horticultural oils, insecticidal soaps and Bacillus thuringiensis (BT). Remember, low levels of pests will do minimal damage, so be tolerant!
Recycling your yard waste back onto your lawn and landscape can improve the fertility and water-holding ability of the soil and help aerate soil that has become compacted. There’s no need to bag or rake lawn clippings; leave them on the lawn to recycle nitrogen. Use fallen leaves and pine needles as mulch under trees and shrubs.
8. Reduce Stormwater Runoff
Stormwater runoff can carry pollutants, pesticides and excess fertilizers into bays, rivers and lakes. Remember that what goes in your storm drain can find its way into our water sources. Pick up pet waste to help reduce bacterial and nutrient pollution. Remove trash from street gutters before it gets washed into storm drains. And use swales (low areas) to hold and filter water.
9. Protect the Waterfront
Bays and waterways contribute to the quality of life in Florida. Waterfront owners can help protect these fragile natural treasures by removing invasive aquatic plants and establishing a 10-30 foot “no fertilizer, no pesticide” zone along their shoreline. Never prune mangroves or remove any vegetation without first seeking proper permits and guidelines.
The links below provide information on selecting appropriate trees, plants and shrubs to create a beautiful, non-thirsty landscape.