Xeriscaping is form of landscaping intended to reduce water and fertilizer consumption. Slow-growing, drought tolerant species are introduced alongside of our indigenous North Florida vegetation that is already accustomed to the annual rainfall levels of the Jacksonville area. This eliminates the need to water the landscape daily, and it saves our much needed water resources and the costs of water usage. Fertilizer use is also eliminated by the slow-growth of flora that are used to thriving local conditions and need little pampering from human hands to gain a foothold in a cultivated environment. This is particularly important as it effects our impact on the St Johns River and its tributaries.
Xeriscaping was first developed in the western United States, where limited water resources in California called for conservation measures even at the household level of society. Since then, it has spread to every region of the country for a variety of reasons. One of these reasons is the conservation not of water, but of natural ecosystems themselves. This is particularly true in temperate and humid climates that suffer high levels of pollution directly tied to the fertilizers and pesticides.
It may surprise some to learn that fertilizers can be just as bad for the environment as pesticides. This is because they are made for garden plants and have a chemical constitution that is toxic to many native wild plants. Pesticides, which are also toxic by nature, can injure or kill birds, fish, and wildlife along with the pests they are intended to kill. When plants treated with these chemicals are constantly trimmed, the waste matter from garden plants now becomes a biohazard. If they are dumped back into the ecosystem this can create a toxic dump that the next rain will subsequently spread throughout the area.
In such an environment, Xeriscaping with extremely slow-growth indigenous plants is part of a solution to ending this type of pollution. Native plants have evolved resistance to native pests and most do not require any unnatural treatment to survive. If slow-growth plants are carefully selective from the surrounding flora rather than being imported from exotic locales, it is conceivable that lawns and gardens could then be developed that no longer needed to rely upon chemical treatments and less frequent trimming and maintenance.
While it may not be immediately obvious, Xeriscaping could offer Jacksonville an entirely new landscape using plant material carefully selected from the from native plant lists like the one featured here. Jacksonville has simply grown so quickly that too much of the native beauty of this part of Florida has been built over and covered up. Most of us are so busy that we drive over bridges every day without even realizing that we actually live in a very complex and intricate ecosystem as it relates to the St Johns river basin. Almost all of us are living within an impact zone of the St Johns or one of its tributaries. The St Johns has suffered greatly from chemical pollution, and many native fish, bird, and animal species have all but disappeared from our back yards.
While some Jacksonville areas residents and property managers may hesitate to try Xeriscaping for fear that their yards would lose their aesthetic, the options for attractive landscapes are by no means limited or inferior to traditional forms. There are countless species native to Florida that can be used that will minimize the need for fertilizer use without sacrificing beauty in the process. These plants can be used in the same landscaping designs that are already popular.
Xeriscaping in the Jacksonville area could lead to such a drastic reduction in pesticide use that could drastically help to restore clean water conditions to the St Johns and prevent the algae slicks that are becoming all to common in our area.