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How to Set Up Your Irrigation System to Keep a St Augustine Lawn Alive with 2x Week Watering Restrictions
by Rick Orr
SWFWMD has allowed twice per week irrigation of lawns. That is still one day short of the three times per week needed to maintain a St Augustine Lawn in Pinellas County. But there are some simple steps you can take to prepare your lawn and your irrigation system to help your St Augustine lawn survive twice a week watering during summer heat and drought.
Before I outline those steps, there are some basic facts you need to know.
Fact 1: There is no water shortage - so do not think you are wasting water when you irrigate your lawn. All the water that was here at creation is still here today – there is no water shortage. Water falls from the sky and returns to an ocean that never fills up – it’s called the water cycle. Watering your lawn is part of the natural and beneficial water cycle. SWFWMD lied about the irrigation water shortage – there never was a shortage of irrigation water, only a shortage of potable water (think failed desalinization plant). Because of this and many other blunders, an executive order by our Governor placed SWFWMD under investigation and suspended SWFWMD rulemaking. Hopefully water restrictions will be completely removed.
Fact 2: St Augustine needs water when the soil is dry - which can be any day of the week - not just your watering day. If your lawn needs water on Tuesday and you cannot water until Thursday – kiss your lawn goodbye.
Fact 3: The sandy soils of Pinellas County can hold enough water to sustain a St Augustine lawn for about 48 hours during the hot summer months. Every minute counts when the lawn is dry and needs water. If your lawn doesn’t receive a drink when it needs water, with every passing minute, the St Augustine will weaken and decline and be replaced with drought hardy weeds such as crabgrass.
Fact 4: Anytime is a good time to water your lawn. Rains come at any time of the day and night without killing St Augustine lawns. There is no threat to your lawn if you water at midnight or daybreak or even at noon. The myth that watering at night or while the sun is out can harm your lawn is just that a myth – if you had a choice between watering at night or the middle of the day or the lawn dying of drought – choose water!
Fact 5: St Augustine grass has above ground stems that are damaged by the hot Florida sun but are protected by the leaves if allowed to grow long enough to form a protective canopy. Mowing the leaves below 3” exposes the stems, roots and soil to the hot Florida sun – and mowing above 3” protects the stems, roots and soil from the hot Florida sun.
How To Set Up Your Irrigation System and Lawn for Twice Per Week Irrigation
Step 1: Raise the mowing height. St Augustine looks good and thrives when it is mowed at 4” – that is not a typo – 4” is the minimum height for the mower. St Augustine mowed at 4” has fewer weeds, less insect damage, requires less water, looks great and recovers quickly from drought stress. Mow it below 4” and it is lawn that will be in need of repair or replacement by the end of the summer.
Step 2: Set your irrigation timer to water twice on your watering days. Set your timer to water at 12:01 AM and again at 10:00PM on your watering days. This gives the lawn a drink of water as soon as possible (12:01 AM) and again at the end of your watering day. This water regime will have the least amount of hours between watering.
Step 3: Set the times for zones: 15 to 20 minutes for spray heads and 45 – 60 minutes for rotors. For mixed zones, use the highest values.
Step 4: Test and repair your irrigation every week – because keeping your St Augustine grass alive on 2x per week watering will require that your irrigation system be working perfectly! You are allowed to run your irrigation for testing and repairs but you must be present during testing and repairs. Pick the driest day of the week to check your irrigation so that the lawn will benefit from the testing and repairs. Note: Watering during the day does not damage your lawn – it helps your lawn (see Fact 4).
Step 5: Set up your irrigation system to overspray drives and walks. Walks and drives act as heat sinks drying out turf edges. Watering drives and sidewalks cools them down and ensure proper watering of edges.
Step 6: Check the irrigation for coverage – water runs straight down – it does not run sideways. If a sprinkler head is not watering a part of your lawn – it will not get water!
Step 7: Hand water your lawn. Hand watering of hot spots is allowed with a hose with a shut off nozzle. I have several hose bibs attached my irrigation system for easy hand watering. Hand watering – especially hot spots – can help reduce drought damage. Spritzing a lawn during the heat of the day will cool down the lawn and add humidity. Soaking hot spots will bring life back to withered dying grass. Note: Watering during the day does not damage your lawn – it helps your lawn (see Fact 4).
Step 8: Call, write or email every local and state politician and ask them why SWFMD lied about the water shortage. Tell them you will not vote for anyone who supports the water restrictions for lawn irrigation. SWFWMD district officials are appointed by our politicians – it was those politicians that allowed SWFWMD to become the overreaching overbearing government bureaucracy that had to be shut down by an executive order.
ILoveTurf.com - May 27th, 2011
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