SWFWMD declares phase I water shortage

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SWFWMD declares phase I water shortage

Lilly Browning is the Florida Friendly Landscaping Program Coordinator

The Southwest Florida Water Management District has declared a Phase One Water Shortage. For the homeowner, this is more or less a warning phase, to prepare you for tighter restrictions if the dry weather continues. But one look around at the brown, crunchy lawns can tell us that we need to start thinking seriously about water conservation.

Several people have asked me this week if this dry spell means they can water more, in order to keep their lawns alive and thriving. Unfortunately, the resource needed for that is the very resource we are trying to conserve, and that is our groundwater.

Hernando County has been on one-day-a-week watering restrictions for over a decade. We have managed quite well, while utilizing our water resources wisely. If the water management district enacts one-day-a-week restrictions for the whole district, we are old pros at handling one-day-a-week! That restriction shouldn’t cause too much disturbance for residents of Hernando County.

Please resist the urge to cheat, and water more often, because your lawn doesn’t look that great. Take comfort in the fact that nobody’s lawn looks great! In fact, if a lawn does look great, if that lawn is a beautiful patch of emerald against a sea of honey-colored lawns, those people are waving a flag for Code Enforcement to pay attention to them. Don’t be green with envy over their green lawn! If Code Enforcement catches those sprinklers on when they aren’t supposed to be, the homeowner will be cited. They will also be checking at night and on the weekends.

The fact is, we all need to take measures to conserve water right now. Here is a list of things to help your landscape get through these dry times:

*Don’t buy new sod, plugs or seed right now. If you can, wait until June and the rainy season. (Hope for the rainy season to come when it normally does!)

* Don’t fertilize your lawn or landscape plants. Fertilizing encourages new growth, and that would be stressful to the lawn or your plants. Plants need to put their energy into surviving dry times, and not into growing more.

* Don’t prune plants. Pruning also causes new growth. See the explanation above.

* Hold off on making any major changes to your landscape.

* Mow your lawn very high, if at all. Keep the lawn mower blade very sharp.

* Avoid pesticide applications that require watering in.

* If you have Bahiagrass, it is capable of going dormant and riding these dry times out. It will bounce back once the rains begin.

* Move container plants to a shaded area, to reduce their need for water.

* Water established trees and shrubs only if they are showing signs of stress, such as wilting, a change in leaf color, yellowing or dropping leaves. If they have been well established, they should survive the dry times without any problems.

* Make sure your irrigation system is working properly. We need every drop we can get right now. Don’t waste water by watering the street, the sidewalk or your driveway. Direct the sprinkler heads to water your lawn, not non-target areas. Check for broken heads. Look for underground leaks. Those not only waste water, they can be very costly to your water bill.

* Take advantage of your rain barrel if you have one. Put a bucket in your shower, to collect some water to share with your plants. Save the water you boiled vegetables in. Water your plants with that nutrient rich water, once it cools.

* Put a bucket under the dripline of your air conditioner. Be sure to empty it every few days, so you don’t attract mosquitos.

*Avoid a lot of traffic on your lawn. Walk on it, or drive equipment on it as little as possible

* Don’t panic. It will rain again, and our yards will be green again. Now is not the time to strive for a green and lush landscape. Don’t be green with envy. We will get through this together!