How to Prepare for the Dry Season in Florida

Tips from Buck’s Backyard

The Right Amount of Irrigation Requires Some Education!

I am frequently asked how much should I water my grass and landscape beds. Well that is a great question that believe it or not is not easily answered! So here we go…

Example of drought stress in a lawn. Notice the yellow discoloration.

Example of drought stress in a lawn. Notice the yellow discoloration.

You can go onto numerous websites and read their info and they always have “the” answer. They are going on averages or past data or what they read online. I have been in the field, on properties, worked with irrigation and actually witnessed what lack of water does (and what too much water does.) The type of grass also factors in… some grasses can take it and some can’t. I have been on lawns that are watering three times a week and it is still not enough water, and on lawns where the customer does not water no matter what time of year it is and there lawn looks great. There is no one answer or magic potion that works, but by being informed what could happen and why will help you out  this time of year.  So in a perfect world when the aquifer and reservoirs are full to the brim and we know it is going to rain enough in our rainy season to keep them that way, this is what you need to do and know.

Dry Season Cometh

More drought stress

Another example of drought stress. Proper, efficient watering practices can prevent this.

We are entering into our dry season, February, March, April, May and sometimes into the early part of June. This is the time we get very little rain. Also this is where we get the most calls about our customer’s lawns. We fight fungus from November to March and the customers get used to seeing that disease, which sometimes can be confused with drought stress, it’s not. Drought stress can become a factor during these winter to spring months, when we can get into the 80s with little to no humidity and a constant breeze causing mass evaporation. Plus the days are getting longer and the grass is coming out of its semi dormancy (waking up) and it’s ready to cut loose. So add all that together plus the concrete curbs, driveways etc. which hold heat and pump it right into the soil and boom, we have ugly grass! So during the winter months some customers are watering very little or not all. This is ok and for the most part and what you should be doing in the winter. But then the switch is flipped on and the cold fronts stop coming and we start to warm up. All this happens in a very short time. So here we are, what’s next.

Now it’s March and the weather is great and we are headed to the beach and the grass is the last thing on our minds. But the grass is hungry and thirsty and wants to grow and the water is just not there for one reason or another. It has the food because we have been feeding it vital nutrients through the winter, and the grass has been storing it up waiting for this time of year. Remember the grass does the same thing trees do with the photosynthesis process. It takes in the sunshine and the water and releases it into atmosphere in the form of oxygen. The trees have an advantage because there root system is much deeper and more extensive so they find water. The grass not so much. We need to supplement the water by irrigation at least 2 times per week. Now do not break any city, county or state ordinances/laws on watering. Follow them to the letter. Water during the times they have specified and the days. Two times a week will get your grass through this tough time and even one day a week can help your grass survive. With our program and our nutrients we put into the soil will make your grass tough enough to survive. Now that being said, the grass may not look the best. Grass can actually go back into dormancy when enough water is not available as a survival measure. It will actually “shut down” to survive.

Foot prints in dry lawn.

Sure signs of drought stress: When footprints remain in the lawn for a day or longer.

So many things come into play this time of year. For example the longer the leaf blade on the grass, the deeper the root system is. Have you noticed when you drive by a golf course, they are constantly watering the greens because the leaf blade is so short that the root system is almost nonexistent? They have to water to keep the greens alive. Of course golf courses do not have the restrictions we do on watering. Here are recommended cutting heights for your Florida turf:

  • St. Augustine/Florida 3 to 4 inches
  • St. Augustine Dwarf variety’s 2 to 3 inches
  • Zoysia Empire 2.5 inches
  • Bermuda Common, Bermuda Celebration 2”

Remember the shorter the leaf blade the shorter the root system. This requires more water and food. In other words. the higher and longer the blade, the better the grass can survive low water conditions. 

Some other things to remember. Grass in a lot of shade won’t need the same amount of water that full sun areas do. The closer you are to the beach the sandier the soil will be, thus needing more water. Put a rain sensor on your sprinkler control box, this will shut your irrigation down in case we do get rain. I am constantly seeing homeowners and municipalities with their sprinklers on during a rain storm or right after it rained an inch. This is nothing but waist and does nobody any good. Here are some signs that the grass is actually thirsty (drought stressed) and not fungus…

Signs of drought

  • The mower wheel tracks and foot prints linger for a day or so.
  • The leaf blades are curled up and the green color is gone.
  • When it gets wet it smells like hay or even crunches under foot.

So in closing when you water your lawn, keep these additional tips in mind…

Tips for green lawns with efficient watering

  • Your pop up sprinklers (stationary) need to be on for about 20 minutes.
  • Your rotating sprinklers need to be on for about an hour to 45 minutes. (This will give you in general about 3/4 of an inch of water that will get down to the root zone.)
  • Adjust your sprinklers so they only water your lawn and landscape beds not the street.
  • Do repairs and make sure to have any broken or leaky sprinkler heads or lines fixed.

I could go on and on, but these are just a few good things you can do to help us save water and keep your lawn and landscape looking good.  Water is probably are most valuable natural resource and needs to be protected and used correctly. Water is life on so many levels.

If you have a question, call us. We can recommend an irrigation service that will do minor repairs, consultations to full installs. And remember, “the grass is always greener on the Harmony side!”

Buck Moon serves as the Certified Pest Control Operator for Harmony Care. In this role, he supervises field personnelBuck Moon and ensures all operations proceed in a safe and effective manner. He writes regularly on best practices for maintaining a healthy vibrant lawn in his home state of Florida