Your January gardening guide



Question: Do plants need the same amount of water year-round?

Answer:  At this time of year, the temperatures are going down, and so will the water demands of your plants. It is important to adjust your irrigation system during the cool season. From now until about March 1, irrigation controllers for watering lawns should be set for a lower watering frequency. Watering the turf every 10 to 14 days may be sufficient. This will allow your turf to develop a good root system. A good root system is essential as it will make the grass stronger and better able to compete with weeds, and limit fungus diseases and insect infestations.

Winter is also a good time to check whether your rain shut-off device is working properly and to calibrate your irrigation system. Broken or malfunctioning sprinkler heads should be repaired or replaced. Consider participating in the free homeowner irrigation evaluation program by calling 861-5000 or signing up online.

Trees and shrubs often need even less frequent watering, depending on their drought-tolerance. The most efficient and effective watering method currently in use for trees and shrubs is micro-irrigation, also known as drip or trickle irrigation. Micro-irrigation supplies small quantities of water directly to the plant's root system via plastic tubing located on or below the ground surface. Low-pressure emitters are attached to the plastic tubing and slowly release water into the soil around a plant. Wetting only the root zone results in dramatic water savings, limits weed proliferation and accelerates plant growth.

Sophisticated systems can be designed and installed by a professional. Irrigation supply stores can provide instruction on this type of irrigation system and also carry what is known as retrofit kits for converting existing irrigation systems to micro-irrigation. For University of Florida/ IFAS publications about water conservation in the landscape and irrigation, search the University of Florida website at:

In Sarasota County, once-per-week watering restrictions remain in effect for incorporated areas — the cities of Sarasota, Venice and North Port. Please note that irrigation for properties with addresses that end in an even number, the letters A through M, and common areas may occur on Tuesdays. Irrigation for properties with addresses that end in odd numbers or the letters N through Z may occur on Thursdays. No irrigation can occur between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Irrigation is allowed only one time per zone per allowable day.

Flower beds, vegetable gardens and other non-lawn areas may be irrigated as needed using a hand-watering device with a shut-off nozzle, or using micro-irrigation and other forms of low-volume irrigation, on any day of the week. For more information on water restrictions, also see the information on the Sarasota County website.

Educational classes this month:

Call 861-5000 or register online  for the following classes.

Florida-Friendly Landscaping: Nine Landscape Principles: North Port Library, 6:30 p.m., Jan. 8

Container Gardening: Englewood Community Garden, 1 p.m., Jan. 9

Rain Barrels: North Port Library, 6:30 p.m., Jan. 15

Sarasota Garden Club Series: Edible and Medicinal Native Plants, Sarasota Garden Club, 10 a.m., Jan. 16

Irrigation 101: Shamrock Park, 2 p.m., Jan. 17

Rain Barrel Workshop: Englewood Sports Complex, 10 a.m., Jan. 19

My Beautiful Lawn: Having a Healthy Lawn: Twin Lakes Park, 10 a.m., Jan. 23

Ranchette and Small Farm Workshop: Englewood Sports Complex, 5:30 p.m., Jan. 23

Brown Bag Gardening Series: House Plants: Garden of the Five Senses, North Port, noon, Jan. 24

My Beautiful Lawn: Weed Prevention and Control: Twin Lakes Park, 10 a.m., Jan. 30

Getting help

The Master Gardener Help Desk at Twin Lakes Park is available to answer your questions. Call 861-9807 or email at Walk-ins are welcome Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., closed from noon to 1 p.m. Satellite Help Desks are available weekly at library locations throughout Sarasota County.

Annemarie Post is an Environmental Horticulture Agent with University of Florida/IFAS Extension Sarasota County.


Last modified: January 7, 2013
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