Happy Earth Day!
April 22, 2014
Happy Earth Day! Earth Day is celebrated every year on April 22 and community events are organized throughout the world to honor our planet and the conservation of our natural resources. In honor of Earth Day, I would like to take some time to address a major environmental issue in South Florida and what you can do to help.
Water is essential to life, not only in South Florida but throughout the world. Over the past several years, South Florida has experienced irregular rain patterns that have resulted in water shortages and restrictions. Our growing population drives up our water consumption, and this increased water consumption combined with less fresh water makes for an impending environmental disaster. But what can we do to prevent a major water shortage? There are many small things you can do that can have a significant impact on your water consumption, such as checking for leaks, installing high-efficiency shower heads, and repairing dripping faucets, to name a few, but in South Florida specifically, we could save a significant amount of water by watering and maintaining our lawns more judiciously.
Most people with automatic sprinklers use way too much water on St. Augustine grass, which is South Florida’s most popular landscaping turf grass. Automatic sprinklers are wasteful because they lead to over watering and wasteful watering. These sprinkler systems do not know when it’s raining, so if they are set to automatically go off every day at a certain time, you will inevitably end up watering your lawn while it’s raining, which wastes a huge amount of water. Watering daily in and of itself is wasteful. A lawn in South Florida needs 3/4 of an inch of water twice per week. This can be achieved with most sprinkler systems by turning the irrigation on for 45 minutes twice a week. The ideal time to water is either early morning or late evening in order to maximize absorption and minimize evaporation. During our rainy season of June through September, you may not need to water your lawn at all if it rains daily. The best way to tell if your lawn needs to be watered is to walk across your grass and see how quickly the blades of grass spring back. If they spring back immediately, the lawn is properly hydrated and does not need to be watered, but if the blades of grass stay down and very slowly lift back up, the lawn is ready to be watered.
The way you maintain your lawn is just as important for water conservation as how often you water it. When you mow your lawn, don’t scalp it! St. Augustine grass should never be cut shorter than 3 inches. Giving your lawn too short of a cut makes it more susceptible to disease and lawn pests, but it also provides less coverage to the roots, soil, and thatch, which in turn increases evaporation. Another important part of maintaining an efficient lawn is to sharpen the blades on your mower. Sharper blades give a cleaner cut, which looks crisper and minimizes damage to the grass blades. Hacking at your grass will drain it of nutrients and tear it up and thus creating brown tips on each blade of grass. Distressed grass needs more water and fertilization than a healthy lawn. The healthier your lawn, the more self-sustaining it is and therefore the less watering it needs.
When you mow your lawn, it is also important to be mindful of where your clippings go. Do not blow your clippings into the street where they can go down a storm drain. Aside from potentially clogging the drain, the trimmed grass will leach nitrogen into our local waterways, which in turn can have dramatic environmental damage, such as eutrophication. The ideal solution for handling grass clippings is to use a mulching mower, which puts the clippings back into the lawn where it is best served to protect and nourishing the soil and thatch.
Most important of all, keep lawn fertilizers off of impervious surfaces. Any spilled fertilizer should be swept back into the lawn. Improperly applied fertilizer does immeasurable harm to local waterways. Prevent an environmental disaster by following best practices for fertilizing your lawn.
If everyone in South Florida followed these best practices for watering and maintaining their lawn, our water supply would have a much more stable reservoir and we could avert what seems like an inevitable environmental disaster. This Earth Day, make the commitment to protect your local water supply and have a lasting impact on your environment. For an expert evaluation of your lawn’s needs, contact the lawn care and pest control experts here at Nozzle Nolen and request a free inspection.
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