Tag Archives: florida

The Install

It started like any other home improvement project that we have tackled. Careful planning resulted in a materials list and one quick trip to Home Depot in our truck for the required parts. Sure.

Actually, our irrigation system HAS been a topic of discussion for some time. I just failed to spend much time planning. Ultimately, we woke up on Saturday eager to make the most of our three day weekend. Tired of the weeds and dirt in the front yard, the decision was made to install an irrigation system. I scratched a few things out on a sheet of paper. Took a few measurements, made a few more notes, and we headed out. The first trip wasn’t so bad. We ended up with most of the pipe that we would need along with several of the fittings. Notice that I did not say that we had everything. Ultimately, my wife had to make three more trips back to the store to get more pipe, additional fittings, and finally, one last trip for a $0.48 fitting that was required for the last step. The finished project exceeded our expectations and we cannot wait to plant some sod.

This project was a good reminder to me that it is important to spend time planning an irrigation system. We were fortunate – in addition to the fact that I have had a formal irrigation design course, this was not the first time I had installed a system. That saved us a lot of time and resulted in a final product that I am proud of.

Here is a blog post from my wife that has her take on the project: Make it rain, or how to install your own DIY irrigation system.

Here is a time-lapse video of the installation. If there is sufficient interest, I will create a “How-To” for installing your own irrigation system.


Hillsborough County Commissioners Vote Against a Fertilizer Ban

Yesterday Hillsborough Count Commissioners voted against approval of a fertilizer ban that would have halted the sale of lawn fertilizers during the summer months.  Instead of the ban, the commissioners voted to restrict homeowners from fertilizing their lawns immediately prior to a heavy rainfall event and to prevent fertilizer applications within 10 feet of a water body.  I personally feel this is one of the first signs of hope with regard to thwarting the efforts of political activists who have been pushing local governments to put these laws in place.  Finally, someone is listening to the SCIENCE.

I couldn’t agree more!

Concerned by all of the brown surrounding you in the landscape?  The Gainesville Sun reached out to UF experts to address the concerns of many people throughout Florida for some insight.

I agree – now is not the time to panic.  One of my previous posts addressed this topic, and my opinion is still the same.  We just need to be patient and let nature take its course.  Over the next few weeks the soils will start warming up and the grasses should begin coming out of dormancy.  Want to learn more about lawn care?  Check this out: Homeowner Best Management Practices for the Home Lawn.

Pinellas County passes fertilizer ban

During my recent speaking engagements with industry I have been asking for a show of hands to see how many people are doing business in areas that are currently impacted by fertilizer restrictions of some sort.  Only 30 percent or so raised their hands.  My response was “Just wait.”

Pinellas County passed a ban on fertilizer applications during the “summer rainy season” which has been identified as anytime from the beginning of June through the end of September.

I have long been an advocate of responsible fertilizer application and would argue that you can not find a more environmentally responsible set of people than those that work in the landscape industry.  I respect the goal of ordinances like this, but feel that they missed the mark.  The ban effectively limits application of fertilizers to turf during the warmest months of the year – the time of year when the warm-season grasses are actively growing and need nutrition to produce a healthy stand of turfgrass.

Turfgrasses play a VERY important role in the landscape.  No, I am not talking about aesthetics.  Turf plays a critical role in the landscape by stabilizing slopes, preventing soil erosion, and providing an evaporative cooling effect that reduces the temperature of the surrounding environment.  There are no better plants in the landscape to prevent soil erosion than healthy grasses.  They have a dense, finely textured root system and a dense canopy, all characteristics that encourage water infiltration and limit runoff.

Some argue that native plants can do the same job without the need for fertilizers.  Unfortunately, the urban landscape is not a native landscape.  Every time a new neighborhood is planned, the first step is to come in with large equipment and remove all of the topsoil, which is often sold to the highest bidder.  After completing construction, the builders will grade the property, and if you are lucky, they will move in two to three inches of topsoil on top of the compacted subsoil and sand that surrounds the new homes.  It is no surprise that many plants that are native to Florida are not able to survive in the harsh soil environment that we have in urban areas.

If turfgrasses are NOT fertilized, they begin to decline in health.  The canopy density begins to thin out increasing the risk of soil erosion while also increasing weed pressure.  From the perspective of protecting the environment, this is not a good situation.  By not maintaining the health of the turf we have increased the risk of water pollution during rainfall/runoff events and have indirectly increased the potential use of herbicides which will be used to control the weeds which may have otherwise not been able to take hold in the dense, healthy stand of turf.

That brings us back to the ban which prevents the application of fertilizers to warm-season grasses during the summer.  As a result of the ban, fertilizers will have to be applied during the spring/fall/winter months.  The grasses will not be actively growing and will not have the same extensive root system that would be present during the summer.  This is going to increase the risk of nutrient leaching. If we simply managed the turf the way numerous researchers have suggested we would reduce the risk of runoff AND leaching.

You probably can guess that I do not agree with banning fertilizer applications on warm-season turfgrasses during the summer months.  The fact remains that much of the nutrient leaching and runoff pollution is thought to come from non-point sources.  This means that we do not know where exactly it is coming from, only that it is there.  I am not saying that fertilizer applications in the urban environment are never a problem.  Irresponsible applications are definitely a problem.  If you are applying fertilizer to the lawn, sidewalk, street, and driveway without cleaning it up, you should be banned from ever purchasing/applying another ounce of fertilizer.  If you have such a complete disregard for the environment you should not be allowed to manage any portion of the landscape, regardless of whether or not you own it.

I have been feeling kind of brown lately

It was cold. Really, really, cold. Or was it? While it was sunny and in the mid 70’s in Central Florida today, two weeks ago it was a different story.

I remember the moment so vividly. We had just stopped by Ward’s, our local (and favorite) grocery store to pick up some things for dinner. On the way into the store we commented on how cold it was, and I mentioned that I might need to pull out a heavier jacket. We quickly made our way into the store where I began looking for the broccoli. Just then a gentleman came into the store, made eye contact with me, and said something that really struck home. He looked directly at me as I stood there, hands in my pockets and shoulders hunched trying to warm up, and said “This cold weather is getting old. If it doesn’t warm up pretty soon I’m going to retire and move to Florida where it’s warm.”

You see, at that point we were about 3 days into what would turn out to be one of the longest consecutive number of days with temperatures below freezing. The previous record was set in 1960 at nine days. We made it to eleven this time around. Being a bit of a weather junkie I had a couple thermometers set out around the yard and recorded a low temperature of around 17 degrees.

For those of you up north who are laughing a this point, you don’t get it. We live in Florida. It’s not supposed to get that cold!

Now we have friendly reminders of the cold all around us. Nearly every lawn you drive by from here to Orlando which would normally have at least a hint of green in it at this time of year has turned to a nice toasty brown color. If your lawn falls into this category, do not be alarmed. You are not alone.

Here is a picture that I took at Disney last week. They normally pride themselves on carefully manicured landscapes. Even they, with all their magical powers, could not escape the cold.

Of course, they had a response to this situation. It appeared that they “fixed” the problem and recreated paradise by laying new sod in the high-traffic entrances to the resort as you can see in the pictures below.

Don’t worry though if your grass is still brown and you lack the unlimited budget that would allow you to run out an hire someone to lay new sod next week. There is a good chance that the grass is simply dormant. Very, very, dormant. That is why it is brown.

The good news is that dormant grass will green up in the spring. Keep your eyes open for the first signs of green once we have had two or three weeks of warmer weather. If, however, you do not see any signs of life by the first of April, it might be time to be concerned.

Until then, just sit back and enjoy the fact a brown lawn does not need to be mowed! The alternative would be living up north and shoveling snow. I don’t know about you, but I’ll take brown grass in Florida over a snow shovel any day.