With dry weather, watering important

But when should you do it and how much will it help lawn and plants?


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Talking about the weather is not a banal pleasantry these days. Wildfires smolder. Rainfall levels remain low. Longer, hotter summer days loom.

What does this mean for gardeners and homeowners?

Remember that St. Johns County Water Management District restrictions do not allow irrigating between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Watering is permitted twice a week, even if you use water from your own well or siphon it from a nearby pond or lake. The district includes all of Northeast Florida.

Though you can water twice a week, it's not necessary to do so in every part of the landscape, said Rebecca Jordi, a horticultural extension agent for the University of Florida and Nassau County. Turf grass is thirsty, but shrubbery, for example, doesn't need that semi-weekly soaking. Plants such as viburnum, ligustrum, azaleas, dwarf nandina, bottlebrush and oleander can get by with a once-a-week watering schedule.

To keep flowers and vegetables from becoming parched, Jordi encourages gardeners to consider buying a microsprinkler irrigation system. Sold under different brand names at home improvement cente! rs, a typical kit costs $30 to $50 and includes equipment such as tubing and hardware to water about 275 square feet of landscape. These sprinklers deliver water straight to the roots of plants, avoiding evaporation, Jordi said.

Horticultural experts such as Jordi promote "Florida-friendly lawn practices" and "water wise gardening" at free educational seminars.

Madeline Samec of the St. Johns County extension office will teach a workshop from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. today at the extension office, 3111 Agricultural Center Drive in St. Augustine. The fee is $5 at the door. Samec, like others who pass along conservation suggestions, offers the following tips:

  • Mulch your plants. Mulch retains moisture in soil.
  • Apply 3/4 inch of water when you turn on the sprinklers. (If you don't know how much water your irrigation is releasing, use a tin can to catch the water. Then measure the amount.)
  • Set the blade on your mower at the highest setting. Taller grass results in deep roots and healthier lawns.
  • Install rain sensors. These will automatically cut off sprinkler systems and prevent unnecessary watering during wet weather.

"People can save time, money and energy by doing these things," said Teresa Monson, a spokeswoman for the St. Johns County Water Management District.

Monson and Jordi encourage people to take a long-term view of how they think about their lawn and gardens. Choose plants that are drought-tolerant or native to Florida and thus require less water (African iris, lantana and blanket flower). Notice areas under trees where grass looks thin. Consider putting a shade garden (gingers, holly fern and cast-iron plants) in that spot. Make sure to plant them away from the trunk, just inside the circumference of the tree's canopy. "Extending flower beds makes the landscape more interesting and reduces the amount of grass you'll need to water," Jordi said.

brandy.allport@jacksonville.com, (904) 359-4378
Originally created 05072007


Sprinkler system