Return of the native

Weather prognosticators say that, thanks to La Nina, another extra-dry summer is looming. That means a nasty impact on your water consumption, water bill and the environment. Fact is, say U.S. Environmental Protection Agency statistics, Floridians' addiction to landscape irrigation accounts for up to 70 percent of all residential water consumption, and in-ground irrigation aggravates the problem by using 50 percent more water than a garden hose.

If you're ready to break the watering habit in your yard, xeriscaping -- from the Greek word xeros, which means dry -- is the answer. Xeriscaping combines landscaping, design, plant selection and mulches. The technique not only assures water frugality with efficient irrigation systems, but improves soil by using drought-resistant native and acclimated plants and avoiding fertilizers or pesticides. Bark and/or stones mulching means maximum use of rainwater.

Xeriscaping will reduce your yard work, and your yard-water use can plummet as much as 75 percent. Initial set-up can cost up to 40 percent more than a sod-only plan, but with maintenance you'll make it back in less than three years.

Xeriscaping not only makes a difference in your water use, it makes a statement: You care that the water supply in your state and on your planet is limited. For more information, call the Native Plant Society at 299-1472.

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