Lawn irrigation is an important part of maintaining a healthy lawn; and for some of our customers— particularly those who live out-of-state seasonally—this can be difficult. In fact, we recently had a few customers contact us from their northern homes, asking if they should reduce their watering in response to reports indicating rain in the area. We understand the importance of water conservation, but to avoid serious turf damage, it’s crucial that we not reduce watering until the lawn has been irrigated thoroughly. But if precipitation reports indicate rain, shouldn’t we rely on these to be accurate? Not necessarily.
This is because most weather services maintain their monitoring equipment at the local airports, and the Florida climate is prone to patchy and isolated afternoon thunderstorms. This means that your home, which may lie just a few miles from the monitoring equipment, could have received far less rainfall than was reported. So how do you make sure your lawn is getting enough water?
Follow the Recommendations
First, make sure you’re applying enough water each time you irrigate. Then, be sure to irrigate with the right frequency. The Florida Lawn Handbook (FLH) 3rd Edition says:
“Florida soils are typically sandy and hold 1 inch of water in the top 12 inches of soil. […] Under extreme summer conditions, almost ½ inch of water can be used per day.”
This means your lawn can absorb about 3.5 inches of water per week during summer when such extreme conditions (90° and above) are common. That’s why, for over 25 years, Deans has recommended watering three times per week. Of course, since too much water presents its own set of problems, we also recommend using a rain sensor to prevent overwatering. Such sensors will prevent the irrigation system from running as long as it has
detected at least ½ inch of rain.
When watering, be sure to avoid applying the water too lightly. Otherwise, your lawn will attempt to adapt by spreading its roots only in the shallow, moist areas rather than penetrating deep into the soil. Without deep roots, your lawn won’t have the resources to survive droughts or other periods of stress. “Train” your root zone to grow properly by applying ¾ inch of water each time you irrigate.
The best way to determine if you’re applying that ¾ inch, is to place a rain gauge in the lawn (a tuna can works well too) and allow your system to run a full cycle. Then simply adjust the length of watering time up or down according to the results.
Persistent Dry Spots
In some cases your irrigation system can deliver the right amount of water at the right time, but there may still be dry areas. To determine the cause, place a gauge or can in a healthy green area and another in the dry area nearby. Allow the system (or at least that zone) to water a full cycle. Now measure and compare the water in the two containers. You’ll likely find less in the container placed in the dry area. This can be caused by any of the following:
Overlapping Spray Patterns. Too much water in one area means not enough in the other.
Clogged Heads. Dirty heads result in poor water coverage.
Poor pressure. This is often due to a leak in the system.
If the water is equal in both containers, the dry spot may not be related to your irrigation at all. In this case, we’d ask that you call Deans so we can dispatch one of our turf experts to help diagnose the problem. By following our recommendations, you’ll be sure to get the best results from your irrigation system!