University of Florida

The Neighborhood Gardener:
Roadside Plantings Get a Makeover

Lakewood Ranch, a master-planned community near Bradenton, recently got a "landscape makeover" when the Manatee County Extension Office helped community management improve the design of their roadside green areas.

The turf along the well-traveled roads in Lakewood Ranch was showing signs of decline. Wind from the cars, along with drought conditions, had the turf looking brown and patchy. Michelle Atkinson, Coordinator for the Florida Yards & Neighborhoods program in Manatee County, worked with Ryan Heise, Director of Operations at Lakewood Ranch, to develop a solution.

Large portions of worn-out turf were being replaced every year; combined with the significant amount of water required to irrigate the turfgrass, this was an ever-increasing expense to the community. Following the Right Plant, Right Place principle of the Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ program, the decision was made to replace some of the turf with landscape beds, which do not require as much irrigation once established.

The remaining turf was replaced with a variety that could better withstand mild drought conditions. Empire Zoysia was utilized for its ability to "green-up" again when it receives rainfall or irrigation after periods of drought.

To date, Lakewood Ranch has replaced more than ten acres of turfgrass with mulched, Florida-Friendly plant beds. This translates to over ten acres of high-volume irrigation being reduced to low-volume irrigation.

Residents in the community are now realizing the savings from eliminating the annual expense of turf replacement. Many are using the same Florida-Friendly plant materials in their own yards, because they like the look of the landscape beds and are now experiencing reduced irrigation needs. This is a substantial water savings throughout the entire community.

See "before and after" photos.

For more information about this project, contact Michelle Atkinson, Manatee County Extension Office.


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