Helpful Lawn Care Hints from Florida

Every year during dry periods we hear "I have a sprinkler system, how could my lawn have dry spots," usually followed with "You should see my water bill!" Unfortunately, a sprinkler system will never provide the distribution of water that a good rainfall does. All lawns have troubled areas that will show signs of wilting first, and therefore will require more frequent irrigation than the rest.

Sprinkler systems can't see, and are unable to visually observe the areas of the lawn that need more water. It's not uncommon to have a heavy water bill from frequent sprinkler operation and still have dry patches in the lawn. There are many factors that contribute to the dry patches. Some of the causes, and solutions, for the dry spots are as follows:

  • Sprinkler heads are blocked by grass and need to be raised.
  • Pruning is needed for trees, shrubs, or other plant material, which has matured and is blocking irrigation.
  • The irrigation time needs to be increased for the affected zone, or the head needs to be adjusted to put out more water.
  • The irrigation frequency needs to be increased for the zone(s) that have dry spots.
  • Soil in the affected area may be compacted and needs aeration.
  • Soil in the affected area may have poor water holding capacity or be on a slope and therefore may need more frequent irrigation during hot, dry weather.
  • Tree roots may be competing with the grass roots for water and sand or soil needs to be added to the area.
  • Nematodes may be injuring the grass root system causing poor water uptake and the grass may need to be replaced.
  • Some areas may be in the full sun that will dry out quicker than areas that are shaded.

It has been raining like crazy! How can my lawn be dry?

During the summer months, your lawn will require more water due to evaporation from the soil and transpiration (water loss through the grass blades). St. Augustine grass may die in less than 7 days in the absence of irrigation or rainfall. Every summer, we get calls from people who have turned off their irrigation system due to a rainy period, and forgot to turn it back on. A lawn may receive 20 inches of rain the month before, but it only takes a few days without rain or irrigation the month after to receive drought damage.

Unless you are committed to turning your sprinkler system on and off based on rainfall patterns, the system you use should have a rain sensor installed and left on automatic during the summer since our rains vary on frequency and amount of rainfall from week to week. Lawns should be inspected every couple of days during dry periods. You should also inspect your sprinklers as soon as possible at the first sign of wilt symptoms. You want to look for any possible irrigation system problems, and resolve them, and then apply water to the problem areas quickly to prevent expensive damage to the grass.

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