The Fountain Bleu homeowners association is a four-year-old community located in the Renaissance development of Sun City Center. It is a small association with about 20 homeowners.

The main complaint these homeowners have is keeping their turf from turning brown and dying.

“That’s one of the main reasons associations call me,” said Lisa Strange, Florida Yards & Neighborhoods community association coordinator. “Most people want to know how to prevent their turf from getting brown spots and they want to learn about more efficient methods of irrigation.”

Most neighborhoods in Sun City Center, including Fountain Bleu, have Bermuda grass, which is a type of grass used on golf course putting greens.

Strange says the master developer required Bermuda grass in its Sun City Center neighborhoods because it is easier for their maintenance crews to use the same equipment to mow both the golf courses and the lawns.

Bill O’Dell, the association president, asked Strange to speak at an association meeting.

“We wanted to learn what’s out there and what we can do to improve our landscape while conserving water so we can be the example for other communities to follow,” said O’Dell.

Strange talked to the group about Florida-friendly landscaping practices and conducted a comprehensive site visit to evaluate their landscaping.

After inspecting one home’s irrigation system and performing a catch-can test, she found that inefficient irrigation helped cause the brown spots. Some sprinkler heads were broken or misdirected.

Strange also said their lawns were cut too short. The recommended height for Bermudagrass is ½ to 1 ½ inches tall.

No matter what kind of grass you have, maintaining an efficient irrigation system and mowing the lawn to the proper height are two key practices to improving turf health. Other options for this association include installing turf that requires less water and increasing the size of the planting beds, which use less water than turf and can be very attractive.

Strange also pointed out several other poor landscaping practices concerning mulch, improper plant placement and overpruning shrubs and trees.

She recommended the residents stop using white rock in the plant beds because it attracts heat during the day and holds onto it through the night, “cooking” the plant roots. Organic mulch helps retain moisture, moderates soil temperature, provides organic matter and reduces erosion and weeds.

Strange says the planting beds would also benefit from planting the right plant in the right place. For instance, she saw sun-loving plants in shady locations and vice versa.

Overpruning causes plants stress and opens them up to diseases and pests, ruins the trees’ natural form and produces large amounts of growth that is poorly attached, making them more prone to loss from wind.

Strange continues to assist the Fountain Bleu homeowners association in their efforts to improve the quality of their turf and plant beds. In fact, she invited the residents to visit the Extension office to check out the demonstration gardens that illustrate all the Florida-friendly landscaping practices.

If you would like to learn more about Florida-friendly landscaping, visit the District’s web site at www.WaterMatters.org/yards/. There is also a link on the page that leads to the contact information for the county Extension offices and Florida Yards & Neighborhoods coordinators.

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