Proper Florida Lawn Maintenance

Proper lawn maintenance is vital for the long-term health of your lawn.

Appropriate mowing and watering practices must occur so your lawn will have a healthy root system, be more drought-tolerant and be able to resist pests and disease. More lawns are damaged by improper irrigation than by any other practice.

Follow these tips for more efficient and beneficial watering:

If you don’t have a rain shutoff sensor to override your irrigation system – get one installed! It’s the law!

Recent changes to the state law now require all residential irrigation systems to have a rain shutoff sensor. Check your rain sensor to see if it shuts off your system when enough rain has fallen.

Broken or misaligned sprinkler heads can waste water and lead to runoff.

Inspect your sprinklers on a regular basis. Perform a catch-can test to determine how long you need to run your irrigation system and readjust the timer if necessary. In most parts of Florida, no more than 1/2 to 3/4 of an inch of water is appropriate.

Heavier clay soils need only about 1/2 inch of water while sandy soils may need up to 3/4 inch of water. Turn your system to the “off” or “manual” position.

Water only when leaf blades start to fold in half lengthwise or when footprints remain visible for a few minutes.

Irrigate when about 30 percent of the lawn shows these signs, unless rain is forecast in the next 24 hours.

No matter what time of year, remember, lawns need no more than 1/2 to 3/4 inch of water at a time. In the cooler months, lawns only need water only every 10 to 14 days. That means you can skip every other week of irrigating in the winter months. In the summer months lawns need water more often–every 2 to 3 days. But summer rainfall normally supplies enough water without irrigation.

Never remove more than 1/3 of the leaf blade at any one time. Cutting too much of the leaf blade can stress your lawn. If your lawn is under any stress (shade, traffic, drought, etc.), raise the mowing height. Mow at the highest height for your grass species. Mowing at lower heights can result in a shallow root system.

Keep your mower blades sharp.

A dull blade tears the grass blades, makes it unattractive and prone to disease or insect invasion.

Do not mow when the lawn is wet. It can be dangerous for you, tough on the mower and bad for the grass.

If you miss a weekly mowing, raise the mower height so you don’t remove too much of the grass blade. Bring the height back down to the recommended level gradually over the next few weeks. Keep grass clippings away from storm drains, ditches, water bodies and roadways. Leave grass clippings on the ground. They do not contribute to thatch, and return nutrients and organic matter back to the lawn.

Most watering restrictions limit irrigation to certain days and times. It is best to irrigate around sunrise or in the early morning hours so leaf blades have time to dry out fully during the day.

Apply enough water to encourage deep root growth. Brief “spritzes” will result in a shallow root system. For more information on Florida-Friendly Fertilizing, contact your county UF/IFAS Extension office.