Tag Archive: Water

Water conservation crucial under current drought conditions in Florida

Water conservation crucial under current drought conditions in Florida

The Florida Panhandle received much needed rain this week, helping to alleviate dry conditions in many areas of the region. However, drought conditions persist in the rest of Florida. According to the US Drought Monitor drought conditions range from moderate in north central Florida to dire in the south-central portion of the state. Precipitation is at 25- 50% of normal rates in the Orlando region. In response, city and county governments and Water Management Districts in these areas are increasing restrictions on outdoor residential water use. In homes with irrigation systems, 50% of the water consumed is typically used for irrigation.

Indoors, we can all greatly reduce water use by adopting relatively simple conservation practices. In a typical household, flushing toilets consumes the most water (24%), followed by showers (20%), faucets (19%), the clothes washer (17%) and leaks (8%) (Source: 2016 report by the Water Research Foundation).

  • Consider replacing toilets installed before 1994 with new ones. Pre-1994, toilets used between 3.5 to 7 gallons per flush. From 1994 to date, regulations require toilets to use a maximum of 1.6 gallons per flush and some use as little as 1.28 to 0.8 gallons per flush.
  • Placing an object in your toilet tank (like a filled plastic bottle or a brick or two) reduces the amount of water needed to fill the tank and is an inexpensive alternative to replacing a toilet.
  • Reduce the amount of time you take per shower, and replace showerheads with low-flow models, which deliver 0.5 – 2.0 gallons per minute. Standard shower heads use 2.5 gallons per minute. Low flow models typically range from $ 10 to $ 30.
  • Placing a faucet aerator on the end of a faucet can reduce water used from 2.2 gallons/minute to 1.5 gallons per minute. Costs typically range from as low as $ 5 to $ 15 each.
  • Run the washing machine and dishwasher only when they are full.
  • Check for leaks in plumbing and appliances (and fix them!). You can check for toilet leaks by placing food coloring in the tank and seeing if the dye appears in the toilet bowl.

Conserving water at home has the double benefit of reducing your water bill and your energy bill since the amount of energy used to heat water and run the dishwasher and washer/dryer are reduced.

The Southwest Florida Water Management District provides an excellent, easy-to-use online Water Use Calculator, which you can access by going to https://www.swfwmd.state.fl.us/conservation/thepowerof10/. You can calculate your approximate current water use, and compare that to how many gallons your household could save by changing specific habits (like reducing shower times), reducing outdoor irrigation times and upgrading fixtures and appliances.

The US Drought Monitor can be accessed at http://droughtmonitor.unl.edu/Home.aspx

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Author: Andrea Albertin – albertin@ufl.edu

Dr. Andrea Albertin is the Northwest Regional Specialized Agent in Water Resources.

Andrea Albertin

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2017/06/03/water-conservation-crucial-under-current-drought-conditions-in-florida/

Maintain Your Septic System to Save Money and Reduce Water Pollution

Maintain Your Septic System to Save Money and Reduce Water Pollution

One third of homes in Florida rely on septic systems, or onsite sewage treatment and disposal systems (OSTDS), to treat and dispose of household wastewater, which includes wastewater from bathrooms, kitchen sinks and laundry machines. When properly maintained, septic systems can last 25-30 years, and maintenance costs are relatively low.

A conventional residential septic tank and drain field under construction.
Photo: Andrea Albertin

A general rule of thumb is that with proper care, systems need to be pumped every 3-5 years at a cost of about $ 300 to $ 400. Time between pumping does vary though, depending on the size of your household, the size of your septic tank and how much wastewater you produce. If systems aren’t maintained they can fail, and repairs or replacing a tank can cost anywhere between $ 3000 to $ 10,000. It definitely pays off to maintain your septic system!

The most common type of OSTDS is a conventional septic system, which is made up of a septic tank (a watertight container buried in the ground) and a drain field, or leach field. The septic tank’s job is to separate out solids (which settle on the bottom as sludge), from oils and grease, which float to the top and form a scum layer. The liquid wastewater, which is in the middle layer of the tank, flows out through pipes into the drainfield, where it percolates down through the ground.

Although bacteria continually work on breaking down the organic matter in your septic tank, sludge and scum will build up, which is why a system needs to be cleaned out periodically. If not, solids will flow into the drainfield clogging the pipes and sewage can back up into your house. Overloading the system with water also reduces its ability to work properly by not leaving enough time for material to separate out in the tank, and by flooding the system. Sewage can flow to the surface of your lawn and/or back up into your house.

Failed septic systems not only result in soggy lawns and horrible smells, but they contaminate groundwater, private and public supply wells, creeks, rivers and many of our estuaries and coastal areas with excess nutrients, like nitrogen, and harmful pathogens, like E. coli.

It is important to note that even when traditional septic systems are maintained, they are still a source of nitrogen to groundwater; nitrate is not fully removed from the wastewater effluent.

How can you properly care for your septic system?

Here are a some basic tips to keep your system working properly so that you can reduce maintenance costs by avoiding system failure, and so that you can reduce your household’s impact on water pollution in your area.

    1. Don’t flush trash down the toilet. Only flush regular toilet paper. Toilet paper treated with lotion forms a layer of scum. Wet wipes are not flushable, although many brands are labelled as such. They wreak havoc on septic systems! Avoid flushing cigarette butts, paper towels and facial tissues, which can take longer to break down than toilet paper.
    2. Think at the sink. Avoid pouring oil and fat down the kitchen drain. Avoid excessive use of harsh cleaning products and detergents, which can affect the microbes in your septic tank (regular weekly or so cleaning is fine). Prescription drugs and antibiotics should never be flushed down the toilet.
  • Limit your use of the garbage disposal. Disposals add organic matter to your septic system, which results in the need for more frequent pumping. Composting is a great way to dispose of your fruit and vegetable scraps instead.
  • Take care at the surface of yourtank and drainfield. To work well, a septic system should be surrounded by non-compacted soil. Don’t drive vehicles or heavy equipment over the system. Avoid planting trees or shrubs with deep roots that could disrupt the system or plug pipes. It is a good idea to grow grass over the drainfield to stabilize soil and absorb liquid and nutrients.
  • Conserve water. You can reduce the amount of water pumped into your septic tank by reducing the amount you and your family use. Water conservation practices include repairing leaky faucets, toilets and pipes, installing low cost, low-flow showerheads and faucet aerators, and only running the washing machine and dishwasher when full. In the US, most of the household water used is to flush toilets (about 27%). Placing filled water bottles in the toilet tank is an inexpensive way to reduce the amount of water used per flush.
  • Have your septic system pumped by a certified professional. The general rule of thumb is every 3-5 years, but it will depend on household size, the size of your septic tank and how much wastewater you produce.

 

By following these guidelines, you can contribute to the health of your family, community and environment, as well as avoid costly repairs and septic system replacements.

You can find excellent information on septic systems a the US EPA website: https://www.epa.gov/septic. The Florida Department of Health website provides permiting information for Florida and a list of certified maintenance entities by county: http://www.floridahealth.gov/Environmental-Health/onsite-sewage/index.html.

The Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) identified septic systems as the major source of nitrate in Wakulla Springs, located in Wakulla County. Excess nitrate is thought to promote algal growth, leading to the degradation of the biological community in the spring.
Photo: Andrea Albertin

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Author: albertin – albertin@ufl.edu

albertin

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2017/04/29/maintain-your-septic-system-to-save-money-and-reduce-water-pollution/

Say it Ain’t So: Important Apalachicola River Water Dispute Ruling Goes Against Florida

Say it Ain’t So: Important Apalachicola River Water Dispute Ruling Goes Against Florida

In his 137-page report to the U.S. Supreme Court published on Valentine’s Day, a Special Master appointed to oversee the case has stated, “Because Florida has not met its burden, I recommend that the court deny Florida’s request for relief.” This may not be the final word on the matter but it does sound like the “bottom line” as the highest court in the land will lean heavy on his recommendation when they rule on the case in the days to come. So, will this be the end of the decades-long battle over water rights in the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint River Basin?  Considering the magnitude of what is at stake when it comes to this “Dixie-Style” water war, I seriously doubt it.

Hard working Apalachicola oystermen are finding times tougher with the “water wars” problem.
Photo: Erik Lovestrand

Florida argued for years that Georgia was illegally using water from its reservoir in Lake Lanier for unauthorized purposes according to the legislation that allowed the dam to be built in the first place. When that argument fell through during prior court rulings, the state sued claiming harm to the once prolific oyster fishery in Apalachicola Bay that has sustained a near total collapse that began in 2012. Florida contended that reduced freshwater flows tied to increased human needs upstream and sustained drought in the southeast had resulted in higher average salinities in the Bay, which added stressors (disease, parasites and predators), causing the crash.

Proponents of Florida’s case were ecstatic when the highest court in the land agreed to hear this case, following denials to do so in the past. Proponents on Georgia’s side of the case claimed that there was no proof that reduced flows had caused the crash and instead blamed poor management of the fishery for Florida’s woes.

Special Master Ralph Lancaster largely agreed with Florida’s assertions on the cause of the fishery disaster but still ruled against Florida’s request for relief saying that the evidence based on low flows during drought periods did not prove how a cap on Georgia’s water use during other times would provide the relief requested. Special Master Lancaster also hinted that Florida had made a grave mistake in not naming the Corps of Engineers as a party in this dispute. He said “Because the Corps is not a party, no decree entered by this court can mandate any change in the Corps’ operations in the basin.”

Georgia officials are breathing a sigh of relief as the economic impact to their state would have been substantial if this had not gone their way. On the other side of Lake Seminole at the State line, Florida’s resource managers still worry about what they can do to improve conditions in a struggling estuary on the Gulf Coast, once known locally as the “Oyster Capital of the World.”

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Author: Rick O’Connor – roc1@ufl.edu

Sea Grant Extension Agent in Escambia County

Rick O’Connor

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2017/02/18/say-it-aint-so-important-apalachicola-river-water-dispute-ruling-goes-against-florida/

Water Wars… Can We Avoid It in the Panhandle?

Water Wars… Can We Avoid It in the Panhandle?

On a recent camping trip out west I was made aware of just how valuable water is. The American west has been battling water issues for a few years now.  Some camp showers had buttons that would provide you water for a couple of minutes, others charged $ .50 for four minutes, some charged $ 1.00 for four minutes.  Not one campsite had water available at the site.  You had to walk, load your container, and return.  This forced you to be a little wiser on how you used it.  You did not want to have to go back and get more very often.

The Bill Young Reservoir in south Florida.   Photo: Southwest Florida Water Management District

The Bill Young Reservoir in south Florida.
Photo: Southwest Florida Water Management District

However, I was troubled by some of the things I saw as I traveled through the southwest. Areas in the desert where farmers were trying to grow row crops, citrus, and pecans – irrigation systems set up everywhere, reservoirs with canals and dikes to feed much needed water to the farmers… and signs in town where you could buy water to drink at $ .25/gallon.  It seemed an inefficient use of this resource.  It would make more sense to grow crops that used less water, maybe… no water.  Recently we have heard a lot about “water wars” and “water rights” in the American southwest.  Farmers seeking more, municipalities trying to grab their piece of the pie, football fields and golf courses, and even camp grounds.  Some locations you cannot wash your car, or your dogs.  It is a real dilemma they are facing.  There were numerous creeks and streams I drove over that were absolutely dry, cattle in open rangeland seeking anywhere to find something to drink.

 

Could this happen in Northwest Florida?

You would think not. In the book Mirage by Cynthia Barnett, it mentions a comment made by Major John Wesley Powell.  Major Powell was an ex-confederate officer who was hired by the U.S. Geological Survey to survey land across the south and to the southwest after the Civil War.  He mentions problems with developing the American southwest primarily due to the lack of water… but water was something that Florida would never have to worry about – the state was saturated.  And yet here we are… 150 years later discussing water rights in Florida.  Currently it does not appear to be an issue.  At any campground in Florida you will find a water source at each site and you can take a shower as long as you like – at no charge.  We are one of the most productive agricultural states in the country – producing row crops, citrus, and cattle.  Most in our communities have manicured watered lawns and many have swimming pools.  There does not seem to be a problem here.  BUT, many communities are beginning to see problems.  Salt water intrusion into the water supply, lowering of the water table and aquifers, and even some streams running low.  Could we… Florida… the land of water… be heading towards a “water war”?

This is a common method used to irrigate crops across the U.S. Photo: UF IFAS

This is a common method used to irrigate crops across the U.S.
Photo: UF IFAS

The University of Florida Extension Program has recently hired water management specialists in districts across the state. They will be looking at issues that include water quantity and quality to address the needs of each region.  These specialists, along with the county faculty, will be working with local residents to discuss the local issues and help mitigate problems that could be looming on the horizon.  We encourage all residents to consider how to better manage their water.  Think in terms as if you had a set amount each month – budget this to meet your needs – and stick to your budget.  Hopefully with research, education, and insight, we can avoid a true “Water War”.

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Author: Rick O’Connor – roc1@ufl.edu

Sea Grant Extension Agent in Escambia County

Rick O’Connor

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2016/07/31/water-wars-can-we-avoid-it-in-the-panhandle/

Are Your Forages Getting Enough Water?

Are Your Forages Getting Enough Water?

Exposed perennial peanut forage roots at 5 ft soil depth. (C.L. Mackowiak)

Exposed perennial peanut forage roots at 5 ft soil depth. (C.L. Mackowiak)

Cheryl Mackowiak, UF/IFAS NFREC Soils Specialist

Forages, as with all plants, require light, water and nutrients. Even if you cannot control water inputs because you are on non-irrigated land, you may find it useful to know the water status of your soils to help estimate yields. Water deficits can lead to slowed growth and stunted plants. The plants may also show symptoms of nutrient deficiency and become increasingly susceptible to pests and diseases.

Field Capacity (FC) is a term used for a well-watered soil that no longer drains after a day. Basically, the gravitational pull downwards is in equilibrium with the ability of the soil pore space to hold water. Field capacity has a suction pressure of −33 J/kg (−0.33 bar), regardless of soil type. Finer textured (heavier) soils can hold more water at FC than coarser, sandier soils, but the plant water requirement is not affected by soil type. In practical terms, planted soils that hold less water (coarse textured soils) can become water deficient more rapidly than finer textured (heavier) soils.

You may wonder how much water your crop is removing from the soil each week and if there is enough water to support optimal forage growth and yield. Many use rain gauges to track rainfall, but not many of us know how much of that rainfall is being taken up or removed by the crop. Evapotranspiration is the sum of evaporation and plant transpiration to the atmosphere. Transpiration is the process of water movement through a plant and its evaporation as water vapor from pores (stomata) in its leaves. When water inputs, via rainfall or irrigation, are less than plant demand (evapotranspirational losses) the soil will become increasingly dry. If this continues for a long enough period (this might be only a few days in Florida), water deficits may develop and the plant will suffer. The greater the deficit, and the longer the period, the worse the effect will be on the plant. If water increases soil suction pressure to -1,500 J/kg (-15 bar), the plant reaches permanent wilting point (PWP) and it will not recover with re-watering.

In Florida and several other states, there are free access, online, weather station sites. In Florida we have Florida Automated Weather Network (FAWN). This site congregates weather data, including rainfall and evapotranspiration (ET), from over 40 sites across the state.The FAWN site provides both rainfall and estimated evapotranspiration on a daily basis. There are also coefficients available that improve the water demand estimates to specific crops at different growth stages, but the ET values from weather stations such as FAWN, are adequate assessments in many cases.

To illustrate how one might use this information, daily ET water loss at Quincy last week was approximately 0.2 inches per day (1.4 inches for the week) but rainfall was only 0.6 inches for the week, so plants were removing more soil moisture than was being replaced through rainfall, which is typical for mid-summer in the southeast.  Florida sandy soils at FC may hold about an acre-inch  (<1 inch for coarse sand to ~1.2 inches for loamy sands) of plant available water per foot depth of soil. This means that your soil can supply about 4 inches of plant available water in the upper 4 ft of soil. A two week period without rainfall at this time of year might remove 2.8 inches of water through ET. If your roots have a maximum root depth of 2 feet (because of continuous grazing without rest), your forages can suffer significant drought stress during a two week dry spell.

A deeper root system can be achieved by grazing only 50% of standing biomass at a time – “take half leave half”, or by allowing ample recovery time after grazing (2-3 weeks) or haying events (4-5 weeks). Root systems that reach 4 feet or deeper are more likely to survive dry spells of a week or two because their roots can reach deeper soil moisture (4 inches of plant available water in the upper 4 ft of soil versus only 2 inches in the upper 2 ft of soil). Managing your forage crop to grow deeper roots is one of the best ways to survive short-term droughts when irrigation is not available. Those who irrigate forages can replace some of the difference when rainfall falls short of ET. In the above example, there was a 0.8 inch water deficit. It might be wise to irrigate, unless additional rainfall is expected in the coming days. When weekly rainfall exceeds weekly ET, irrigation is not usually necessary.

Grazing Guidelines for SE Forages

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Author: Cheryl Mackowiak – echo13@ufl.edu


http://nfrec.ifas.ufl.edu

Cheryl Mackowiak

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2016/07/29/are-your-forages-getting-enough-water/

Panhandle Outdoors: St. Joseph Bay Coastal Ecosystem Water School

Panhandle Outdoors: St. Joseph Bay Coastal Ecosystem Water School

polNorthwest Florida is considered one of the top six biodiversity hotspots in the country. The reasons why begin with our unique water features.  The University of Florida IFAS Extension faculty are expanding their acclaimed “Panhandle Outdoors Live!” field trips into two-day events for 2016. They will include presentations as well as traditional excursions to explore and learn about the Panhandle’s signature aquatic ecosystems.

This upcoming two-day, September 7 & 8,  educational adventure is based at the St. Joseph Bay State Buffer Preserve near the coastal town of Port. St. Joe, Florida. It includes field tours of unique coastal uplands, presentations by scientists and naturalists, and a kayak trip to explore the underwater life of the seagrass beds.

The St. Joseph Bay Ecosystem is home to one of the richest concentrations of marine grasses along the Northern Gulf Coast. It supports an amazing diversity of fish, aquatic invertebrates and birds. Other local habitats of significance include nesting beaches of loggerhead sea turtles, salt marshes that support secretive marsh birds, and pine flatwoods uplands.  

Important!

Join us to explore these waters and learn more about the Panhandle’s hidden ecological treasures!

There are several ticket options for this water school to choose from at Eventbrite.com.  For more information please contact Erik Lovestrand at 850-653-9337 or elovestrand@ufl.edu and download this printer friendly flyer:  Panhandle Outdoors St. Joseph Bay 2016

 

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Author: admin – webmaster@ifas.ufl.edu

admin

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2016/07/23/panhandle-outdoors-st-joseph-bay-coastal-ecosystem-water-school/

How to Water to Establish a Lawn

How to Water to Establish a Lawn

MICROIRRIGATION - Image Credit UF/IFAS Extension

MICROIRRIGATION – Image Credit UF/IFAS Extension

When watering to establish a lawn or when renovating (redoing, patching, reestablishing, starting over, etc.) a lawn, we normally call for 2-3 “mists” throughout the day for the first 7-10 days until roots get established. These are just 10 minute bursts. Then back off to once a day for about ½ hour for 7-10 days. Then go to 2-3 times a week for about 7 days. By then your lawn should be established.

If we are experiencing adequate rainfall, you may not need to irrigate. Rain counts. But in the absence of sufficient rain, you’ll need to provide enough water at the correct time to allow your new sod to root – hence, the above directions.

A well designed and correctly installed irrigation system with a controller, operated correctly, helps to achieve uniform establishment. It can be difficult or impossible to uniformly provide sufficient water to establish a lawn with hose-end sprinklers, especially if the lawn is sizeable and during dry weather. Most people are not going to do the necessary job of pulling hoses around on a regular basis to result in a well-established lawn.

Too much water will result in rot, diseased roots and diseased seedlings and failure. Too little water will result in the sod, seedlings, sprigs or plugs drying excessively and failure to establish. The end result at best is a poorly established sparse lawn with weeds. Or complete failure.

There is no substitute or remedy for incorrect irrigation when establishing a brand new lawn or when renovating an entire lawn or areas within a lawn.

It would be wise to not invest the time and money if the new lawn cannot be irrigated correctly. Taking the gamble that adequate (not too much, not too little) rainfall will occur exactly when needed to result in a beautiful, healthy, thick, lush lawn is exactly that – a gamble.

An irrigation system is nothing more than a tool to supplement rainfall. As much as possible, learn to operate the irrigation controller using the “Manual” setting.

The above schedule should help when planting a lawn from seed, sprigs, plugs or sod.

For additional information on establishing and maintaining a Florida lawn, contact your County UF/IFAS Extension Office or visit http://hort.ufl.edu/yourfloridalawn.

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Author: Larry Williams – llw5479@ufl.edu

Larry Williams is the County Extension Director and Residential Horticulture Agent for the UF/IFAS Extension Office in Okaloosa County.

Larry Williams

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2016/06/22/how-to-water-to-establish-a-lawn/

Water Conservation in the Landscape

Water Conservation in the Landscape

 

In this photo released from the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, extension agent Janet Bargar checks the water flow and direction of a pop-up irrigation system at a home. Bargar, a water quality expert, suggests residents check with their county extension office about local watering restrictions. She says the ideal time to water is before sunrise and that residents should check irrigation systems watering the sidewalk. (AP photo/University of Florida/Josh Wickham)

Extension agent Janet Bargar checks the water flow and direction of a pop-up irrigation system at a home. (AP photo/University of Florida/Josh Wickham)

Early spring is a great time of year to reevaluate your lawn and landscape water needs. University of Florida studies have shown that in homes utilizing automatic sprinkler systems, 50% of total home water consumption in the summer comes from running a sprinkler system.  When a homeowner is using utility water, they are typically charged twice; first for bringing the water in and second for wastewater fees.  Estimated costs for irrigating a 5,000 square foot yard range from $ 5-$ 25 per irrigation session.  So how does one cut down?

To start with, check your sprinkler system for efficiency.  Turn on the water, stand back, and watch it run.  Look for broken or clogged heads (evident by uneven and high-volume spray), or leaks within the water line.  Clean out the heads or replace these broken parts—most are very inexpensive and found in the plumbing section of home improvement stores.  Look at the reach of the spray, and make sure irrigation water is not landing wastefully on roads, sidewalks, or adjacent houses.  To paraphrase a wise colleague, “No matter how much you water it, concrete won’t grow.”

Many of our clientele ask how long an irrigation system should be run and how much water plants should get.  Ideally, turf and landscape plants should get ½” to ¾” of water per application.  The frequency of application varies by plant needs, weather, and soil type.  For very sandy soils, some specialists have recommended applying less water at a slightly more frequent rate, since sandy soils are unable to hold water in the root zone of plants for long.  Mulching around plants and amending soils with organic material can help improve a soil’s water-holding capacity.

An efficient irrigation system should direct water to root system of a landscape and reduce overspray onto homes and sidewalks. Photo credit: UF IFAS

An efficient irrigation system should direct water to the root system of a landscape and reduce overspray onto homes and sidewalks. Photo credit: UF IFAS

A simple sprinkler calibration can be conducted by spreading empty aluminum cans around one’s yard, and turning on each sprinkler zone.  Run each zone for 30 minutes and measure how deep the water is in the cans.  If the water depth is within the recommended amounts, no changes are needed.  However if it’s not deep enough or greater than ¾” of an inch, run times should be adjusted accordingly.   If some of the cans receive a noticeably different amount of water than those adjacent to them, it is a signal that the reach of the spray heads is not adequately set and should be corrected to make sure the entire landscape has even coverage.

The primary goal of supplemental irrigation is for the plants’ root zones to be wet, but not saturated or too dry.  Ideally, established lawns and landscapes should thrive on rainfall after initial establishment, and only take irrigation in longer periods of drought.  However, this is contingent on the planting of Florida-friendly vegetation and a homeowner with a keen eye to the condition of one’s plants, who is willing to turn the sprinkler system to “manual” and wait for his or her plants to start drooping before turning on the water.  In reality, most homeowners find it difficult to take this much time and care with their irrigation system, and opt for the “water every two or three days whether needed or not” approach, even in parts of the state with water restrictions.  In fact, anecdotal evidence seems to show that homeowners only allowed to water lawns one or two days a week will overdo it just to make sure their plants survive.

Luckily, new technology exists that can take the guesswork out of irrigation for a homeowner, while keeping plants alive and conserving water at the same time.  “Smart” irrigation systems include soil moisture sensors and evapotranspiration (ET) controllers.  Soil moisture sensors (SMS) use electrodes buried within the root zone of turf, which are calibrated to a certain level of moisture in the soil.  The system is only allowed to run when water levels drop below a preset threshold.  ET (evapotranspiration) controllers monitor weather conditions on site or from a nearby weather station, using satellite signals to determine when plants will need additional water.

 

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Author: Carrie Stevenson – ctsteven@ufl.edu

Coastal Sustainability Agent, Escambia County Extension

Carrie Stevenson

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2016/04/08/water-conservation-in-the-landscape/

Properly Water to Establish a Lawn

Properly Water to Establish a Lawn

Watering to establish lawn

Watering to establish lawn

When watering to establish a lawn or when renovating (redoing, patching, reestablishing, starting over, etc.) a lawn, we normally call for 2-3 “mists” throughout the day for the first 7-10 days until roots get established. These are just 10 minute bursts. Then back off to once a day for about ½ hour for 7-10 days. Then go to 2-3 times a week for about 7 days. By then your lawn should be established.

Of course, if we are experiencing adequate rainfall, you may not need to irrigate. Rain counts. But in the absence of sufficient rain, you’ll need to provide enough water at the correct time to allow your new sod to root – hence, the above directions.

A well designed and correctly installed irrigation system with a controller, operated correctly, really helps to achieve uniform establishment. It can be very difficult or impossible and inconvenient and time consuming to uniformly provide sufficient water to establish a lawn with hose-end sprinklers, especially if the lawn is sizeable and during dry weather. Most people are not going to do the necessary job of pulling hoses around on a regular basis to result in a well established lawn.

There is no substitute or remedy for incorrect irrigation when establishing a brand new lawn or when renovating an entire lawn or areas within a lawn.

It would be wise to not invest the necessary time and money if the new lawn cannot be irrigated correctly. Taking the gamble that adequate (not too much, not too little) rainfall will occur exactly when needed to result in a beautiful, healthy, thick, lush lawn is exactly that – a gamble.

An irrigation system is nothing more than a tool to supplement rainfall. As much as possible, learn to operate the irrigation controller using the “Manual” setting. It is also wise and is state law to have a rain shutoff device installed and operating correctly. The rain shutoff device overrides the controller when it is raining or when sufficient rainfall has occurred. Rain shutoff devices are relatively inexpensive and easily installed. Also, a good rain gauge can be an inexpensive tool to help you monitor how much rain you’ve received. Rain counts.

Too much water will result in rot, diseased roots and diseased seedlings and failure. Too little water will result in the sod, seedlings, sprigs or plugs drying excessively and failure to establish. The end result at best is a poorly established sparse lawn with weeds. Or complete failure.

For additional information on establishing and maintaining a Florida lawn, contact your County UF/IFAS Extension Office or visit http://hort.ufl.edu/yourfloridalawn.

PG

Author: Larry Williams – llw5479@ufl.edu

Larry Williams is the County Extension Director and Residential Horticulture Agent for the UF/IFAS Extension Office in Okaloosa County.

Larry Williams

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2016/04/07/properly-water-to-establish-a-lawn/

NISAW 2016 – Controlling Weeds in Your Pond: Water Hyacinth

NISAW 2016 – Controlling Weeds in Your Pond: Water Hyacinth

Libbie Johnson

UF IFAS Escambia County Extension

Northwest Florida can be a pond owner’s paradise. There is usually enough rainfall to keep ponds filled, catfish, bass, and brim are well adapted to the environmental conditions, and there is a long season to catch fish.

One of the biggest problems pond owners face is the constant struggle with pond vegetation. Some pond vegetation is good. It provides a cover for young fish, helps stabilize the shoreline or bank, and some vegetative species are attractive wildlife.

However some species are highly invasive and can completely overtake a pond. One such species is water hyacinth (Eichhornia crassipes).

The water hyacinth is a floating plant, which if left unchecked and allowed to grow to its maximum potential, can weigh up to 200 tons per acre of water. In rivers, it can choke out other vegetation and make navigation difficult to impossible.

Water hyacinth, as an ornamental plant, is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. The plants intertwined and form huge floating mats which can root on muddy surfaces, as seen in the photo below.

The plant will be several inches tall, has showy lavender flowers, with rounded, shiny, smooth leaves. These leaves are attached to spongy stalks that help keep the plants afloat. The prolific roots are dark and feathery.

In Northwest Florida this pest commonly dies back in the winter. Unfortunately it is able to regrow when the weather and water warm.

Water hyacinth is not a native species. It is believed to have been introduced into the U.S. in 1884 at an exposition in New Orleans. Within 70 years of reaching Florida, the plant covered 126,000 acres of waterways (Schmitz et al. 1993).

Water hyacinth is on the FL DACS Prohibited Aquatic Plant List – 5B-64.011. According to Florida Statute 369.25, “No person shall import, transport, cultivate, collect, sell, or possess any noxious aquatic plant listed on the prohibited aquatic plant list established by the department without a permit issued by the department.”

To control a small infestation, the plants can be gathered from the surface, brought to the shore, left to dry and then disposed of in the garbage. There are biological control options—water hyacinth weevils will be useful in keeping the plant populations down.

The spongy petiole helps keeps the plant afloat.

Finally, chemical herbicide options may be the best alternative. University of Florida Aquatic Vegetation Specialist, Dr. Langeland, wrote Efficacy of Herbicide Active Ingredients Against Aquatic Weeds, a good publication that will help you to determine which herbicide will work best for different weeds.

NOTE: The middle of the summer is generally not the ideal time for applying herbicide on pond vegetation. For more information on weed control in Florida ponds, please see Weed Control in Florida Ponds. If you have any questions about identifying a pond weed, contact your local county Extension agent.

PG

Author: Libbie Johnson – libbiej@ufl.edu

Agriculture agent at UF IFAS Escambia County Extension.
http://escambia.ifas.ufl.edu/

Libbie Johnson

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2016/02/24/nisaw-2016-controlling-weeds-in-your-pond-water-hyacinth/

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