Proper irrigation saves water and your plants / lawn.
Less Frequent Watering for Longer Times is Best
Irrigation can account for as much as 50 to 60% of all water usage. The best way to conserve and save money is to cut this consumption by planning a landscape that reduces thirsty turf grass, learning how to use less water for healthier grass, and planting Florida native and drought tolerant shrubs and flowers.
Most lawns can be trained to need rain or irrigation only once each week or two during the fall and winter months. During the spring and summer, it may need more frequent irrigation, but less times for longer periods is the proper way to irrigation.
Watering frequently for short duration encourages short root growth and, therefore unhealthy disease-prone lawns. Having to grow deeper in search of water is healthy for lawns. So once a week with ¾ inches of water is ideal for this root growth.
Not During the Heat of the Day
And, do not water your lawn during the hottest part of the day from 10 am to 4 pm. During the heat of the day 65% of the water you would use will evaporate and be wasted. Plus, water droplets on plants during the hottest hours can cause the sun to burn the leaves.
Other Watering Tips
- Water early in the morning. This reduces evaporation by the hot sun and there is less wind during this time of day. Watering early reduces the potential for disease development.
- Do not mow the lawn too short. This puts additional water stress on the grass. Most St. Augustine and Bahia grasses should be mowed to a minimum height of three inches.
- Avoid over fertilization. This requires more watering and mowing.
- How Can I Tell?
When to irrigate can be determined two ways. These are by visual and physical inspection and by direct measurement of soil moisture.
Visual and physical inspection: The most efficient way to water your lawn is to irrigate it when it shows signs of stress from lack of water. Visual signs of water stress include the lawn turning a bluish gray color, footprints lingering after being made and grass blades folding in half.
Direct measurement of soil moisture: One way to measure soil moisture is with a soil moisture sensor. Sophisticated sensors will activate your irrigation system when water is needed. The more basic soil moisture sensors turn off your irrigation system when water is adequate.
- How much water is enough?
For most Florida soils, an average of ¾ inches of water a week is sufficient to replenish the grass. You can measure this with tuna fish or other flat-bottom, wide-mouth cans. Place five to seven of these throughout the irrigation zone to be operated. Water until the depth of water in each can is ¾ inch. That's how long that zone needs to be run once a week in summer and once every two to three weeks during the dry months.