Florida-friendly landscape transformation conserves water

After weeks of work by dozens of partners, the before and after photos document a dramatic Xtreme Yard makeover, designed for a South Florida climate, fewer hours of maintenance and much smaller water bills. The Xtreme Yard Makeover is a demonstration project to show off how an unremarkable, water-wasting residential landscape can be transformed into a lush, Florida-friendly landscape that will save its owner time, money and water, while also contributing less polluting stormwater runoff...

Jun 30th, 2008

• Xtreme Yard Makeover now complete

NAPLES, FL, June 28, 2008 -- After weeks of work by dozens of partners, the before and after photos document a dramatic Xtreme Yard makeover, designed for a South Florida climate, fewer hours of maintenance and much smaller water bills.

"As I marvel at this Xtreme Yard Makeover, I'm moved by this community that came together to show all of South Florida how easy it is to conserve water while still providing our residents with a plan to have beautiful landscapes, " said Charles Dauray, who represents southwest Florida on the South Florida Water Management District Governing Board. "This landscape is a great example of how our lawns can do just fine with very little supplemental irrigation."

The Xtreme Yard Makeover is a demonstration project to show off how an unremarkable, water-wasting residential landscape can be transformed into a lush, Florida-Friendly landscape that will save its owner time, money and water, while also contributing less polluting stormwater runoff in the neighborhood.

In Florida, domestic water use averages 150 gallons of water per person per day with up to half of it going to lawn irrigation. Based on this figure, a standard Florida residential lawn receives more than 2,000 gallons of water a week. Once the Xtreme Yard Makeover landscape is established it will require little to no irrigation during the rainy summer months and only once-a-week watering during the dry season. The water savings for the Xtreme Yard Makeover should exceed 75,000 gallons per year. With outdoor irrigation accounting for up to 50 percent of residential water use, watering wisely represents the most effective and immediate way of achieving a lasting reduction in water use.

The Xtreme Yard Makeover is a partnership of more than 35 sponsors, coordinated by the South Florida Water Management District (Click here for list of partners). The project started with a "yard in need" in a high visibility area of Naples. Initially, the existing water-wasting landscape was stripped away and the soils were augmented with a biofertilizer to enhance its ability to hold moisture and nourish the plants. Then came the installation of an irrigation system that includes high-efficiency pop-up sprinklers, drip, micro-jet to put irrigation water directly at the root zone of the plant. Once the irrigation was installed, the plantings of Florida-Friendly plants took place. A week later, a layer of Melaeuca mulch was applied around trees, shrubs and plant beds to hold in moisture and augment the soil during decomposition. Melaeuca is an invasive, exotic plant that land managers have spent years and millions of dollars to eradicate from the Everglades. Making mulch from the invasive tree rather than native cypress creates a economic incentives for its removal, while providing benefits to home landscapes.

The objective of a Florida-friendly yard is to establish and maintain a healthy landscape using the right plants for existing site. A Florida-friendly yard is low maintenance, requires less water and pesticides yet can still provide a plant palette that includes color, diversity and wildlife habitat.

Tips for a water-wise yard include:
• Select plants that don't require regular watering after becoming established and group plants based on water needs.
• Group sun-loving, drought-tolerant plants in the sunniest, driest part of your landscape.
• Use low-volume irrigation like micro-irrigation in beds.
• Use a rain sensor or other automatic technology like a soil moisture sensor to override the irrigation timer when water is not needed. The newest home irrigation technology measures evapotranspiration or the amount of water that plants lose to the environment, and then sets the irrigation to meet the specific water needs of the plant
• Plan for uniform coverage in irrigation systems.

For more information on the current water shortage, landscape irrigation restrictions and water conservation, visit www.savewaterfl.com

The South Florida Water Management District is a regional, government agency that oversees the water resources in the southern half of the state -- 16 counties from Orlando to the Keys. It is the oldest and largest of the state's five water management districts.

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