Plant Clinic

How to measure amount of sprinkler water

Using catch cans to measure irrigation output
Using catch cans to measure irrigation output
UF/IFAS Extension

Q. What’s a good way to measure how much water my sprinklers are putting out?

J.H., Fort Lauderdale

You can put containers such as plastic cups, pet food cans, food containers to catch water when you are irrigating. Just make sure all the containers are fairly straight sided. Place several containers in the area you are watering and measure the depth of the water. Time how long it takes for 3/4 inch of water to collect in the majority of the containers. You will now know how long to set the timer.

As you do your test run, you can also see if one area is getting more water than another area. This will allow you to make adjustments in your system to get even coverage for the lawn. Do a test run annually to make sure the system is operating properly.

You can also buy a rain gauge to help determine how much rainfall has occurred.

If you have a St. Augustinegrass lawn, you have up to seven days to water when the grass has started to wilt (the leaf blades fold in half) to avoid damaging the lawn. Grass needs about 3/4 inch of water each time you irrigate and you need to factor in rainfall when deciding how often to water. During the rainy season, lawn irrigation may be unnecessary depending on your area. Always follow local water restrictions.

Established trees and shrubs should not need any irrigation since the water table in Southeast Florida is usually high. Recently planted plants will need supplemental watering until their root system is developed.

Adrian Hunsberger is an entomologist/horticulturist with the UF/IFAS Miami-Dade Extension office. Write to Plant Clinic, 18710 SW 288th St., Homestead, FL 33030; e-mail

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