Where's the rain? How to care for your lawn in a drought.
Green grass is one of the major appeals of Florida as our grass tends to stay lush and green all year long. Except when we don't get rain in the spring! Right now West Central Florida is classified as "extremely dry" and that is expected only to worsen as temperatures soar and rain is nowhere in the immediate forecast. So what can you do? Keep reading for some maintenance tips and tricks to keep your Florida lawn looking as green as it can be!
According to the National Weather Service Drought Monitoring service, our specific geographical area is very likely for the development of drought. You can read more information here: https://droughtmonitor.unl.edu/ConditionsOutlooks/Outlooks.aspx
What are some symptoms of "dry" grass? The quickest way to tell is if you step on it, you'll hear a dry 'crunch' sound and your footprints (or mower tire imprints) will stay for a LONG time on the grass. No need to panic! This type of weather is pretty typical each year until Rainy Season returns, usually in April. The more you can do now, the better your lawn will thrive once the regular afternoon rains return to our forecast.
Here are some simple maintenance tips to help your lawn best survive periods of drought.
Mow High: The vast majority of communities in our area has St. Augustine Floratam turf. Did you know that St. Augustine grass needs to be mowed to about 4.5" - 5.5" high? In most
other parts of the country, the grass is mowed much, much shorter and that is the #1 question and comment we receive literally every week from our Northern Transplants. Why do we cut the grass so high? The little dogs don't like it, and it seems odd to many. The main reason is the root structure below what you can see grows deeper in direct proportion with how high the grass is mowed. Ideally, it will be kept between 4.5" - 5.5" for optimum root growth. Northern grasses like Tall Fescue and Kentucky bluegrasses are typically mowed between 1"-2.5" so our grass seems to be out of control in comparison. Both Zoysia and Bahia turf are different and we will address those grasses at another time.
Sharpen Mower Blades: If you're mowing the grass yourself, you should probably sharpen your blades 20-25 hours of mowing. Fast Lawnscapes sharpens blades every third day to ensure optimum performance every mow.
Water Uniformly in the Right Amount: Floratam turf needs between 1.5"-2" of water each week, either from rainfall or irrigation. When rainfall isn't happening, our irrigation systems need to work overtime to ensure the grass is getting the right amount of water. How do you know how much water your system is putting out? Simple - you need to measure. You can use rain gauges, teacups, even empty tuna fish cans. Strategically place them throughout the yard to make sure all areas are covered. A typically 1/4 acre lot would need about 8 "test" areas to make sure all areas are receiving the right amount of water. Run your system through the test. See how much is in each zone's container. If you're watering 2x a week, multiply however much water is in your container by 2. If you aren't getting enough water to your turf increase the amount of time going to that zone. It's generally a trial and error method but once you know how much water your zones are putting out in an area you can set it and forget it (until the rainy season starts - more on that later).
Water Early in the Morning: By watering early in the morning you keep as much water as possible on the grass and allow it time to soak in, instead of burning off. In Florida, most of us know that once that sun comes up, the temperature jumps really quickly.
Postpone or Reduce Fertilizer/Pesticide Applications: In order to be effective, Fertilization and Herbicide applications typically need a healthy watering. In periods of dry temperatures, that deep watering-in of the chemicals is very difficult to achieve. We recommend doing a deep watering on the day your lawn is fertilized in order for it to be as effective as possible.
If you have any questions about your particular lawn and would like us to evaluate it, please give us a call at 941-776-5111.