Water management during dry weather

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Water management during dry weather

So far our fall has been unusually dry with warmer temperatures. Even though our
average annual rainfall is around sixty-two inches per year, we don’t always receive rain
exactly when we need it. There are times when we need to apply additional water.
During dry weather, implement the following water management practices to improve
the water efficiency of your lawn and landscape.

Mulching helps conserve water. On bare ground about sixty percent of the water can be
lost through evaporation. A two to three inch layer of mulch will help hold onto the water
so the plants can use it. Try to mulch the entire root zone when possible or at least
apply mulch all the way around the plants out to the end of the branches.

When watering, a thorough soaking to wet the soil to a depth of six to eight inches is
much better for plants than light frequent watering. Three to five gallons of water applied
to one spot under the canopy of trees or shrubs should thoroughly saturate the root
zone in that location. During dry periods (as a general rule), twenty-five percent of the
root system, when watered thoroughly, can absorb all the water a plant requires at any
given time.

When watering lawns, apply one to two inches of water per week when we are not
getting rain. Although many sprinklers have irrigation rates of ¼ inch per hour, some
may apply up to one inch per hour. Measure your irrigation rate and uniformity by
placing several open-top containers of the same size under the sprinkler and see how
long it takes to apply a known amount of water such as ½ inch.

And efficient irrigation program on turf should not begin until the lawn grass shows signs
of moisture stress. Symptoms include a dull and bluish-green color and leaf blades
folding. The most efficient time to irrigate is between sunset and sunrise because of less
evaporation, less wind and lower temperatures. Early morning is the next most effective
time to irrigate while midday is the least efficient.

Avoid fertilizing drought-stressed plants. Fertilizers are chemical salts and will actually
dehydrate roots when water is in short supply. If you need to apply a pesticide, make
certain the plant is not wilted at the time and spray during early morning or late
afternoon. You should also avoid unnecessary pruning of plants during drought. Pruning
encourages new growth which has a high demand for water.

For more information on watering efficiently and drought tolerant plants, contact your
local UF/IFAS Extension Office or visit the following website.

http://gardeningsolutions.ifas.ufl.edu/care/irrigation

Larry Williams, UF/IFAS Extension Agent, Okaloosa County, November 2, 2016

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