University of Florida

A Better Lawn on Less Water

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What Day(s) to Water

Your water management district (WMD) and local ordinances can regulate which day(s) of the week you are allowed to water. Usually the schedule is determined by your street address. Water restriction information may be found in your local newspaper, or you can contact your WMD or local water utility department for specifics.

Remember, you don’t have to water every day you are allowed to. There are months when your lawn will need much less water than you’re allowed. Watering as needed is the key to a healthy lawn. Let your lawn tell you when to water by watching for the three wilt signs (folding leaf blades, blue-gray color, and footprints remaining visible in the lawn). When 30 to 50 percent of your lawn shows at least one of the wilt signs, it’s time to turn on your sprinkler system.

For optimum water use efficiency, set the irrigation controller to “off.” Set it only for "automatic" when you have determined, by looking at your lawn, that irrigation is needed and no rain is expected. You can also set the controller on "automatic" when you’ll be away from home.

The setting for what days to water should correspond with your allowed watering days. This way, when you do switch the controller to "automatic," your irrigation will occur on an allowed day.

What Time to Begin

The best time to irrigate is in the early morning hours, from 4 a.m. until 8 a.m. Sunlight and wind evaporate less water during these hours, so you increase the efficiency of your watering. If you are unable to irrigate during these times, try to irrigate during the night.

Designated times for watering may vary slightly within WMDs, so check in the paper or with your WMD for advice on what times of day are allowed or recommended.

How Long Each Zone Should Run

Each irrigation zone’s "run time" should be determined individually. You want the controller to run the system long enough to put 1/2 to 3/4 inches of water in each zone. Typically this is twenty minutes for shrub sprays and forty minutes for rotars. For sandier soils, the 3/4-inch rate may be required. For heavier clay soils, as in North Florida and the panhandle, you may only need to use the 1/2-inch rate.

Controller settings are in minutes, not inches of water. So how do you figure out how long to run the system to get each zone the appropriate amount of water? The answer is to calibrate your irrigation system, zone by zone.

For specific details on irrigation system calibration, see Saving Water With Your Irrigation System.

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A beautiful green lawn

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