As a landscape designer who believes in a reduced impact on the local environment is always the best way to go I rarely recommend large amounts of turf, especially when that turf is located along Sarasota’s canals or bays.
However sometimes it can’t be helped, either it’s already in the design or the client simply wants to keep views as open as possible.
Having large square footage of turf directly against a salt water presents several challenges for the responsible landscaper that must be addressed. These challenges include the potential for saltwater inundation, proper irrigation, pest management and fertilizer programs that won’t end up in the bay and of course control of storm water run off.
Anyone who has spent much time at a coastal waterfront location becomes aware the bay does not always stay below the seawall. When large storms combine with high tides often the bay or canal rises above the seawall and can flood the landscape. Planning for this eventuality is a must at waterfront job sites, and proper plant and turf species selection is the key component. Many types of palm trees and tropical shrubs are salt-tolerant but what about the grass? While no turf is completely invulnerable to prolonged salt water exposure there are a few types that make for great lawns that will survive being inundated with saltwater if properly flushed. Zoysiagrass in particular is a nice choice when salt exposure is an issue.
Saltwater inundation is one consideration but in general it is water coming from the property that requires the most planning. Many of Sarasota’s waterfront homes have very large roof surface areas. During a storm huge amounts of rainwater are collected by roof, paved drives, paths, decks and patios and will rush towards the bay or canal. This runoff will contain pollutants that have settled on the roof over time, oil and other pollutants from drives and excess fertilizers and pesticides from turf areas. Low close cropped lawns are perfect for allowing all of this run off into the bay if not managed properly.
Grants Gardens takes this into consideration and will install measures that can both work to greatly reduce storm water runoff and clean that water on it’s way to the bay. By grading the landscape to direct runoff water into retention drainage swales and cisterns water can be stored for later use in dry times or allowed for natural biological processes to clean captured water in underground drainage swales. After proper installation of these features the next best thing to do for improving your waterfront turf’s environmental impact is to make sure you have a proper fertilizer and pest control program in place. Again proper planning makes all he difference. By fertilizing during times of lower rainfall in amounts that are not in excess of what the lawn will consume, there will be far less excess nutrient that makes it’s way into the bay even during the summer rainy season. These measures will go along way keeping polluted or nutrient rich water from entering Sarasota Bay.
Last but not least is irrigation. A well-designed irrigation system will provide what water your lawn needs when it needs it and not excess. Grants Gardens are experienced at designing and installing highly efficient irrigation solutions that will be so water efficient they often are not effected by Sarasota county’s water restrictions. We us advanced computer controlled systems that include their own weather station. The control system has been programmed with years of historical data about how fast water will be evaporating from plants called evapotranspiration. With this data the irrigation controller will take into account the current date along with the current weather conditions and determine how much water is needed to irrigate without over doing it. Grants Gardens also uses a highly advanced irrigation spray head that creates water drops with a special size and shape that breezes will not blow away. In fact these spray heads are so efficient normal use is allowed even when we are under water restrictions.
While large amounts of waterfront turf is not ideal, if required Grants Gardens can make installing bayside lawns environmentally friendly and easy to maintain.
Here are some of the reasons why people become disillusioned with irrigation systems:
1. Old Controllers – Rotary telephones are pretty hard to come by these days. Does your cell phone still flip? Irrigation controllers that are older than five years are not using the latest technology. To obtain efficiencies in irrigation technology you must be using the latest irrigation controller.
2. Runoff – once water starts to sheet flow, all flow freely from the landscape onto impervious surfaces like sidewalks, driveways and roadways, the soil has reached a saturation point and can no longer absorb any further irrigation. The amount of time that it takes for the sheet flow to occur depends on the following factors:
b. nozzle type
c. head type
d. soil type
f. frequency of irrigation
g. volume of water per irrigation event
3. Misting – also known as aerosolization, is a result of high pressure and as much as 50% of the water is evaporating into the atmosphere before it can get to the landscape. Misting is affected by relative humidity and wind.
4. Irrigating when raining – if it is raining for more than 10 min. your irrigation should be turned off. There are numerous automatic shutoff devices sold in the marketplace. Sarasota and Manatee counties have a mandate that all irrigation controllers must be installed with the automatic shutoff device.
5. Broken heads – at a minimum, a broken nozzle will emit 4 gallons per minute. If a zone is operational for 10 min., 40 gallons of water will be wasted. If the zone is operational for three times per week, I hundred and 20 gallons of water will be wasted. The average consumer in America uses approximately 120 gallons of water per day.
6. Shrubs blocking spray patterns – during the establishment period of a landscape, plant material are usually small or young. As the landscape matures and grows into the desired design intent, the irrigation coverage becomes compromised. A plant interfering with a designated spray pattern may mean higher concentrations of water in one area and a “rain shadow” in another area of the landscape.
7. Leaking valves – sand, rocks and small debris in and irrigation system can impact the operation of a valve. Typically, valves do not fully shut when debris is interfering with the diaphragm. These are “invisible” leaks where just enough water gets through the valve to the lowest head and oozes out at approximately half a gallon per minute, 30 gallons per hour, 720 gallons per day, 5040 gallons per week!
Here are some recommendations that Grant’s Gardens, Inc. would make when encountering some or all of the above irrigation “headaches”!
Grant’s Gardens recommends the following to remedy ailing or out of date irrigation systems:
Upgrading controllers to smart technology to accurately determine how much water a specific plant in a landscape requires.
Use a cycle-and-soak feature on the new smart irrigation controller so that zones run for a short amount of time, but may run more than once per watering cycle.
Install a pressure ridge use on the mainline to control the pressure. When renovating or installing a new irrigation system always use pressure regulating heads for better control of pressure. Always remember that water pressure at the bottom of the hill
Install a rain sensor or an in-ground soil moisture sensor.
Install a flow-meter along with the smart irrigation controller. If you have the right technology, the system will bypass the zone with the broken head and send a message to your smart phone to let you know that there is a problem!
If mature plant material is interfering with a spray pattern, and the head is next to a building, Grant’s Gardens, Inc. may be able to change their head to a fixed riser. A conversion to drip may also be possible all, if the plant material is well-established and is in an area with ample rainfall, a well-established shrub bed may be able to be weaned off of irrigation.
Often valves in the landscape need to be taken apart and serviced by a professional. Leaking valves are an indication that the irrigation system is not being serviced proactively.
If you are dissatisfied with your current irrigation system contact Grants Gardens and we will be happy to design and install a custom irrigation system that will perform well without headaches. We also can repair or upgrade current systems to bring them into top performance.
For those without a skilled lawn maintenance company at their beck and call maintaining a beautiful green lawn of the unpredictable Florida winter can be difficult. Will winters in the Sarasota area are extremely mild, the combination of often, a prolonged dry season with a few cold fronts that can pass through, adds stresses to turf that are not present most of the year.
The difficulty lies in several factors, cooler temps means Florida lawns require less irrigation. Too much watering will cause many problems including pests, fungi and root rot issues. However even though it’s cooler and the less water is needed it is usually very dry at the same time. Couple that with an occasional overly warm weather front and you can easily go the other way, and have your lawn suddenly dry out. Careful attention to correct irrigation amounts for the weather conditions and soil moisture content will be essential to get right for a healthy winter lawn. A well-designed and modern irrigation system will have sophisticated control systems that can help by monitoring, temps, humidity and even keep track of the last rain fall. These systems can go a long way on helping to maintain proper watering amounts over the winter months.
Another but less known factor in maintaining our lawn’s health over the Florida winter is a regular and correctly administered lawn fertilizer program. As anyone knows who has lived in the Sarasota area for a while, our soil is sandy with little organic matter, and poor in nutrients. To maintain health through stressful conditions grass will need to have a healthy and deep root system. A properly planned fertilizer program during the peak growing season will help prepare the lawn for dryer and cooler conditions by ensure that that the grass has a robust root system going into the winter. Deeper roots will better be able to access moisture, and nutrient from the soil allowing the grass to deal with an occasional dry spell or cold snap. Fertilizer can be a double edge sword though if not done correctly. Too much may actually harm the turf over time by causing the build-up of salts in the soil. With less water available to remove them, the buildup these salts or other excess compounds from too much fertilizer can begin to damage the plants. In addition too much fertilizer is not only potentially harmful to the grass plants, but it cost more money had can have a major impact on the quality of water in Sarasota bay and the Gulf of Mexico. A frequent unwelcome example of the impact of too much fertilizer are the red tide blooms ewe have begun to be more accustomed too.
A third factor in keeping lawns healthy over the Sarasota winter, is mowing. It’s important not to cut the grass too short during the dry months. By cutting the grass too short you in advertently cause the lawn to lose moisture and accelerate water loss by evaporation from the turf. The shorter grass allows the sunlight, and airflow to penetrate further down and reduces the shade naturally created on the grass base when the turf is longer. Your lawn mowing company should increase the height of their mower deck during the dry months to help maintain levels of moisture.
If you have issues with your lawns health or quality contact the Lawn Maintenance team at Grants Gardens and we can make sure your home’s lawn stays healthy and green all-year.