How often should I water?
Know and follow your local watering restrictions, but don’t water just because it’s your day. The basic principle of lawn and garden watering is not to overwater. The time to irrigate will vary depending on your soil type and your location in the state.
Irrigate your lawn when it shows signs of stress from lack of water. Pay attention to signs of stressed grass, such as a bluish-gray color, lingering tire tracks or footprints and leaf blades that are folded in half lengthwise. Also, you can determine if your lawn needs water by measuring soil moisture.
Sophisticated soil moisture sensors will turn on your automatic irrigation system when water is needed. The more basic soil moisture sensors turn off your system when water is adequate. Reliable soil moisture sensor technology is currently available in irrigation supply stores.
What time of day should I water?
Evaporation loss can be 60 percent higher during the day, so water during the cool, early morning hours to minimize water loss by evaporation and to discourage disease. Avoid watering on windy days.
How long should I water?
Apply moderate amounts of water to create a healthy, drought- and stress-tolerant lawn. For most Florida soils, an average of one-half to three-quarters of an inch of water per application is enough to replenish the grass. Saturate the root zone, then let soil dry to encourage healthy, deep root growth.
To determine how long you should run your sprinkler, place five to seven empty straightedged cans (about the size of an average tuna can) at different distances away from the sprinkler. Run the sprinkler for 15 minutes and measure the amount of water collected in each can. Calculate an average water depth and determine how long it will take to apply one-half to three-quarters of an inch of water.
If you have an automatic sprinkler system, be sure it is equipped with a working rain shutoff device, which overrides the system when enough rain has fallen. It automatically resets the system when the turf requires more water. Rain shutoff devices are required by Florida law on all automatic sprinkler systems installed since 1991. Check regularly to ensure the device is working properly and that the corresponding switch in the control box is set at “on.”
Drip irrigation is the most efficient method of watering for non-turf areas such as bedded plants, trees or shrubs. Drip systems minimize or eliminate evaporation, impede weed growth, and may help prevent grass diseases caused by under-watering or overwatering.
Soaker hoses are an inexpensive alternative to drip irrigation. Soil moisture should be monitored to determine when enough water has been applied.
If using a hose and sprinkler, place the sprinkler in the area that is driest. Allow the sprinkler to run the proper length of time to apply one-half to three-quarters of an inch of water. When that area is complete, move the sprinkler to another dry area. Place the sprinkler so that its water spray will overlap the area previously watered. Adjust the hose or sprinkler until it waters just the grass or shrubs, not paved areas.
Inground irrigation systems can be automatic or manual, or a combination. The automatic system can provide an efficient method of irrigating lawns because controllers turn the system off after a predetermined amount of time, so a measured amount of water is applied. Learn how to operate your system. Check timing devices regularly to make sure they are operating properly. Watch for broken or misdirected sprinklers.
Use the appropriate sprinkler head for the irrigated area. Install sprinklers that are the most water-efficient for each use. Rotors or spray heads are good for turf areas, but shouldn’t be used in the same zone. For even distribution, flow rates must be consistent throughout the zone.
- Cut your grass at the highest recommended height for your turf species, or the highest setting on your lawn mower.
- Mow regularly, cutting no more than one-third of the grass length to encourage grass roots to grow deeper and grass blades to hold moisture.
- Keep mower blades sharp. Dull blades tear grass, opening it to disease, and cause it to appear tan and ragged.
- Leave short grass clippings where they fall, reducing the lawn’s need for water and fertilizer.
- Remove thick patches of clippings so that the clippings will not kill the grass underneath.