The UF/IFAS Landscape Unit

aerial view of two landscape research plots

An aerial view of two of the landscape research plots

In the summer of 2013 the Environmental Horticulture Landscape Unit at the University of Florida in Gainesville welcomed the initiation of the Florida-Friendly demonstration plot study. This study aims to quantify the contrast in resource expenditures between traditional turf-centric landscapes and low-maintenance Florida-Friendly landscapes.

A New Facility

The UF/IFAS Landscape Unit is a new facility on the University of Florida's Institute of Food and Agricultural Science's Gainesville campus. It has been designed for research and demonstration on an integrated landscape system (the residential yard), that considers vegetation, soils, materials, maintenance, and aesthetics.

The Latest: Warm Season Turfgrass

Let's have a look at the new turfgrass and the work that went into installing it this summer. (July, 2014)

The UF/IFAS Landscape Unit research plots are designed to quantify the resource inputs required to maintain a typical residential landscape and a Florida-Friendly residential landscape.

Previously known as "the tree unit," the facility includes four 5,000 square foot plots on a paved road with a concrete sidewalk and patio. Three plots are replicates with two treatments each—a typical "front" yard with 75% turf and 25% landscape plants, and a "back" yard with 25% turf and 75% plant material with an emphasis on Florida Friendly Landscaping principles. The fourth plot will be for research on turf varieties.

The primary goal is to conduct multi-year research on landscape material costs, landscape resource inputs, and landscape maintenance costs, including work time. Secondary research opportunities include plant selection, maintenance techniques, and visual quality analysis based on time and resource inputs.

Florida-friendly demonstration plot study from UF/IFAS IrriGators on Vimeo.

Data Collected Includes

  • treatment frequency, quantity and type of treatment materials
  • quantity of water applied (irrigation)
  • maintenance/labor time
  • weather information
  • equipment and tools used
  • maintenance techniques
  • quantity, size, and species of plants
  • plant longevity and replacement

Data will also consider the costs of landscape installation and management practices including: plants, hardscape, irrigation, tools, and equipment. Collected data will also include considerations regarding maintenance time and costs on a weekly, monthly, and annual basis for labor, materials, equipment, and tools.

The data collected is for a small scale site but there will be opportunities to analyze inputs for larger scales, such as neighborhood and regional scale.

The data collected will be valuable to landscape contractors, the nursery industry, and Florida homeowners. Comparable numbers can be used to assess effectiveness and efficiency of operation management, maintenance practices, and optimal resource inputs.

In addition to research, the facility will be used for public tours, training for groups such as the Master Gardeners and FNGLA (Florida Nursery, Growers and Landscape Association), and UF environmental horticulture classes, conferences, and field work. The facility includes a tent/event area for conferences and meetings.

Irrigation in the Research Plots

Irrigation design is just as integral to the demonstration plot study as plant selection and placement. Some of the plots recreate the inefficient practice of watering everything at once without accounting for plant water need, while other plots use three different types of low-volume irrigation targeted specifically at plant root zone. In control of everything: an internet-accessible, two-wire smart irrigation timer normally for use on large commercial systems. All of this equipment in action in one place, and now presented here for you.