Watering Florida Lawns and Landscapes - Summer 2016
By Harold Jones - Southern Horticultural Consultants

Historically, irrigation is more critical in April, May and early June. This is typically the time of year when our Florida lawns need watering the most. The temperatures are higher and rainfall totals are not enough for the landscape. Severe damage may occur in the lawn and landscape if irrigation is short changed.

Why should we worry about dry weather when we have irrigation systems? The answer is simple. Rainfall is delivered at 100 percent efficiency (meaning everything gets the same amount of water when it rains. An irrigation system works at about 60 percent efficiency (at best). That means water is not distributed evenly over the lawn and landscape and drought stress can occur, particularly when the temperatures are in the upper 80's or higher.

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When a St. Augustine grass lawn is under drought stress it is more susceptible to chinch bug attack. Lawns which are allowed to get too dry can be susceptible to damage such as wheel tracks from mowing equipment. This wheel track damage is preventable by simply keeping the lawn watered properly.

Landscape plants may wilt and die; trees suffer and can die also. Watering is critical during dry weather. Irrigation systems should be adjusted to apply more water than normal and should be checked to be sure all the heads and zones are working properly.

How long should your irrigation system run each time? It depends on the system design and type of heads used. Popup heads apply water more quickly to areas and may not need to be run as long. Turf (gear driven) heads are slower in applying the water and must be run longer.

Your system should run long enough to apply 1/2 to 3/4 inch of water at each irrigation. The only precise way to know how long to run your system is to calibrate each zone by determining how long each individual zone needs to run to apply the needed water. Generally it is safe to assume a system needs to run 60 minutes for turf (gear driven) heads and at least 30 minutes for popup heads.

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