Winter is here in Florida, and you may see changes in your landscape. Trees are dropping leaves, almost everything has stopped growing and—depending on your location—some of your more tender plants may have been bit by light frosts.
While the weather is slowly turning the landscape a bit drearier, there are some benefits, such as saving money and water and lessening the chance of some lawn issues as you cut back on irrigation.
Cut Back on Water
When your lawn goes dormant, water is not needed nearly as often to keep it thriving. Check with your water management district to learn about winter watering restrictions that may apply in your area.
Even though you can water does not mean you should. Irrigating only when needed is the best approach throughout the year. As long as rains are fairly frequent and we have seasonal dew, not much is usually needed for irrigation during cooler weather.
Signs your lawn needs water include folded leaf blades or grass that does not rebound.
Get to Know Your System
When the weather doesn’t allow for much gardening, it’s a good time to learn how to operate your irrigation system. Many homeowners do not fully understand how timers work, so take time to read manuals.
It is also a great time to calibrate your system to make sure the landscape is receiving even coverage and watering for the right amount of time.
Place flat-sided containers—such as empty tuna cans—around your yard and let your system run the set amount of time. If there is one-half to three-fourths of an inch of water in each container, it means your system is in good shape.
If you have too much or too little water, adjust the time your system runs accordingly. If water amounts are uneven, you may have issues with the design of your system or have heads that are not functioning properly.
Try to troubleshoot these issues or contact a licensed irrigation contractor to remedy the situation.
Check Your Rain Sensor
You should have a rain sensor on your irrigation system, but make sure it’s functioning properly. These are required by law.
A rain sensor ensures your irrigation system skips a scheduled watering if it has been raining.
Many of these devices work by using a small cork disk that expands when wet, which cuts off the circuit of the system. Over time, these disks get brittle and may not work as intended.
Regular replacement of disks is important so you are not overwatering the lawn and wasting money.
If you have another type of cutoff device, check the owner’s manual for maintenance requirements.
Cutting back on irrigation throughout the rest of year can lower your water bill and conserve a vital resource. It can even help prevent lawn issues.
If you have any horticultural, agricultural, 4-H, or family and consumer science questions, contact your local UF/IFAS Extension office