University of Florida

Practical Irrigation Recommendations

Proper irrigation practices are necessary to maintain lawn and landscapes appearances healthy and attractive.  Excessive watering can cause rapid turf growth, shallow root systems, weed and pest invasions. Water in excess can be lost either through deep percolation or runoff, depending on the texture of the soil.  Under-irrigated turf can develop a poor appearance, as photosynthesis and plant growth turn slower as protective mechanisms adopted by the plant under stress conditions.

The objective of a good irrigation management program is to effectively use the available water supply, depending upon the water-holding capacity of the soil, to make the crop grow (in this case, turfgrass) and to save water. Trenholm and Unruh (2008) recommend irrigating lawns when at least one of the following signs of water stress are observed: folding leaf blades (wilting), blue-gray color of the lawn, and footprints remaining visible on the lawn. Irrigating only when the lawn shows one of these signs will encourage deeper rooting of the turf and overall turf-stress tolerance. However, irrigation frequency is regulated in some areas in Florida by the Water Management Districts. Homeowners should not irrigate more than the amount allowed by the District in a specific area. More detailed information can be found at

The University of Florida and Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) has provided a series of recommendations for turfgrass and landscape irrigation. A summary can be found at Dukes (2008).  From this document, two basic recommendations for sprinkler irrigated turfgrass growing in Florida emerged:

  1. Irrigating deep and infrequently (0.5 to 0.75 inches) is recommended for wilting turf growing in a sandy soil where vertical root growth is not limited;
  2. Irrigation frequency and run times are recommended based on irrigation application rate, month of the year, and different climate areas within the state.

Studies in Florida show ways to efficiently irrigate lawns by using different approaches (Augustine and Snyder, 1984; Haley et al., 2008). As a conclusion, UF/IFAS recommend to irrigate plants when they show symptoms of water stress (Trenholm and Unruh, 2008). If a user uses an automatic controller, irrigation schedules should be changed each month (Dukes and Haman, 2006). They presented an easy, user friendly version called "Urban Irrigation Scheduler"

Southwest Florida Water Management District