Can You Save Your Lawn?
March 21, 2009
Lawn-loving Tampa residents fear there's heartbreak ahead when tough new watering restrictions take effect April 3.
And they may be right.
"There will be some lawns that will suffer," predicted Laurie Trenholm, urban turf-grass specialist with the University of Florida.
Most lawns here are Floratam St. Augustine, billed as the most drought-tolerant of the St. Augustine grasses. But it does need water, preferably twice a week, Trenholm says.
The new restrictions allow for hand-watering only once a week from 6 p.m. to 8 a.m. on Tuesday or Sunday, depending on your address.
Floratam represents an investment of up to $140 per 400 square feet. Bahia grass, the second local favorite, costs about $75 for the same amount and will come back no matter how dead it looks. But therein lies the rub: About now, it looks pretty dead.
Well-established St. Augustine in enriched soil and some shade likely will soldier through till rainy season, provided it gets three-quarters to 1 inch of water each week, Trenholm said.
That might not be enough to save lawns baking in the open sun and rooted in sand.
"I feel sorry for you," said Paul James, "The Gardener Guy" from HGTV's "Gardening by the Yard." He had heard about Tampa's new restrictions from his home in Tulsa, Okla.
"What you don't want to do is think, 'I need to transplant my entire landscape with drought-tolerant plants.' Then, the following spring you will have the wettest spring on record."
Not to mention that most plants - drought-tolerant or not - need healthy doses of water to establish root systems.
"Feel free to urinate on your lawn," he suggested. "I still do."
Penny Carnathan and Laura Frazier
What To Do
•Give St. Augustine three-quarters to 1 inch of water once a week.
•Put a measuring cup in the area you're watering and time how long it takes to fill to the desired amount. Then you'll know how long you need to water each area.
•Apply fertilizer only in small amounts. Don't push growth.
•Get pests under control before it gets really hot to avoid further stressing the lawn.
•Use a mulching mower and leave the fine clippings on the lawn to act as mulch.
What Not To Do
•Don't overwater. When you see water running off the lawn, you're doing the grass no good.
•Don't mow too short. Floratam should go no lower than 31/2 to 4 inches. Dwarf varieties such as Seville, Delmar and Captiva can be cut to 21/2 inches. Taller grass helps shade the soil beneath.
•Avoid hose nozzles that produce a misty spray. It evaporates more quickly and dissipates in a breeze.
•Try not to water during the "bookend" hours of 6 to 8 a.m. and 6 to 8 p.m. Since those are the times most people are showering, bathing, washing dishes - and watering - pressure tends to drop. Early in the morning is preferable to late at night so water doesn't sit on the grass for hours, inviting fungal disease.
Tampa water customers can get free conservation devices, including low-flow hose nozzles, by going to www.tampagov.net and clicking on "Customer Service Center." "Under Submit An Opinion Or Question," click "more" and scroll down to "Water Customer Free Stuff Correspondence."
Sources: Laurie Trenholm, turf-grass specialist at UF; Paul James, HGTV's "Gardener Guy"; Elias Franco, Tampa Water Department
Back to Tampa Tribune Page. . .
Back to Home Page. . .