This winter, when you go for a walk, take notice of how often your neighbors are watering their lawns. Look to see if sprinklers are spraying the road and driveways. Then, go home and check your own irrigation system and see if you can make changes that will preserve our ecosystem and save you money.
Irrigation water on the Treasure Coast comes from one of several sources: municipal water, well water, reclaimed water, and water from retention basins. All of these sources are interconnected because of the underlying water table. The more water we use, the greater the effect on the water table. If the freshwater beneath us falls too much, saltwater could fill our aquifer and dramatically alter our lifestyles. Therefore, it’s essential we each do our part to conserve water, especially as our population and appetite for lush, tropical landscaping grows.
Because everything in your garden is growing more slowly in winter, now is the perfect time to begin training your garden to be less water dependent. Water management begins at your irrigation timer. Timers program the amount of time for each watering zone as well as the number of days the cycle repeats per week. Depending on the amount of sun or shade, the side of the house, and the plant material,
sprinkler run times can be as low as 12-15 minutes per zone and as infrequent as 1-2 days per week in winter. For example,
full sun lawns may need two days of water per week, while shady, north-facing shrubs may require only one.
Modern irrigation systems also have a rain gauge, but these are not a substitute for visual inspections of the system.
Disciplined water management will require weekly in-person inspections of the timer, making adjustments based on the weather and conditions of the lawn and shrubs. In addition, the system should be evaluated monthly to make sure heads are properly positioned so as not to water driveways, patios or roadways. Your goal should be to have your garden looking its best with the least amount of water.
Cutting back on water usage now will not only prepare your garden for the summer and save you money, it will have the added benefits of reducing nutrient runoff and the spread of brown patch fungus. It will also reduce how often you have to trim shrubs and cut grass, allowing more time to sit back, relax, and enjoy your garden.