When I moved to Florida nearly 15 years ago and was planning our landscape I had heard about Xeriscaping… landscaping and gardening that reduces or eliminates the need for supplemental water from irrigation. The word “xeriscape” is derived from the Greek “xeros,” meaning dry, and “scape,” a kind of view or scene. Together, xeriscaping is landscaping with slow-growing, drought-tolerant plants to conserve water and establish a waste-efficient landscape. Landscapes can be designed from the start to reduce the amount of resources needed to maintain them. By selecting the appropriate plants and efficient irrigation systems, a balance can be achieved to fit your aesthetic needs as well as reduce resource use. Benefits of xeriscaping include cost savings through lower water bills and a reduction in the labor needed to maintain your landscape.
Today in Florida, landscapes that are designed to conserve natural resources are called Florida-Friendly Landscaping ™. The Department of Environmental Protection has discontinued the use of xeriscaping in statute and adopted Florida Friendly Landscaping ™. The Florida-Friendly Landscaping ™ program targets homeowners, builders, developers, and commercial horticulture professionals. This program helps one to identify and use low-maintenance plants and environmentally sustainable management practices that ultimately will save time, money, and energy. This program is operated through the University of Florida’s Center for Landscape Conservation & Ecology. Through 9 principles, this program helps residential and commercial properties to become a Florida-Friendly yard; ultimately, these Florida-Friendly yards help urban environments to reduce their water and energy consumption, to reduce pollutants that enter waterways, and to conserve biodiversity.
One thing our Florida Home owners need to know: by law you must install, maintain, and operate a device such as a rain sensor that prevents the operation of your automatic irrigation system during periods of sufficient rain. This last summer we had A LOT of rain and many home’s irrigation systems were still watering. With the rain sensor installed and in working order, residents will save money and help the environment. I contacted three area irrigation services to see how much it costs to install and or repair rain sensors (and heard back from two companies). You can be fined if the authorities ever get around to testing residents’ homes for working rain sensors.
Kurt at All Wet Irrigation: 352-527-3537. There are many types of rain sensors to choose from including wired and wireless and solar sync. There are systems that not only shut off due to rainfall but for freezing temps. A new or fixed sensor can cost form $75-$250 installed. This fee does not include a check of your irrigation system which is extra. Placement of the rain sensor is key since roof gutters, trees etc can interfere with the rain gauge to work properly. An open area is best for placements.
Pipe It To Irrigation and Landscaping: 352-465-4543. Mike Eddinger: Mike points out that the mechanical sensors installed on the rainbird systems from several years back cannot be updated to the wireless or newer sensor systems. The newer sensors must be installed on a digital timer. The nice thing about the wireless sensor is it can be placed in a spot where it can more effectively monitor rainfall and temperatures especially if your irrigation timer is near a treed area of your yard. A wireless sensor runs about $110 plus installation (there are many factors that can affect the price of installation). For a few dollars more you can install the system that detects a hard freeze. You do not want your irrigation system running during a hard freeze.
Designing a resource-efficient landscape requires the incorporation of a few design elements.
- Zoning–grouping plants in the landscape according to their water requirements. For example, water-loving plants should be grouped separately from drought-tolerant plants. This allows for the proper amount of water to be distributed to the plants as they need it.
- Use of drought-tolerant plants–these plants require less water and are adapted to drought conditions and soils with low water-holding capacities.
- Drought-tolerant turf–Ask your local nurseries which grass varieties have excellent drought tolerance and will grow well in your yard’s soil type. Centipede grass is appropriate for most of the Southeast. In Florida, bahiagrass, bermudagrass, and zoysiagrass all have excellent drought tolerance and may be suitable for your area as well. During dry periods, allow the turf to go dormant. When the rain comes, these grasses will turn green again.
- Mulch, mulch, mulch–because mulch reduces evaporation, it is used extensively in xeriscaping to replace areas that require extensive watering. Mulch can also be used to create paths or walkways throughout your landscape.
We have a local extension from University of Florida if you have questions for the Master Gardeners that are in the office during the week:
Citrus County Extension Office
3650 W Sovereign Path Suite 1
Lecanto, FL 34461
Phone: (352) 527-5700
Fax: (352) 527-5749
Black Diamond Ranch:
December 5 & 6 Couple’s Club Championship
December 9 Golf Cart Parade (5:30pm) and Holiday Sing Along at the Club (7 pm)
December 3 (5 pm) Light Up Inverness: Old Fashioned Christmas on the Square
December 4 (4 pm) City of Crystal River Christmas Tree Lighting & Festival