By Dale Armstrong, Coordinator Florida Yards & Neighborhoods
Many people do not realize that even in central Florida cooler winter temperatures result in little or no growth in plants and grass. I rarely mow my grass between November and March because it just does not need it. Running a mower through your yard in the winter creates wear and tear on the grass, wastes gasoline, and needlessly generates pollution.
Slower growth during the cooler weather means less water is required to keep our landscape plants happy. Irrigation sprinkler use is currently limited to one day per week with all water sources except reclaimed. Since your landscape is adapted to that schedule during warm weather, it may be that in cooler temperatures it can easily go on a two week or longer cycle between watering with sprinklers if no rain is received during that time.
You can easily make that change by turning the sprinkler controller clock to OFF and marking your calendar for the day before your watering day two weeks out. When that day arrives, if no significant rain has fallen (at least ½ inch) you may easily turn the clock to ON or RUN so it operates the next day as scheduled. The day after the sprinklers run, turn off the clock and mark your calendar again to start the manual cycle over. If temperatures have been particularly cool during those two weeks and the landscape is looking okay, you might even consider leaving the clock off for a third week.
Since this routine will get you in the habit of observing your landscape for signs of when water is needed, you should be able to save a significant amount of water and still maintain an attractive yard. When temperatures start to rise in the spring and plants have need of more water, you simply turn the sprinkler controller clock back to ON or RUN so it operates in the auto mode.
Above all, stay informed about changes in outdoor water use restrictions. The Southwest Florida Water Management District (SWFWMD) recently tightened water restrictions in Pinellas, Hillsborough, and Pasco Counties due to extreme drought conditions. Even watering plants manually with a hose is now limited to certain times of the day, and violators of restrictions will now be ticketed on first offense.
To learn more about these changes please read the SWFWMD news release at the first link below and keep in mind that you should also check with your water supplier for any special restrictions, such as day of the week you may water. Use the second link below to find your specific local restrictions. Look for the local government that bills you for water.