Currently, in the Wellington community at Seven Hills the turfgrass is suffering from a disease called ‘take-all root rot.’ This happens because of a fungus and will damage the roots of the grass, preventing the turf from efficiently retaining water and nutrients from the soil. With this disease, residents are having to replace their turf on an annual basis.
In order to help educate homeowners and mitigate the situation, The Southwest Florida Water Management District created the Wellington Turf Swap Project. Robin Grantham, Lead Communications Coordinator for the Southwest Florida Water Management, released an informational video outlining what the Wellington Turf Swap Project entails.
Joe Pistorius, a property owner within the community stated in the informational video, “It costs a lot of money in water bills when you put new sod in. You have to water nearly on a daily basis.” Wellington was identified through Hernando County Utilities as one of the highest water using communities.
This project is entirely funded by the district as part of the Conservation Education Project. The existing St. Augustine grass will be replaced with Bahia grass, because it is less susceptible to root rot and requires less water and chemicals. Some Florida Friendly Landscaping plants will be planted as well. So, the St. Augustine grass will be replaced with 60% Bahia turf and 40% plant bed on the front yards only. The district has partnered with Hernando County and The University of Florida for this project. Four homes were selected to participate in the project and they were selected based on average water use, length of occupancy, prevalence of take-all root rot, location, and participation agreement.
The plants, in addition to the Bahia, are going to conserve water by expanding the landscape bed and installing micro-irrigation sprinklers in the landscape bed, says Claire Lewis UF/IFAS Extension Florida-Friendly Landscaping specialist. Then, water efficient irrigation heads will be installed out in the turf area, so the use of water should go down drastically.
This is a pilot project, so it’s new to the district. The Southwest Florida Management works with their utilities to provide support for the Wellington community to ensure that they can teach their residents about water conservation. A virtual workshop was held and recorded on Oct. 5 and will be shared electronically with the Wellington residents via HOA outreach. The workshop was taught by Lily Browning, Florida-Friendly Landscaping Program Coordinator with the Hernando County Utilities Department, and Dr. William Lester, Urban & Commercial Horticulture Agent with Hernando County’s UF/IFAS Extension office.
Resident Joe Pistorius adds, “Anything that would contribute to saving natural resources, the better off we’re gonna be.”
Essentially, this project will help reduce water usage and help to ensure a strong water supply for future generations to come.