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xer' I sca e
\'zir--skap\ n. [Greek xeros, dry.]:
water conservation through creative landscaping
W after conservation in Florida is becoming increasingly
important. Outdoor irrigation can account for 50 percent
or more of the average homeowner's water use. A water-
conserving landscape will save the homeowner money on
water, energy and maintenance bills and will help preserve
the state's valuable fresh water resources.
Xeriscapes originated in the arid southwestern United
States. Contrary to the image of rock and cactus gardens,
Florida Xeriscapes resemble lush traditional gardens.
Through careful planning they save 30 to 80 percent of the
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S Careful designing is crucial to the long-term enjoyment
and success of a Xeriscape. A Xeriscape should be
designed to complement your lifestyle and activities.
A planned Xeriscape can be installed in phases,
minimizing the initial investment.
There are two principle elements to a landscape design: the site
analysis and the planting plan. The site analysis shows existing
conditions such as slope, drainage, north-south orientation and the
location of native plants and permanent structures. The planting plan
illustrates the placement of plant beds, grass, paths and driveways, and
includes a list of new plants to be installed.
Putting the right plant in the right spot is crucial to a
successful Xeriscape. The key is to cluster plants
according to their sunlight and water needs.
Landscape "zones"- areas with plants having similar
irrigation and maintenance requirements are determined by the
planting plan and site analysis. The three zones are:
Natural Zones These are areas where plants live on natural rainfall.
Native plants have adapted to the wet and dry extremes of the Florida
climate and many can thrive in full sun with no irrigation. Some
cultivated plants have also adapted to these conditions. When planted
in shade, many more cultivated plants will succeed. A few natives will
do well in normally wet areas. On your site analysis, identify areas that
have plants and incorporate them into the planting plan. They have
adapted and will continue to do well.
Drought Tolerant Zones Plants in these areas are native and
cultivated species. They are able to survive extended periods of time
without rainfall or supplemental irrigation. There will be brief periods
when watering is necessary.
Oasis Zones Oasis plants require frequent irrigation and need to
be grouped together. This eliminates the need to water the entire
landscape at their required rate. A typical oasis zone might be the
entryway, the grass areas, or flower, fruit or vegetable gardens.
Remember, these plants are normally placed in the full sun and if used
under shade trees they may be drought tolerant.
3 iIMPROVE THE SOIL
Florida soils are mostly sand and have very little ability
to absorb or hold water. Adding organic matter to the
soil improves its water retention. However, due to
Florida's high humidity and water temperature, organic
matter breaks down rapidly, thus limiting the length of effectiveness.
Flower and vegetable gardens which are continually replanted
benefit from the repeated addition of organic matter. Sources of
organic matter include homemade compost and packaged peat, manure
USE TURF WISELY
Grass areas are part of an oasis zone. Grass uses more
water and requires more maintenance than any other
part of the landscape. Therefore, grass should be
concentrated in areas used for recreation and leisure.
Other grass sections used for aesthetic purposes (looks only) should be
minimized and shaped for maximum ease of mowing and edging.
Consider alternatives to grass such as attractive ground cover plantings,
or decks, patios and walkways made of permeable materials.
5 IRRIGATE EFFICIENTLY
Grouping plants according to their water needs
maximizes irrigation efficiency. Oasis zones are
irrigated separately from drought tolerant zones, and
natural zones do not require irrigation. Select correct
irrigation heads for the type of plants being watered. For example, a
spray system works well for lawns, but drip, bubblers or micro-
sprinklers are more appropriate for planted areas. These types of
irrigation heads enable water to be applied only to the root system with
minimal evaporation. Weekly inspection of the system is very
important. Broken parts may need repairing and spray heads may need
to be aligned to keep from watering pavement. Additional conservation
reduce irrigation during the rainy summer and dormant winter,
use a rain gauge to avoid overwatering, and
irrigate during early morning hours when evaporation is minimal.
6 USE MULCHES
A two- to three-inch layer of mulch minimizes
evaporation from the soil, reduces weeds, moderates
soil temperature and slows erosion. Mulched beds are
an attractive alternative to grass and help accent design
features. Organic mulches include shredded or chipped bark, pine
needles and oak leaves. Inorganic mulches, such as stone or gravel,
can also be used. Place the mulch directly on the soil and leave a one-
to two-inch space between the base of the plant and the mulch. This
space prevents the stem from rotting.
Xeriscapes, by design, reduce maintenance expense and
time. Proper maintenance will protect the beauty of the
Xeriscape and enhance the water savings. Two common
maintenance mistakes are overwatering and over-
fertilizing. Overwatering increases the water bill, disease and insect
control expenses, and plant replacement costs. Overfertilizing
promotes fast but weak growth which makes plants vulnerable to
freezes and possible breakage in high winds. Excessive growth also
increases the amount of water the plant needs. Two maintenance
practices which reduce the amount of water needed are:
raise the lawn mower blade(s) to get a higher cut. This
encourages grass roots to grow deeper, making the grass more
prune plants to the desired shape and remove diseased
parts. This encourages healthy growth, prevents the plant from
becoming overgrown, and keeps its water needs at a minimum.
DROUGHT TOLERANT PLANTS
Full Sun Partial Sun Shade
cultivated CRAPE MYRTLE /
JERUSALEM THORN /
Palms & Cycads native P P.
PAUROTIS PALM /
NEEDLE PALM /"
cultivated PINDO PALM I
PHOENIX PALM /
BAMBOO PALM I I /
Shrubs native TAR FLOWER V
FETTER BUSH V /
INDIA HAWTHORN I
CORNUTA HOLLIES I
Ground Covers native N
BLUE EYED GRASS
cultivated WEDELIA V
DWARF CONFEDERATE JASMINE I
CAST IRON PLANT /
CORAL HONEYSUCKLE / /
cultivated CREEPING FIG I
ALGERIAN IVY I I
II JA ,Ik t L
For more information, contact the Planning Department of the
Southwest Florida Water Management District, 2379 Broad Street,
Brooksville, Florida 34609-6899, or call the Planning Department
at (904) 796-7211 or toll free at 1-800-423-1476.
This document was printed at a cost of $5,098 or $.25 per copy
to provide citizens with information on water-saving landscape