In December, January and February, most Florida grasses are not actively growing. Irrigate no more than once every other week. If rain has fallen within that period, wait another two weeks.
Schedule irrigation for one day a week from March through November. However, grass may need an additional irrigation, if rainfall is sparse. Look for these signs that an additional irrigation is needed:
If 30% of your lawn shows one of the following signs, schedule irrigation on your next allowable watering day:
- Leaf Blades folded in half lengthwise
- Grass takes on a blue-gray color
- Footprints remain visible on lawn
Waiting for grass to show signs it needs water creates a stronger healthier turf that has greater resistance to pests, cold and heat.
How Much To Irrigate?
In typical sandy Florida soils, an application of 1/2” to 3/4” of water is enough to saturate the root zone. Any additional water applied is wasted.
Achieving 1/2” to 3/4” of irrigation depends on water pressure and head type, among other factors. In general, rotor heads zones can be scheduled to irrigate about 30 to 45 minutes each, while spray heads zones can usually apply the same amount in half the time, about 15-20 minutes.
Because of the difference in application amounts, irrigation head types should not be mixed within a single zone, i.e. rotor heads and spray heads should not be in the same zone. If they are, consider replacing some to make consistent. In the meantime, schedule irrigation in that zone 30-45 minutes to avoid under-irrigating turf.
When To Irrigate?
Schedule irrigation between 12:00 AM and 8 AM. The goal should be to finish irrigation around sunrise. This will minimize the amount of time grass stays wet and decrease the occurrence of diseases that can occur from extended periods of moisture.
Always follow irrigation restrictions, as well. Irrigation may only occur on an allowable water day, before 10 a.m. or after 4 p.m., as follows:
- Even address (ending in 0, 2, 4, 6, 8): Thursday and/or Sunday
- Odd address (ending in 1, 3, 5, 7, 9): Wednesday and/or Saturday
Irrigation Maintenance Checklist
Outdoor water use can account for more than half of residential water use. Much of that water is lost due to irrigation system inefficiencies. Save water and money on utility bills by conducting routine maintenance of the irrigation system.
The best way to catch problems quickly is to check the irrigation system monthly or quarterly. Just run the zones one at a time and visually inspect each sprinkler head looking for the following problems.
Missing Sprinkler Heads
Sprinkler heads regularly need replacing. Often victim of lawnmowers, cars, or just old age, broken heads can lose thousands of gallons of water each cycle. Heads, also called nozzles, are easy to replace and available at most hardware and irrigation supply stores. Replace head with the same as the broken head to ensure spray uniformity.
Ensure that grass and nearby plant growth do not block the sprinkler spray pattern. To correct this issue, install a small PVC extender below the sprinkler head to raise it above the growth obstacle, or trim surrounding plants lower than the head.
Clogged Sprinkler Heads
Sprinkler heads are frequently clogged by dirt and debris trapped in the filter or head. A clogged head may have no spray or an erratic spray pattern. To repair:
- Unscrew the top portion of the head.
- Remove and rinse the filter.
- Run the system briefly to flush out any other debris.
- Replace the filter and top portion of the head.
Most mature shrubs and trees do not require separate irrigation heads once established. That’s because after a couple of years, rainfall is typically enough moisture for trees, and shrub roots extend into irrigated turf areas. Heads dedicated to mature shrubs and trees can be shut off or capped to save water. For adjustable spray nozzles, simply screw the nozzle clockwise until the flow of water stops. For other types, remove the entire irrigation head and screw on a PVC cap.
Leaking Sprinkler Heads
Leaks are often due to worn out seals. Sometimes seals can be replaced. But generally, once a large leak occurs, a new head should be installed. Heads are easily replaced by unscrewing the old one and replacing it with a new one. Again, use the same size and type head as the one being replaced.
Sprinklers should not spray onto hard surfaces like roads, sidewalks, patios and buildings. The spray radius and arc can be adjusted on most rotor and spray heads. Read manufacturer instructions before attempting to make adjustments. It may be necessary to install a nozzle that has a different spray pattern.
Rain Sensor Operation
Florida law requires a functioning rain sensor or rain-shutoff technology on all automatic irrigation systems. A working sensor saves an average of 36,000 gallons of water each year by stopping irrigation after sufficient rainfall. Rain sensors typically need replacing every 3-5 years. Test the sensor by doing the following:
- Use the Manual Program Start setting to turn on any irrigation zone other than the one nearest the sensor.
- Using a hose, spray so that the top of the rain sensor is receiving water. If the sensor is low enough, use a cup to pour water in the top of the sensor. The irrigation system should shut off when the preset amount is received. For greatest water savings, the sensor should be set at no more than 1/4” or 1/2”.
Did you know there are irrigation controllers that take the guess work out of scheduling? These ’smart’ controllers are EPA Water Sense labeled. They automatically adjust watering based on site conditions, kind of like a thermostat for your landscape. Citrus County Utilities offers its customers a $150 account credit for installing a Water Sense labeled controller. Look for the label on your next purchase.