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Landscapers upset by 'no exceptions'

They say the city should have seen the crisis coming long ago and taken steps.


© St. Petersburg Times, published March 17, 2000

TAMPA -- Landscapers and sodders said Thursday they had never heard of restrictions that prohibit the watering of new plantings, and they complained the city should have imposed less stringent restrictions months ago to avoid the crisis.

The City Council has limited the watering of lawns or plants to one day a week. There are no exceptions: not for golf courses; not for homes with their own wells; not even for newly sodded yards or newly planted shrubs, trees or flowers.

Newly sodded yards in particular must be watered every day in order to take root, they said. If not, they die. Past water restrictions offered a 30-day exemption for new plants or sod.

Earl Matthews, 76, has operated Earl's Garden Shop since 1947 and has seen plenty of water shortages and restrictions come and go. But this is the first time he can remember that no exceptions for new plants were allowed.

"I just heard about it, and I'm getting ready to go take a blood pressure pill before I get more worked up," Matthews said. "If they cut watering with no exemptions for new plants, it will ruin us. The sod companies will be in even worse shape."

Dan Lawhead owns Keystone Landscapes and has a degree in horticulture from the University of Florida. The city should have seen this shortage coming back in January, he said, and started conservation then.

"Everybody should've been on restriction two months ago,"Lawhead said. "We were short a long time ago. They waited until things got really serious before they did anything at all, and now it's punishing us."

Lawhead said his business and his customers might have saved thousands of dollars if the city had warned landscapers and sodders ahead of time that new plants would be subject to watering restrictions.

"I just tore up a woman's yard today, and she expects sod on it," Lawhead said. "I can't put sod on it if I can't water it; it's a waste of time and money. It would die. So this woman's yard is going to be basically a desert until they change the rules or it rains."

Eli Cura, co-owner of Cura Sod in Tampa, said his company will get paid whether the sod lives or dies. Cura Sod works for builders in new developments across town.

"New construction homes have to have sod," Cura said. "The builders can't sell a house until it has grass and trees. It's in the contracts.

"So we'll continue to sod, but we'll have to replace everything. It's going to be a big mess."

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