Don’t Turn Your Back On Fall Winter Watering

don't turn your back on watering in fall and winter

We expect our turf grass to go dormant in the cooler months, but don’t turn your back on Fall Winter watering as the lawn and garden need that moisture. “The month with the fewest wet days in Jacksonville is November, with an average of 5.3 days with at least 0.04 inches of precipitation,” according to WeatherSpark.com. “The drier season lasts 8.2 months, from September 27 to June 2.”

We are halfway through our third week of November here in Jacksonville, and it has rained just three times this month, mainly on the 6th & 7th. Then we got a sprinkle on the 12th. In November 2020, it rained several times each week in Jacksonville for a total of 17 times that month. That was a much more favorable set of circumstances. Like a soaker hose, the water is delivered with greater frequency in small regular doses. Nothing is perfect though, as too frequent watering can result in shallow root systems and invite fungus.

“As Jacksonville heads into the driest month of the year in November, the potential for a flash drought will grow without persistent rain in the forecast,” according to News4jax.com. “A flash drought often begins as a small rain deficit in one county and then expands like fire across the landscape. Flash droughts are often accompanied by erratic precipitation over sharply defined geographic areas.” 

Source Garden Health

There is only a slight chance of rain over the next 10 days. And November, along with October, has the clearest skies of the year for Jacksonville. Some days may be overcast without much precipitation ahead of a cold front, which can give us a head fake that we will get rain that never materializes. Rain totals thus far for November are what they were for all of Nov 2020, but when it comes down all at once, the soil doesn’t absorb as much of it as it is lost to stormwater runoff.

“Irrigation frequency will vary based on grass species, rainfall amounts, soil type and amount of compaction, shade presence, geographical location in the state, and, most importantly, by season,” according to the University of Florida. “Irrigation systems should be reset seasonally to reflect the differing water requirements of grasses based on time of year. Ideally, University of Florida guidelines call for watering lawns on an “as-needed” basis. This can be determined by observing the grass for signs of water stress, which indicate that water lost in transpiration is not being replaced and the plant’s needs for water are not being met. The signs that you need to look for are:
• Leaf blades are folded in half lengthwise in an attempt to conserve water.
• The grass takes on a blue-gray tint rather than maintaining a green color.
• Footprints or tire tracks remain visible on the grass long after they are made.”

The Fall season watering is more crucial than Winter, primarily considering higher daily temperatures in Northeast Florida. As seen in the chart by Meyers and Horn, Florida Turf Growers, our St Augustine turfgrass requires a greater frequency of rain or watering in Fall than Spring. Measured in Gainesville the St Augustine grass can go 3-9 days between watering in Spring and only 2-8 days in Fall.

Source University of Florida

Obviously, our flower beds, landscape plants, and garden will need rain or regular Fall Winter watering. Drought conditions cause plant stress. “Without periodic rains or irrigation, your plants will stop producing fruit and will drop any fruit they have already produced,” according to UF Gardening Solutions. “Remember, most Florida soils drain easily and don’t retain water. Adding organic matter to the soil will help the soil retain moisture, conserving you water and saving you effort.”

Earth Works recommends keeping your turf, landscape, and garden healthy with at least two rain or watering events per week while abiding by local watering restrictions. Contact Chad Lakin, Earth Works Lawn Maintenance Operations Manager, with your specific lawn care questions at 904-996-0712 and get a free quote for your lawn care at www.earthworksjax.com
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