How to Set Up Your Irrigation System to Keep a St Augustine Lawn Alive with 2x Week Watering Restrictions


By Rick Orr 04/18/2020
Sprinkler head watering a St Augustine lawn

Facts to Know to Help You Water Your Lawn

  1. There is no water shortage in Florida. We live in a swamp – surrounded by water and it rains over 4 feet of water every year in Pinellas.  A river runs under Florida as wide as Florida from the Okefenokee Swamp to the Everglades. The is underground river boils out of the ground in natural springs pumping millions of gallons a day of fresh water into lakes, rivers, oceans, gulfs and the Everglades without failure. SWFWMD lied about the irrigation water shortage – there never was a shortage of irrigation water, only a shortage of potable water (think failed reservoir and desalinization plant).
  2. You cannot kill your lawn with water - not in Pinellas County with our sandy soils and a residential iirrigation system. To kill your lawn with water, you must submerge the lawn for days and even God can't do that with torrential downpours, so don't think you can do it with an irrigation system.
  3. Whenever you water your lawn, you are not wasting water, you are recycling water. Water falls from the sky (and your irrigation system) and returns to an ocean that never fills up – it’s called the water cycle. Watering your lawn is part of the natural and beneficial water cycle.
  4. The sandy soils of Pinellas County can hold enough water to sustain a St Augustine lawn for about 72 hours during the hot summer months. Every minute counts when the lawn is dry and needs water. If your lawn doesn’t receive a drink when it needs water, with every passing minute, the St Augustine will weaken and decline and be replaced with drought hardy weeds such as crabgrass.
  5.  St Augustine needs water when the soil is dry - which can be any day of the week - not just your watering day. If your lawn needs water on Tuesday and you cannot water until Thursday – kiss your lawn goodbye.
  6. Anytime is a good time to water your lawn. Rains come at any time of the day and night without killing St Augustine lawns. There is no threat to your lawn if you water at midnight or daybreak or even at noon. The myth that watering at night or while the sun is out can harm your lawn is just that a myth – if you had a choice between watering at night or the middle of the day or the lawn dying of drought – choose water!
  7. St Augustine grass has above ground stems that are damaged by the hot Florida sun but are protected by the leaves if allowed to grow long enough to form a protective canopy. Mowing a St Augustine lawn below 3” exposes the stems, roots and soil to the hot Florida sun – and mowing above 3” protects the stems, roots and soil from the hot Florida sun.

How to Set Up Your Irrigation System and Lawn for Twice Per Week Irrigation

  1. Raise the mowing height. St Augustine looks good and thrives when it is mowed at 3” or higher. A 4” mowing height is best. St Augustine mowed at 4” has fewer weeds, less insect damage, requires less water, looks great and recovers quickly from drought stress. Mow it below 4” and it is lawn that will be in need of repair or replacement by the end of the summer.
  2. Set your irrigation timer to water twice on your watering days. Set your timer to water at 12:01 AM and again at 10:00PM on your watering days. This gives the lawn a drink of water as soon as possible (12:01 AM) and again at the end of your watering day. This water regime will have the least amount of hours between watering.
  3. Set the times for zones: 15 to 20 minutes for spray heads and 45 – 60 minutes for rotors. For mixed zones, use the highest values.
  4.  Test and repair your irrigation every week – because keeping your St Augustine grass alive on 2x per week watering will require that your irrigation system be working perfectly! You are allowed to run your irrigation for testing and repairs but you must be present during testing and repairs. Pick the driest day of the week to check your irrigation so that the lawn will benefit from the testing and repairs. Note: Watering during the day does not damage your lawn – it helps your lawn (see Fact 4).
  5. Set up your irrigation system to overspray drives and walks. Walks and drives act as heat sinks drying out turf edges. Watering drives and sidewalks cools them down and ensure proper watering of edges.
  6. Check the irrigation for coverage – water runs straight down – it does not run sideways. If a sprinkler head is not watering a part of your lawn – it will not get water!
  7. Hand water your lawn. Hand watering of hot spots is allowed with a hose with a shut off nozzle. I have several hose bibs attached my irrigation system for easy hand watering. Hand watering – especially hot spots – can help reduce drought damage. Spritzing a lawn during the heat of the day will cool down the lawn and add humidity. Soaking hot spots will bring life back to withered dying grass. Note: Watering during the day does not damage your lawn – it helps your lawn (see Fact 4).

One More Thing To Do: Call, write or email every local and state politician and ask them why SWFMD lied about the water shortage. Tell them you will not vote for anyone who supports the water restrictions for lawn irrigation. SWFWMD district officials are appointed by our politicians – it was those politicians that allowed SWFWMD to become the overreaching overbearing government bureaucracy that had to be shut down by an executive order.

Rick Orr Owner-Operator APL Pest Control/Creator of ILOVETURF.COM
APL Pest Control

Since 1995, Rick Orr has worked in Pinellas County providing turf management and pest control. Rick Orr is a graduate of VA Tech in Agronomy (Turf Ecology) and the creator of

Since graduating from VA Tech in 1979, Rick worked in the green industry, mostly with golf courses, resorts, and large communities. Rick has obtained certifications in arboriculture, landscape contractor, and irrigation contractor, and taught Environmental Horticulture at St Petersburg College. 

Currently, Rick is the owner and operator of APL Pest Control. APL Pest Control provides lawn care and pest control for all of Pinellas County.

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