WATERING YOUR FLORIDA LAWN

Keeping our lawns healthy is a big deal, and irrigation plays a crucial role. Water is precious, and getting the watering right is key. Here are some important things to consider:
  • How often to water.
  • How much water to use.
  • The best time of day to water.
  • How to make sure the water is spread evenly.
  • Understanding how your turf’s watering affects other plants in your yard.
  • How different parts of your yard might need different amounts of water.
  • Any local restrictions on watering set by your municipality or water management district.

How Often Do I Water?

 
How often you water your lawn depends on a bunch of factors like the type of grass you have, how much it rains, the kind of soil you’ve got, how much shade your lawn gets, where you are in the state, and, of course, the season. It’s really important to adjust your irrigation system throughout the year to match your grass’s changing water needs.

For example, here’s a general idea of how often you might need to water St. Augustine grass in our area, assuming there’s no rain:

  • Spring: Every 3-11 days
  • Summer: Every 1-5 days
  • Fall: Every 2-9 days
  • Winter: Every 8-28 days

But remember, if it rains, you can usually water less. It’s easy to forget to adjust your irrigation system for the seasons, but failing to do so can lead to overwatering. Overwatering isn’t good for your lawn—it can make it more prone to diseases, cause thatch to build up, and lead to shallow roots, which means your grass won’t handle stress as well and will need more water in the long run. Plus, overwatering can encourage the growth of weeds like dollarweed and sedges.

In the Big Bend, we get a lot of rain—sometimes totals can hit 50 inches or more every year. When we get enough rain to keep our plants happy, it’s best to turn off our sprinklers. The University of Florida suggests watering our lawns only when they really need it. You can tell it’s time to water when you see signs of stress in your grass, like:

  • The blades of grass fold in half to save water.
  • The grass starts looking blue-gray instead of green.
  • Footprints or tire tracks stay visible in the grass.

A lot of folks just leave their sprinkler timers on the same schedule all year without changing them. But plants need different amounts of water at different times of the year. Forgetting to adjust your timer can waste water and harm your plants. Also, be sure to check if there are any watering restrictions in your area set by the Water Management District or local government.

How Much Do I Water?

When you water your lawn, the amount of water you use each time should stay pretty consistent throughout the year. What changes is how often you water. The goal is to water in a way that wets only the roots of the grass, without making the soil too soggy or letting water run off.

In Florida, our soil is usually sandy, so it can hold about 1 inch of water in the top foot of soil. If your grass’s roots are in that top foot and the soil is dry, you’ll want to water with about ½ to ¾ inch of water to make sure the area gets soaked properly.

It might be tempting to water a little bit every day, but that’s not the best approach. It can actually make your grass’s roots grow shallow, which isn’t good. And you definitely don’t want to overdo it and keep the soil too wet—that can also harm your lawn.

A good rule of thumb is to water with ½ to ¾ inch of water when your grass starts showing signs of drought stress. Once you’ve watered, wait until you see those signs again before watering more. And if it rains, hold off on watering until your grass looks like it really needs it.

When Do I Water?

The best time to water your lawn is in the early morning. If you water during the day, a lot of the water can just evaporate, which is a waste. And if you water in the late afternoon or late morning, it might actually be bad for your lawn. That’s because it can make your lawn stay wet longer from the dew, which can lead to more diseases.

How Do I Evenly Apply Water?

Even if your system was installed by a pro, it’s a good idea to check it regularly. Sprinkler heads can get clogged, damaged, or end up pointing in the wrong direction. And sometimes there can be leaks in the pipes.

One easy way to check if your system is watering evenly is to place some small, straight-sided cans in a line from your sprinkler to the edge of where it sprays. Run your system for about 15 minutes and then check how much water is in each can. They should all have about the same amount.

This method also helps you figure out how long you need to run your system to give your grass ½ to ¾ inch of water. For example, if you get ¼ inch of water in 15 minutes, you’d need to run your system for 30 to 45 minutes to give your lawn the right amount.

While you’re checking for uneven watering, keep an eye out for any damaged sprinkler heads. If you find any that are leaking or not spraying properly, it’s best to replace them. Also, make sure that all your valves are opening and closing like they should.

Can My Grass Affect My Landscape Plants?

It’s good to keep in mind that your sprinkler system might be watering more than just your grass—it could be watering your other plants too. And those plants might need different amounts of water than your grass does. If you only think about your grass when you’re setting up your sprinklers, you might end up over- or under-watering your other plants.

The best setup is to have separate zones for your grass and your other plants. That way, you can make sure each zone gets the right amount of water for what’s growing there.

What Else Can Affect My Irrigation Requirements?

When it comes to watering your lawn, not every part of it is the same. If you’ve got grass near trees or big shrubs, it might be shaded for part or even all of the day. Growing nice grass in these shady spots can be tough, and sometimes it’s better to go with a different kind of ground cover.

If you do decide to stick with grass in shady areas, you’ll need to cut back on how much you water those spots.

The kind of soil you have also affects how much water your lawn needs. Sandy soil doesn’t hold onto water very well, so it dries out faster than soil with more clay. Lawns on sandy soil usually need to be watered more often.

In cities, soil often gets compacted, which makes it hard for water to soak in. This can lead to water pooling on the surface or even flooding.

The weather plays a big part too. How much sun your lawn gets, how windy it is, how hot or cold it is, and how humid it is all affect how much water your grass needs.

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