Before you head out
On one of those cold winter nights, take some time to assess what you've been growing in your yard and think about ways you can start working some native plants into the landscape. Start slowly, if you'd like, with just a few species of native plants. Once you see how beautiful those plants look in your yard and how little maintenance they require, you’ll want to plant even more.
The National Native Plant Campaign website is a good place to start your search, with links to local native plant societies, where you can find lots of information about the plants that grow best in your area with the least amount of water and care.
Get the yard ready
Once you have a plan prepared, make a few preparations in the yard.
- Inspect all outdoor pipe, especially the irrigation cutoff valves and backflow prevention devices, to make sure they did not freeze and break during the winter.
- Add a new layer of mulch around the bases of tree, perennial flowers and trees.
- Use a little fertilizer and take advantage of Spring rains to promote early growth and stronger drought tolerance in the Summer.
- Make sure your cistern or rain barrels are clean and in good working order so you can start collecting water when the Spring rains begin falling.
A little preparation in the spring will make it a lot easier to sit back and enjoy your beautiful yard in the hot summer months.
Replace as much of your sod as you can with native plants. Be sure to check with your homeowners' association, because some have specific requirements about how much sod a yard must contain. Remember that native plants won't need fertilizers or pesticides. On the other hand, some municipalities, such as Oviedo, Florida, offer incentives for homeowners who reconfigure their yards so that they are more water-conscious.
And, of course, once they're established, they will hardly need to be watered.
Be sure to mulch around the plants to help prevent erosion and to keep as much moisture around the plants as possible. The Natural Resource Conservation Service suggests that using organic mulches such as leaves, composted materials or even shredded newspaper will not only keep the weeds at bay, but it will also decompose and enrich the soil.
Mow or Less
And, remember, the more of your sod you replace, the less time you will have to spend pushing a mower around the yard.