For immediate release - October 4, 2011
Water Friendly Landscaping Takes Root in Leesburg Active Adult Community
Residents of the Plantation at Leesburg are discovering how to grow beautiful yards that conserve water with less grass.
When Dick and Pat Vlaha moved into the community in 2006, their home was surrounded by a thick, green carpet of sod. They enjoyed the yard, but it soaked up to 30,000 gallons of water a month - enough to fill a swimming pool and 10 times more than the retired couple typically used inside their house.
The Vlahas had to curb their enormous water habit. So this summer they ripped up all the grass and replaced it with a water-friendly landscape that improves the look of the home and could use a third as much water.
Now the neighbors are rethinking their own lawns with support from Plantation's homeowners association.
“I’m a yard nut,” Dick Vlaha said. “It took us two or three weeks to get used to our new landscaping, but now we love it.”
The new yard replaced much of the water-hungry St. Augustine grass with tons of river rock, pebbles and mulch. Neatly groomed landscape beds were expanded with colorful varieties of drought-tolerant plants.
A much smaller area of grass – this time Empire Zoysia – is laid out behind the home, where the Vlahas can enjoy the view. Low-flow irrigation systems help to keep everything green without using too much water.
Dick Vlaha said high water bills encouraged him to rework his lawn. Residential customers of the City of Leesburg’s water plant at Plantation also will need to reduce their average monthly water use by a third to 10,000 gallons in the year 2013, as required by a consumptive-use water permit issued by the St. Johns River Water Management District.
Vlaha hired a private landscaping company to work on his yard transformation for two months. The new grass and plants initially required more watering to better establish their roots, but Vlaha said he expects to reduce his previous irrigation demand by two-thirds – to 10,000 gallons a month or less.
“We are pleased and excited to see our customers taking such a proactive approach to water conservation. This is an excellent example of a very attractive water-conserving landscape,” said Ray Sharp, Leesburg’s director of Environmental Services and Public Works. “This yard illustrates perfectly how a water conserving landscape can be implemented that is lush, colorful and aesthetically pleasing – truly an enhancement to the neighborhood.”
More Plantation neighbors are joining the Vlahas in switching to low-water landscaping. The community also is creating a resident advisory committee to develop aesthetically pleasing standards for grass turf alternatives.
“The homeowners association is taking a proactive step. We should be good stewards of the environment,” said Plantation HOA president Bill Sendelbach.
Smart landscaping is important to conserve Florida’s fresh drinking water. Only one percent of the world’s ground and surface water is suitable for drinking.
The average homeowner uses as much as 80 percent of their water outside each month to keep grass and plants growing.
Residents are restricted from watering their lawns more than two days a week and not between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Homes with odd-numbered or no addresses can water Wednesdays and Saturdays. Even-numbered addresses can water Thursdays and Sundays.
Non-residential properties are Tuesdays and Fridays. Some residents have different assigned irrigation schedules that should be followed.
Watering restrictions change to once a week in early November.
On average, you should water no more than three quarters of an inch for each application – roughly 20 to 30 minutes of watering depending on the irrigation system. Try to go longer periods between watering to encourage deep root growth and a lawn that is more tolerant to dry weather.
Properly maintain automated irrigation systems. A recent study in a Leesburg community showed 9 out of 11 homes had damaged and leaky sprinkler heads. Be sure to replace broken sprinkler heads with the appropriate size and type of device to most efficiently irrigate that area of your lawn. Replace old sprinkler gaskets to prevent leaks. Properly adjust sprinkler heads to provide correct coverage and to avoid crossing streets, driveways or sidewalks.
Make sure that your automated irrigation controller is programmed to water the proper amount of time only on scheduled days. Florida law requires rain sensors to turn off irrigation systems during rainy periods - replace sensors every 2-3 years and test them routinely for accuracy.
Leesburg is a progressive city of more than 20,000 residents in northwest Lake County. The city government serves twice as many people with its electric, gas, water, wastewater and fiber-optic public utilities. Leesburg also is a central hub for commerce, attracting 50,000 people to work each weekday.