Monday, November 30, 2009

How can you save water and Skip A Week?

District asks homeowners to "Skip a Week" of irrigation this winter

Overwatering in winter can encourage pests and disease

The Southwest Florida Water Management District recently launched a new campaign to encourage residents who irrigate their lawns to "Skip a Week" of watering during the cooler months of December, January and February.

According to research by the University of Florida, grass doesn't need to be watered as often during the cooler months. In fact, one-half to three-quarters of an inch of water every 10–14 days is sufficient.

“Over-watering in the winter can encourage pests and disease in your lawn," said Sylvia Durell, Florida-friendly landscaping project manager. Skipping a week of watering is as easy as “off” for residents with irrigation timers. “Turn the timer to ‘off’ for the week that you want to skip, and ‘on’ for the week that you want to water,” said Durell.

Homeowners can determine when their grass needs water when:

Grass blades are folded in half lengthwise on 30 percent of the lawn

Grass blades are blue-gray

Footprints remain on the lawn for several minutes after walking on it

Skipping a week of irrigation will help conserve drinking water supplies. Following the “Skip a Week” plan saves water that the public needs for other critical uses during the dry season.

In addition to entering the dry season, the region is experiencing the effects of a four-year drought. All 16 counties within the District are under one-day-per-week lawn watering restrictions through the end of February.

For more water conservation tips, information about the drought and the current water restrictions, please visit the District's web site at

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Converting Your Yard to a Florida-Friendly Yard

A Florida-Friendly yard is not only a beautiful yard, it serves many other purposes. It conserves water, is low-maintenance and it protects our natural resources and preserves the beauty of Florida. If you would like to start making changes to a more Florida-Friendly yard begin by determining what will work to make it a better place for you and for the environment.

1. Begin by determining your needs and desires for your landscape.
Do you want to eliminate high water use plants? Are you tired of mowing the grass? Do you want to swap out high-maintenance plants for low-maintenance plants? Whatever you decide, write these decisions down and come up with a plan.

2. Know your site conditions.
Make sure you know why your current landscape isn’t working. What is your soil type? Do you have plants in the wrong place? Are your plants receiving proper irrigation? Make note of the conditions.

3. Draw a plan
Don’t be nervous! This can be done with graph paper, a pencil and a ruler. Make sure your plan includes your house and all existing plantings. Include any power lines, septic systems and underground utilities. Once the “bones” are in place you can start to determine what changes you want to make in your yard. Sketch these on your paper.

4. Remember the Florida Yards and Neighborhoods principles
As you determine how you want to convert your landscape to a Florida-Friendly landscape remember the Florida Yards and Neighborhoods principles. The nine principles are: right plant, right place, water efficiently, fertilize appropriately, mulch, attract wildlife, manage yard pests responsibly, recycle yard waste, reduce stormwater runoff, and protect the waterfront. These principles should be integrated into your new plan to create your Florida-Friendly yard.

5. Make the changes
After you have a plan you can begin to make the changes to your landscape. If you are going to install new plants, make sure you are choosing the right plants for your yard. There are many drought-tolerant native and exotic plants that can survive on rainfall alone once they are established. Do your research to determine if these plants will work in your yard. The goal is to install plants that will require little to no fertilizer, pesticides, and irrigation after establishment.

Converting your landscape to a Florida-Friendly landscape may sound like a big job, but it can be done one plant at a time! You can take out a high water use plant and replace it with a drought-tolerant plant to reduce irrigation. You can convert your existing irrigation system to micro-irrigation. You can use recycled mulch. You can turn off the irrigation to your butterfly garden. Each of these small things will add up and more things can be done over time. If you are not sure where to start or would like to get some more information about Florida-Friendly Landscaping, contact the Florida Yards and Neighborhoods program at the Polk County Extension Service (863-519-8677 or

Florida Yards and Neighborhoods is a grant-funded program in cooperation with the University of Florida, the Alafia River, Hillsborough River and Peace River Basin Boards of the Southwest Florida Water Management District, and Polk County. The program emphasizes creating and maintaining attractive landscapes to enhance the community and protect our valuable natural resources.