Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Ten Ways to Save Water

Water is the lifeblood of all plants, including turfgrass. But many Florida homeowners aren't aware that watering their lawns too much can be as damaging as not watering enough. These ten Florida-Friendly tips will help you save water in your landscape.

1. Choose the right plant for the right placebutterfly on firebush

All plants must get the right amount of sun, water, and nutrients to thrive—even natives.
  • Select plants suited for your area
  • Place plants in the landscape where site conditions match their needs
  • Group plants with similar water needs together

2. Water thoughtfully

A drop here and a drop there can add up to a lot of water.
  • Always follow water restrictions
  • Water early in the morning
  • Irrigate plants and grass only when they start to wilt

3. Handwater when possible

Handwatering is usually allowed during water restrictions, because it uses less water than an automatic irrigation system.
Woman using a watering can to water flowers
  • Use a watering can, pail, or hose with an automatic shutoff nozzle
  • Handwater potted plants, shrubs, trees, vegetables, and flower beds, and new lawns
  • See if your water management district (WMD) limits handwatering

4. Perform regular irrigation maintenance

An irrigation system is only as efficient as it's maintained to be.
  • Check for and repair leaks
  • Unclog and replace broken heads
  • Point heads at plants, not driveways and sidewalks

5. Calibrate irrigation system

Even an efficient irrigation system can waste water if it's left on for too long. The ideal amount of water to apply is 1/2 to 3/4 inches. Figure out how long to run your system by doing a test:
  • Place multiple coffee/tuna/other straight-sided cans throughout each irrigation zone
  • Run your system for thirty minutes
  • Average the depth of the water in all the containers
  • Multiply running time as needed for 1/2 to 3/4 inches of water

6. Make a Rain Barrel

Rain barrels capture rainwater that flows off your roof for use in the landscape. They're easy and inexpensive to make and can have a big impact on your water bill—instead of watering your plants with water you're paying for, you're using free water!

7. Use microirrigation

Drip or microspray irrigation systems apply water directly to the roots of plants, where it's needed, and lose minimal water to evaporation or wind drift.

8. Mulch plantsman spreading mulch

Mulch helps keep moisture in the soil around your plants. Choose from many different kinds of mulch and apply 2 to 3 inches around trees, shrubs, flowers, and vegetables.

9. Mow correctly

How you mow your lawn can have a big impact on how much water it needs.
  • Mow high; mowing your grass to the highest recommended length encourages a deep healthy root system
  • Keep your mower blades sharp; dull cuts make grass more disease-prone
  • Cut no more than one third of the leaf blade each time you mow

10. Be a weather watcher

Rain is irrigation, too. Use it to your advantage—it's free!
  • Don't water your landscape if it's rained in the past twenty-four hours
  • If rain is forecast in the next forty-eight hours, hold off on irrigating
  • Purchase a rain gauge to track how much rain your plants are getting
  • Install a rain shut-off device to override your irrigation system when it's raining

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

What is Drought?

A drought is a period of abnormally dry weather that causes a water shortage or jeopardizes our water resources. We tend to expect that every time we turn on the faucet plenty of fresh, drinkable water will flow out. But Florida's population is growing quickly, and at the same time, we've been experiencing dry years. As the population grows, our water demands increase, too.

Where We Get Our Water

The water most Floridians use for drinking, showering, watering the lawn, washing the car, and many other things comes from the Floridan Aquifer, an underground cave system made of porous limestone called karst. This groundwater comes to the surface naturally via the more than 600 springs throughout the state. And, of course, we pull it into our homes with pumps and wells.
Florida's aquifers depend on rainwater to keep it recharged. In dry years, the water level in the aquifer system goes down. Streams, lakes, and wells can dry up. But many areas of the state are near sustainable limits of water withdrawals even in normal years, so dry years can stress the system even more.

We Need Rain

In a typical year, Florida gets an average of 53 inches of rain per year. The dry season in Florida usually starts in November and continues through May. Typically the summer is the wet season, but the past few summers have been dry. This means that water levels in the aquifer system are especially low, making water restrictions a necessity in several of Florida's water management districts, which manage the state's water resources.
As Florida's open spaces are increasingly paved over by new development, there's less ground for rainwater to soak into. Rain that lands on pavement evaporates into the air or flows into stormwater drains that flow into streams or stormwater collection systems that drain into the sea. This water does not replenish the aquifer.
It's always important to conserve water, and there are many ways to use less water in the landscape. You can find tips for saving water in your landscape in Dealing with Water Restrictions.  In Polk County, our watering restrictions follow those of the Southwest Florida Water Management District.  
Join us on the blog as we continue to post relevant drought-related information.  If you have questions as they relate to your lawn and landscape, contact the Plant Clinic

    Tuesday, March 21, 2017

    Spring Lawn Prep: Fertilizing

    It's March, and normally most homeowners are thinking about their lawn, although this recent cold snap may have delayed thoughts of springtime!  Lawns are growing very slowly, if at all, in the winter months, so fertilizer is not recommended. 

    So when should you do a spring lawn fertilization? 

    Do you need to apply fertilizer to your lawn in the spring?  

    What should a homeowner in Polk County do with their lawn to prep it for spring and summer weather?  

     1. You may have a bag of lawn fertilizer ready to go, but hold on!  Your grass is still dormant or very slowly growing.  Wait until your grass is actively growing before you dust off the fertilizer spreader.  April is a good time to fertilize.  University of Florida research has shown that the greatest amount of nitrate leaching occurs January through March, so wait until April to make your application.

    2.  Fertilizer contains nutrients to help with plant growth and/or correct a nutrient deficiency.  You don't need to apply fertilizer if those issues don't pertain to your lawn. 

    3.  Select a fertilizer for lawns that contains slow-release and low or no phosphorus.  You can find this information on the fertilizer bag. Make sure you read the label and follow application instructions.  Apply no more than one pound of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet, no matter what type of grass you have.  Follow UF/IFAS recommendations for application rates.  

    4.  Too much fertilizer can cause increased disease and insect problems as well as increased pollution.  

    5.  Water in your fertilizer with 1/4 inch of water.  You do not need to water the 1/2 inch that you normally apply during your watering days as this application is just to move the fertilizer granules down into the lawn.  

    6.  After you apply fertilizer, it's important to follow other home lawn best management practices so that your grass remains healthy during the growing season.  Mow at the highest recommended height for your grass type, apply 1/2 inch of water per irrigation application, keep mower blades sharp and leave grass clippings on the lawn.  

    Here's to a happy, healthy lawn this spring!  For more information contact us!  

    Follow the best management practices for your lawn to reduce pollution and maintain a healthy lawn.  For more information contact us, or learn more here.