By Joe Parr, Busch Gardens Tampa Director of Horticulture
Here at Busch Gardens, we are always trying to conserve natural resources in all of our Operations.
As director of Horticulture here, one of the resources that I am most concerned about conserving is...you guessed it: Water! First, I will explain some of the ways that we conserve this precious resource when planting and harvesting the beautiful plants and foliage you see in the park. Then, I will give you some tips to do the same in your home garden or yard.
How Busch Gardens Conserves Water
- Did you know that most of the Busch Gardens irrigation system is controlled by computer? When an inch of natural rainfall has been received here at Busch Gardens in a 24 hour period, the system automatically shuts itself off and skips a cycle, which saves a significant amount of water annually.
- The park is regularly "zone-checked" to make sure that there are no line breaks or incorrectly adjusted waterheads.
- In some of our planters, we use low volume irrigation which uses less water and efficiently emits water at the plants roots. The Timbuktu and Egypt areas of the park are Xeroscaped and survive primarily on natural rainfall.
- The Busch Gardens nursery is growing heirloom pumpkins for a fall display on low-volume drip irrigation. Drip irrigation uses much less water and is healthier for the plants because drip does not encourage the growth of fungus and water spread diseases.
Tips for Saving Water in Your Home Garden or Yard
- Several times a year, check for line breaks and make certain that heads are only watering plants, not walls or sidewalks or the street. Separate zones: established shrubs require less irrigation than does sod.
- Split your run times (or, when you run your water). You want the water to be absorbed by your soil and not run off down the street. For example, if you run your rotor zones for an hour to put out an inch of irrigation, once a week, split you run start times in 3. For example: set run start times for 2 am, 4 am and 6am, at 20 minutes each run time. This way, the water sinks into the soil before it can build up and run off. Also water early in the morning so that the water is absorbed by the plants and is not lost to evaporation.
- When installing a new landscape incorporate generous amounts of compost into your soil which is very effective in increasing your sandy soils health and the soils ability to hold water and nutrients.
BG's compost: we use this whenever possilbe as a way to conserve resources
- Do the research and pick plants that are drought tolerant which need less water once established. There are a large number of the exotics that Floridians love which are drought tolerant as well as beautiful. There are new sod types that are drought tolerant as well.
- Mow your lawn to 4 inches. This encourages drought tolerance by stimulating deep rooting while shading out water competing weeds. Hold off on fertilizing plants and turf during the summer which forces new growth. Lush, new growth requires more water is more vulnerable to pests.
- Water only when turf and shrubs begin to wilt and shut off irrigation when an inch of rain has been received. When building a new home, have your builder clear only the foundation footprint of the house. Florida’s existing native vegetation is the very best adapted to the natural conditions and much lower maintenance.
- If your style of architecture is suitable try a Mediterranean, Native or Desertscape plant palette.
Desertcape plants are well adapted to thrive with only natural rainfall.
- Plant trees with light or moderate canopies which provide shade to turf allowing it to survive the hot summer months while using less water.
- Consider rain barrels or cisterns which harvest free water from you roof or driveway, storing it for later use in your garden. There is an operating rain barrel at the Garden Gate gift shop, located at the front of the park near the turnstiles.
Rain barrels harvest water from your roof and store it for later use
- A healthy, growing landscape cools the air by as much as five degrees vs. a non landscaped area. Landscaping greatly reduces dust and noise. Shade trees reduce the temperature beneath their canopies by 20 degrees and when planted in groups reduce the force of hurricane winds.
- Shade trees can reduce a homes energy cooling expenses by as much as 30 percent when planted to shade the south and west sides of the home. A well landscaped home substantially increases its curb appeal and value.
I hope this post was helpful to you homeownners and gardeners out there.
Do you have any water-savin tips you would like to share? Post them below in the comments!