Try some of these ideas to keep your yard looking beautiful all year long. You’ll save time and use less water.
Homeowner Christina Lathrop and Jeff Dix, owners of Dix.Lathrop and Associates in Longwood, Florida, made some smart water
planning decisions when restoring this 1925 Craftsman bungalow.
Given Florida’s water-usage restrictions, the firm chose Florida-Friendly Landscaping (floridayards.org) techniques, which teach homeowners the basics of environmentally conscious gardening, from efficient watering to selecting drought-tolerant plants.
Before, the lawn went right to the edge of the house. The designers replaced the large lawn with a natural area of drought-tolerant native and nonnative plants. To choose the right natives, they also researched local soils to ensure their selections would be in the right spots to thrive.
Just removing an existing porch railing opened up everything, but the team also used gutters on the porch roof to direct runoff into a rain barrel. A hose connected to the rain barrel makes it easy to hand-water a few pots nearby. They also used a rain chain—another time-honored gardening trick—to guide water from the roof into a large pot on the porch.
A rain garden is a depression in the landscape where runoff can collect. It’s filled with plants (so don’t picture a giant
mud hole), and the water that collects there slowly soaks back into the landscape (over a 24- to 36-hour period). The experts
at your local nursery can help you choose plants that better handle being inundated with water for brief periods.
Pervious paving (pictured) next to the mulched parking area helps guide water to the rain garden.
Because it delivers water right next to targeted plants, micro-irrigation uses a much lower volume of water. This system also divides your planting area into zones. Once plants in a particular zone are established, that zone can be turned off so it isn’t being watered unnecessarily. A wireless rain sensor automatically shuts down the system after a rain, conserving water.
Jeff made the swing of recycled native cypress from a local source. Instead of pavement, he and Christina specified a mulched parking area, yet another area for rainwater to be absorbed, thereby reducing runoff. The sitting area in the natural garden has a fire pit made of an old truck wheel (pictured).
Pots let you put color where you want it and control watering. Christina likes succulents and bougainvilleas for containers that need little care.