Gainesville, Fla. — Homeowners who irrigate want a beautiful lawn, and they’re more than willing to conserve water, a new University of Florida survey shows. It’s not a matter of a lush lawn versus saving a precious commodity.
They also want a landscape with pollinators, one that helps preserve the environment and one on which they can lie in a hammock for peace of mind, says Laura Warner, a UF assistant professor of agricultural education and communication.
“A message for residents is that we can have beautiful landscapes that increase the value of our homes, provide habitat for pollinators and animals, a place to socialize with friends and family — and we can do all that while saving water,” says Warner, a faculty member with the UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.
Past findings from other researchers showed that some people value aesthetics over conservation, Warner says. With that in mind, she and her research team were surprised to find so many people who valued both beauty and conservation.
Warner conducted a national web-based survey of 1,620 urban residents with landscapes, according to this new UF/IFAS Extension document.
She wanted to know how much homeowners value the following characteristics for their lawns: aesthetics, environment, food benefits, habitat, health and comfort, money, social and personal well-being.
One of the major results of the survey was that about one-third of residents placed considerable value on all of the benefits.
“For residents, I think this research could provide a way to check on a household’s conservation practices,” Warner says. “People who value their landscapes for all the benefits are more likely to be engaged in conserving water through good landscape practices.”
But Warner cautioned that she and others need to conduct more research to find out the nature of this relationship.
“We aren’t sure if valuing all these landscape benefits causes conservation, or vice-versa or neither,” she says. “However, it might be worth a resident or household spending some time considering the wealth of benefits their home landscape offers. Cultivating a greater appreciation for these urban environments could nudge the household toward more conservation practices.”
Warner suggests several conservation strategies homeowners can use to irrigate their lawns without sacrificing any of the benefits of a lovely lawn. For example, shutoff devices can be installed to prevent sprinklers from running when there’s enough rain to meet the landscape’s needs.
“In fact, these technologies can keep the landscape more healthy because they prevent over-watering, which can be detrimental to plants and turfgrass, not to mention all of the benefits the landscape provides,” Warner says.