A large amount of land in Florida is in moderate to severe drought, but USF’s Tampa campus landscaping and irrigation was designed for minimal water usage and sustainability.
According to Kim Hutton, event coordinator for the USF Botanical Gardens, plants have been growing tremendously and there is a lot of “pizzazz” undeterred by the drought.
“The Bougainvillea on the [Tampa] campus thrives on abuse,” said Hutton. The drought-thriving plant can be spotted at the Martin Luther King Jr. Plaza.
Minimal rain and dryness throughout the sunshine state is due to the La Nina patterns, which brings drier and milder conditions. La Nina takes place when the sea surface temperatures across the equatorial central and eastern Pacific are below normal.
The winter season does call for multiple plants at the Botanical Gardens to be protected.
“During the winter, we must watch weather systems. Cold and freezing means we have to cover plants, bring plants in from the outside and turn heaters on,” said Laurie Walker, director of USF’s Botanical Gardens.
However, the native plants such as firebush, lantana, and milkweed can manage water and weather conditions without any covering, according to Florida Native Plant Nursery. The native plants are hardy and do not need attention.
“Here at the gardens we focus on using top dressing, which is mulch consisting of various materials of leaves, broken pieces of wood, and grass clippings,” said Hutton.
Annually, the 16 acres of gardens and greenbelt attracts 35,000 visitors.
According to AccuWeather, not only has the mild weather affected Florida, northern states in the Midwest also have been dealing with Mother Nature.
Farmers have major concerns due to the weather because wheat crops may be affected by the absence of snow, which insulates the soil.
John Sego, Brownsfield coordinator of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, said, “Throughout the year, fluctuating groundwater levels may affect assessment or subsequent remediation activities.”
Walker said, “We have to follow the city water restrictions with ground irrigation.”
The majority of the current water restrictions are two-day per week watering in Tampa Bay counties such as Hillsborough, Polk, Pinellas, Manatee, and Pasco, according to Southwest Florida Water Management.