Summer has arrived, and you are probably wondering if it will be a wet or dry summer. Will your plants suffer from the blazing heat or drown in our Florida monsoons? If you struggle with this guessing game, July is Smart Irrigation Month, and you can turn to this concept for guidance.
If you have an in-ground irrigation system, you can upgrade your irrigation controller to a smarter model. Smart irrigation controllers are sophisticated water-saving tools that use local climatic conditions or soil moisture sensors to adjust your watering schedule. Very smart, I say.
The water saving potential for smart irrigation controllers is high – as much as 70-90% during normal rainfall conditions or 30 to 40 percent during dry conditions. They conveniently conserve water, but you are not limited to just purchasing new gadgets. You can also be a beacon of water conservation by using simple, smart irrigation practices.
First, consider that Florida Law requires the use of a rain shut-off devise if you have and operate an in-ground irrigation system. If you have a rain sensor, make sure that it works. A functioning rain shut-off device conserves about 2,541 gallons per 1,000 square feet of irrigated landscape. City of Tampa water customers can apply for a free rain sensor at www.tampagov.net. If you do not have a rain sensor, you can manually operate your irrigation controller. Here are a few more tips:
1. Calibrate your irrigation system to deliver ½ to ¾ the amount of water
2. Seasonally adjust your controller
3. Use plant indicators, like leaf wilt, before irrigating
4. Use a rain gauge
5. Manually operate your irrigation controller
6. Conduct periodic irrigation maintenance
7. Apply a 2-3” layer of mulch to landscape beds
8. Use microirrigation in landscape beds
If you need assistance with smart irrigation practices, contact the UF/IFAS Extension Hillsborough County, 813-744-5519, and ask about our irrigation evaluation program. This program teaches you how to balance irrigation with rainfall for your plant’s biological needs. We also show you how to evaluate, calibrate and maintain your irrigation system. By the end of the process you will be delighted to learn how easy it can be to conserve water and save money in your landscape. Celebrate Smart Irrigation Month and start saving water and money!
Jacqlyn Rivas, Water Conservation Program Coordinator, Florida-Friendly Landscaping, University of Florida/IFAS Extension Hillsborough County.