Garden Talk

with Rebecca Jordi


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Q: Please tell me the proper times to water and how much to water. Are we really supposed to water shrubs differently than grass? I am so frustrated at all the different pieces of information, I just want someone to make it simple for me.

Sprinklers

Sprinklers

A:  Thank you so much for your timely question.  We will start with the law from the St. Johns River Water Management if we do NOT receive sufficient rain:

  • Daylight saving time (DST): Second Sunday in March until the first Sunday in November (summer)
  • Eastern Standard Time (EST): First Sunday in November until the second Sunday in March (winter)
  • An odd numbered addresses end in 1, 3, 5, 7 or 9. DST – Wednesday/Saturdays; EST Saturdays
  • An even numbered addresses end in 0, 2, 4, 6 or 8. DST – Thursday/Sundays; EST Sundays
  • Water only when needed and not between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. *We recommend watering from 4am – 10am so any extra water has time to dry off the blades to reduce disease.  We do not suggest watering in the evenings.
  • Water for no more than one hour per zone. *We recommend you measure your output with the ideal amount at each watering measuring between ½ inch and ¾ inch.  Our grasses grow very well in sandy, well-drained soil and like to be watered deeply but less often to produce strong root structures.
  • Restrictions apply to private wells and pumps, ground or surface water and water from public and private utilities. People often believe since they have their own well that is doesn’t matter how much they use but the same restrictions apply to private wells.  *We recommend allowing the grass to tell you when to water.  Once the blade begins to slightly fold, or has a blue-green color then water the grass.
  • *We recommend separating the irrigation zones so the flower beds and hedges are watered differently.  Most mature hedges and woody ornamentals do not require irrigation once established and watering twice a week would be excessive and unnecessary. In addition, so many disease issues for lawn grasses and shrubs are caused by over watering.
  • *University of Florida/Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) recommendations.
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Q: You often talk about not overusing Nitrogen fertilizers but isn’t it needed to keep the grass growing?

fertilizer1A:  I am going to take a recent study and use parts of it to answer your question.  Nitrogen is important for growth but we generally are using too much.  A little fertilizer can perk up a St. Augustinegrass lawn as spring arrives, but homeowners who overdo it may find they’re growing more than grass. A University of Florida study suggests repeatedly using large amounts of nitrogen fertilizer can ignite a population explosion of Southern chinch bugs – the No. 1 insect pest of St. Augustinegrass, the state’s most popular turfgrass.  “Everything in moderation,” said Eileen Buss, an associate professor of entomology with UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. “When we try to overly manage a natural system we get the balance out of whack.” UF turfgrass experts advise homeowners to use no more than 1 pound of slow-release nitrogen fertilizer per 1,000 square feet of lawn, a recommendation found in the document “St. Augustinegrass for Florida Lawns,” available at http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/LH010. In the study, Southern chinch bugs produced the most eggs on St. Augustinegrass fed the equivalent of 2 pounds nitrogen per 1,000 square feet per month. That rate is a worst-case scenario, Buss said, but not unrealistic because people sometimes deliberately overfertilize in their zest to have the greenest lawn in the neighborhood. Resistant chinch bugs may be able to survive exposure to bifenthrin, a pyrethroid which is the top choice for Southern chinch bug control in Florida. However, pyrethroids should still perform well against nonresistant populations of Southern chinch bugs. Future research may examine the role of the nutrients phosphorus and potassium in chinch bug population growth, and the possibility of overfertilization may reduce turfgrass resistance to chinch bugs. Use 15-0-15 starting in April and use is in small increments until September so the plant can absorb it and grow slowly.