Watering in Winter

By Wayne Hobbs UF/IFAS Environmental Horticulture Agent
Posted 12/19/18

Our winter is here and you may see some of its changes in your landscape. Trees are dropping leaves, almost everything has stopped growing and some of your more tender plants have been bitten by our …

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Watering in Winter


Our winter is here and you may see some of its changes in your landscape. Trees are dropping leaves, almost everything has stopped growing and some of your more tender plants have been bitten by our light frosts.

While the weather is slowly turning the landscape a bit more dreary, there are some benefits such as saving money, water and lessening the chance of some lawn issues as you cut back on your irrigation.

Cutting Back on Water

When your lawn goes dormant, water is not needed near as often to keep it thriving. You should be irrigating one day a week at a maximum which is based upon the restrictions by the St. Johns River Water Management District. If your address is odd numbered, you can water on Saturday and even numbered addresses can water on Sundays.

However, even though you can water does not mean you should. As long as rains are fairly frequent, and we have our seasonal dew, there usually is not much need for irrigation in the cooler weather. Look for signs of water stress such as folded leaf blades or grass that does not rebound quickly when walked on.

Irrigating only when needed should be the plan throughout the year.

Get to Know Your System

When the weather doesn’t allow for much gardening, a good idea would be to learn how to properly operate your irrigation system. Many homeowners do not fully understand how their timers operate so take time to read any manuals and find out how to cut it back to your one day of irrigation and change how long you are watering.

It is also a great time to calibrate your system to make sure you are getting even coverage and watering the right amount of time. Place some 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 quarters of an inch of water in each container and there is an even amount of water in each container, it shows your system is in good shape. If you have too much or too little water, adjust the time your system runs accordingly.

If the 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

One item you should have on your irrigation system but may need to be checked for proper function is your rain sensor. These are required by law and will skip a scheduled watering if it has been raining.

Many of these devices work by a small cork disk that expands when wet, which cuts off the circuit of the system. However, over time these disks get brittle and may not work as intended. Regular replacement of the disks is important, so you are not overwatering the lawn and wasting money.

If you have another type of cut off device, check the owner’s manual for maintenance requirements.

Cutting back on your irrigation this winter, and throughout the rest of year, can pay major dividends by lowering your water bill, conserving a vital resource and even help prevent several lawn issues as well. If you have any horticultural, agricultural, 4-H, or family and consumer science questions, contact us by email at clay@ifas.ufl.edu or call (904) 284-6355.


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