Making Dry Soil Wet Again!


When Florida soil gets dry it becomes very hydrophobic. This mean it will repel water not allowing it to penetrate. The water will simply flow to the lowest point in that area or it will flow to an area that has not dried out and then soak in. If a spot in your lawn or shrubs has dried out it will take extra water to get it wet again. Just running the irrigation more for small spots can create issues with the rest of the property and can result in a very costly water bill.


The oscillating garden sprinkler that does a side to side arch seems to work the best, another option is the water ring. Both can be purchased at your local garden center or hardware store. These sprinklers water very slowly. It can take 4 to 6 hours to get 3/4 of an inch on the ground when the arch type sprinkler is doing 180-degree coverage. Just keep in mind when doing this, no matter how long the water runs the object is the volume that gets on the ground. (You get a lot more water out of a fire hose compared to a garden hose when ran the same amount of time, is the analogy I often use.) When you run your irrigation system you have many heads each putting out 2 to 5 gallons per minute. Even at that rate they generally run for nearly an hour. The garden sprinkler is only one sprinkler that is putting out about 0.5 gallon per minute. Do not compare how long your whole property irrigation system runs to the time needed for a slow flowing garden sprinkler. You can even use a rain gauge and let the system run for an hour and see how much water is on the ground and then calculate the time needed for 3/4 inch. Lastly, before turning off the water, check the soil in the problem area to make sure it got wet. You should fine the first 6 inches of soil moist, if not you will need to water until you get there. A large part of your initial water will run off the hydrophobic soil. This is why slow watering is so critical. Sometimes I will run the sprinkler for an hour and then wait an hour before turning it back on to pre-wet the soil.


Once the soil is wet again your irrigation should handle the situation as long as the original cause for lack of water has been addressed. If not you might want to watch the area and add extra water at the first sign of wilt so the soil does not get hydrophobic again. Continue this practice until the rains start again. 


WARNING! When turf is damaged by drought and the stress from just 1 day to long without moisture it can take 6 months to recover if the event does not occur again while it recovers. With St. Augustine, all the roots will die and it has to grow a completely new root system making recovery extremely slow.