Florida Friendly Lawns

By Joanne RoachMy Nassau Sun Logo

Facing drought and water restrictions, more and more homeowners are interested in creating a landscape that requires less water. One way to reduce water consumption is to update your landscape to be Florida-friendly.

But, what exactly is Florida-friendly landscaping? It's a lawn with slower growing, drought-tolerant plants, and minimal areas of turf. Grass becomes an accent rather than the main attraction. Proper plant selection, efficient irrigation (including micro-irrigation), and mulching saves water and can produce a lush environment.

Florida Friendly Lawn
Provided by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Service
Replacing part of your lawn with plants and shrubs can be a very attractive way to reduce the use of water in your landscape, says Joanne Roach of Nassau County Extension Service

Lawns began as a status symbol for the rich. European royalty used them to show off their mansions. Early U.S. settlers, though, had no use for lawns. They planted only beneficial things, either edible or medicinal. But as soon as wealth began to accumulate in the colonies, people started emulating the Europeans by adding large turf areas to their yards.

The introduction of the push mower allowed almost anyone to have a lawn. After World War II, chemical weapons manufacturers turned their attention to lawn maintenance and getting rid of insects. It wasn't until the '70s that we realized those chemicals were harmful. Now, we also realize the need to conserve water, and reducing the amount of water-guzzling grass is one of the best ways to do that.

So, how do you transition your landscape to be Florida-friendly?

Look in your existing yard for areas where grass could be replaced with ground cover, drought-tolerant plants or mulched beds. You might start with an area where you have difficulty getting grass to grow, maybe under trees or in an extremely hot, sunny area. The idea is to choose plants that don't require a huge amount of water.

Always group your plants according to their water needs. But don't think this means you can never grow impatiens because they need a lot of water. Just consider planting them in containers so you can give them the water they need without over-watering other plants.

Another way to add Florida-friendly elements is to consider leaving a back or side area natural, containing plants that survive on just rainfall. This might be an area where you can experiment with planting some native plants.

Mulch is very important, including anything from pine straw to wood chips to leaves. A 3- to- 4-inch layer spread in planting areas will reduce water evaporation from the soil and reduce weeds. Mulch can replace turf or ground covers, which means less maintenance and water consumption. In these areas, you can place specimen plants or shrubs and use drip irrigation to provide the necessary water.

Florida-friendly landscaping offers many possibilities, and it will save water, money and time.

For more on Florida-friendly landscaping, go to fyn.ifas.ufl.edu; and for more on "waterwise" landscapes, go to sjr.state.fl.us/waterwiselandscapes.

Happy gardening.

 

 

 

Florida Lawn

Master Gardener Joanne Roach lives on Amelia Island and volunteers with the Nassau County Extension Service. For information on the Master Gardener program, contact Becky Jordi at 904-530-6350 or rljordi@ufl.edu.