By BJ Jarvis
Pasco Extension Horticulture Agent
In many parts of the country, April showers may bring May flowers, but in Florida spring is usually warm and dry. April is a good month to think about cultivating a water-conserving, yet fabulous, garden.
Although this area typically receives about 52 inches of rainfall per year, the majority falls during just a few short months. During the summer rainy season, we may think water resources are plentiful, yet we still can’t take this precious resource for granted.
In many area homes, as much as 50 percent of all water is used outdoors. What can we do in the garden to assure that we use our water wisely?
Thankfully, no great sacrifices are required. Here are seven simple tips to save water outdoors:
—Before summer weeds get a good stronghold, mulch with a 2- to 3-inch layer of woodchips, leaves or needles.
—Choose plants that fit the site’s conditions. Pushing plants in unfavorable conditions often increases water use. Choose drought-tolerant whenever possible.
—A $3 rain gauge helps determine how much rain has actually fallen in your garden.
—Catch rainwater in a rain barrel or cistern for even larger quantities.
—For those with an automatic sprinkler system, check times to make sure system runs within the restrictions.
—Also check each irrigation zone to assure good coverage and operation and calibrate sprinkler zones to apply 0.75 inches of water per run time.
—If a sprinkler zone covers just plantings such as shrubs and flowers, consider retrofitting with low volume micro-irrigation heads that deliver water right to the root zone to save up to half of all water used outdoors.
For more information on how to save water in the garden year-round, visit the University of Florida’s website at bit.ly/OutdoorWaterConservation.
—BJ Jarvis is horticulture agent and director of the Pasco Cooperative Extension Service, a part of the University of Florida, USDA and Pasco County government. She can be reached at .
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