Where Does the Water Go?
Ro Osadczuk knew her lawn and plantings needed help. She was going to call a professional irrigation service when her water bill arrived, with a note offering free advice about lawn and garden irrigation.
In April, a Hillsborough County Extension expert came to her house in the Boyette Farms subdivision in Riverview. Among other observations, the Florida Friendly Landscape professional:
- Discovered the irrigation system's water sensor was disconnected.
- Found a sprinkler aimed at a rocky area and over watering a palm tree.
- Noted the turfgrass was cut too short, denying it nutrients that are essential for a healthy lawn.
- Spotted a leak in a plant bed's microirrigation system.
- Taught Ro how to operate her irrigation system's remote panel.
Since the Extension professional's visit, Ro says, her yard looks much better and her water bill has dropped. "This is a great service that Hillsborough County is providing, free of charge," Ro says. "I told my neighbors about it."
A University of South Florida study shows about one-third of drinking water piped to Central Florida homes is used for irrigation. In summer months, it rises to 88 percent. Proper irrigation techniques help conserve the resource, ensure yards get the right amount of water, and keep utility bills in check.
It's important to monitor how much water goes to each part of a landscape, and to know that each area has specific needs. Distribution can be manual, with an automated setup, or with a sensor-equipped system.
Shrubbery, for example, generally needs less water than turfgrass, and shaded areas of a lawn require less water than sunny expanses. Such factors should be considered when a homeowner decides how, and how much, to irrigate.
Adjustments also are necessary as seasons change, because landscapes require less water in cooler months. New turf needs more water than established lawns, and rain, drought, and cloudy days affect irrigation requirements - all factors that should be assessed.
By monitoring irrigation practices, homeowners potentially can lower their water bills. And their landscapes will look better. Too much water can be as harmful as not enough.
Among homeowners wishing to cut back on substantial water use - more than 20,000 gallons monthly - an on-site inspection is a good start. The extension coordinator will check settings on automatic timers, determine if a rain shut-off device is in place and functional, look for plants that block watering mechanisms, note broken sprinkler heads, and ensure batteries in irrigation control systems are working properly.
Have questions about other lawn and garden matters? The Extension's Master Gardener Help Desk is standing by. Experts will offer advice about plant problems and nutrition, identify plants and insects, recommend how to grow vegetables and fruit, and test soil pH, for a nominal charge. To view gardening related workshops, including rainwater harvesting, microirrigation and composting, please view Extension’s events calendar.