Monday, November 21, 2011

Leesburg Couple Rips Up Grass But Is It Florida-friendly?

Central Florida communities that use a lot of water seem to be blaming it all on the turfgrass. In a Lake Sentinel article this weekend, one Leesburg couple using 30,000 gallons of water a month on their landscape decided to overhaul their entire yard and replace it with rocks, mulch, and supposedly "drought-tolerant" landscaping.  But was it necessary?

That term drought-tolerant is getting really old and the misperceptions of turfgrass being the culprit is just downright wrong.  All plants are drought-tolerant in the right locations and turfgrass needing a lot of water is not true.  St. Augustinegrass only needs between 1" and 1.5" of water a week during the summertime if it doesn't get rainfall and only needs that amount once every ten to fourteen days in the cooler winter season.  That anyone uses 30,000 gallons on their lawn is the fault of the homeowner, an inefficient irrigation system, and a poorly designed landscape.  If you have a rock, mulch, and "drought-tolerant" plants, depending on the size of your yard, even 10,000 gallons is too much!  Your landscape should be able to survive and thrive on rainfall alone after establishment. 

Its up to the cities  and counties that are approving landscape plans and irrigation systems to allow only the correct landscapes with efficient irrigation.  Homeowners working with builders or buying new homes need to demand and insist on a certified Florida Water Star landscape and irrigation system.  Then the responsibility falls on the homeowner to maintain his landscape and watering system correctly to ensure that it works efficiently.

Rocks are not the keystones to water efficiency and can actually increase the amount of water that installed plants in a rock garden need.  The heat around the home will be greater.  Using no tufgrass is going to lead to more stormwater pollution of our water bodies. I repeat:  There is nothing wrong with turfgrass.

Heck, this is Florida!  This is not Arizona and we can have beautiful landscapes with lots of flowers, shrubs, palms, and yes, Virginia, even turfgrass and not have a high water bill or overuse our ample water supply.  Florida receives abundant rainfall and with observant care, our irrigation systems should only be used as a supplement when we don't have rain.  Depending on the size of your lawn and your landscape plants, using 10.000 gallons of water or less should be easily achievable. 

Before anyone installs a landscape that is all rocks, mulch, and no turf, do your research, contact your County Extension office and find out the facts about waterwise landscaping.  You will be very surprised to learn that its probably not your grass's fault that you have a high water bill or high maintenance landscape. 

The Vision House 2008 in Montverde, Florida uses only non-potable water from a HOOT system and a 7,000 gallon cistern.  It is a great example of Florida-friendly landscaping.  Low maintenance and low water use.

Vision House 2008

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