How Irrigation is a Must for Your Turf This Season

Irrigation & Drought

As I’m sure you’ve noticed we have been in a prolonged drought. A warmer than usual winter coupled with less than normal rainfall and our usual spring drought have combined to produce extreme hardship for our turf and plants. Simply put, your plants and lawn were not intended to exist with irrigation only during extreme Florida heat. We need rain!

The effect of this prolonged drought is not only immediate but cumulative. In other words, plants and turf will hold out in the middle of a long drought but eventually some will give up. We have begun to see the cumulative effect in rapid decline from random trees and plants. We service a commercial property where 1 in a row of 4 multi-stem Ligstrums died within a week. One week it was as green as the others, the next week it was dead. Similarly, within a week a Black Olive died on one of our residence.

It’s been a number of years since we had a drought this extreme. I assume that you are keeping up with your irrigation, making sure everything is in order. That’s a given. To protect your investment in your landscaping I’d like to take a minute, however, to talk about your water source, how it is affected and the consequences to your irrigation during a drought.
There are a number of water sources in Southwest Florida. Most residents are supplied by wells, county water, reclaimed water or lake water. Both county/city water and reclaimed water have remained constant. The problems we are seeing come from wells and lake water. They include debris, algae and the water table dropping below the level of the submersible pump.

As the water table retreats debris/algae can become a problem for irrigation systems. Common sense tells us that if there is x amount of debris in a volume of water, and you reduce the amount of water by half, you double the amount of debris. As this drought continues you may find that more nozzles are clogging with debris or slime. It is wise during an extended drought to check your system more than you would under different conditions. At this moment, every irrigation problem becomes an “extreme” problem. If one nozzle is clogged in your lawn and not supplying the irrigation that the turf needs it will quickly die. One head blown in a given zone can take the pressure out of the entire zone. This can produce unpleasant results, seen and unseen. We all know what stressed turf looks like. What you may not realize is that stressed turf is attractive to Chinch bugs and allows for the germination of weeds. Even if you turf doesn’t die, decline can have a negative impact on your turf going forward.

As the water table drops you may find that you have trouble with your well. Above ground pumps can only pull water to 30’-35’. Once the table drops below 35’ they can no longer deliver water to your turf and plants. Even submersible pumps have limits. As the water table lowers you may find that your well will only pump for so long or not at all. If your well is not pumping any water consult a licensed well company for professional advice. You may need to lower the pump further into the well or even drill deeper. If you would rather try and wait for the summer rains to begin, returning the water table to normal levels and rendering your well reliable again, go to Home Depot and purchase their stakes with rotor’s and hose hook ups. You should be able to run at least 2 at a time from the spigots on the side of your home. Moving them around is time consuming but if you are diligent it should get you through to the rains. If your well is pumping water but runs out over time as it draws the water down in the well, then run your zones manually giving time in between for the water level to rise in the well. In this way you can work your way around your yard, zone by zone, until you have irrigated everything.

Good luck with your water needs. Hopefully, the summer rains will begin in the next couple of weeks. If not, I hope that the above information helps you protect your turf and plant material.