As we enter the cold seasons, it can be stressful to prepare your gardens. This can be especially worrisome along the Georgia Coast as we prepare for warm winters but can experience unexpected frosts and freezes.

The cooler temperatures today are certainly welcome after a blistering summer. However, you may have questions seeping in as you try to predict the future and prepare for lasting cool temperatures.

University of Georgia has trained Specialists who serve the whole state by researching in their field and sharing educational information. Three of our State Specialists have provided the following information to help ease some of the burden for worry:

Recently I’ve had a couple of questions about irrigating turf, newly laid (i.e. within the last 60 days), newly seeded (i.e. tall fescue 1), and established – all questions have been a variation of a theme. Considering the weather pattern over the past 60+ days – relatively low rainfall and low humidity – I would suggest continuing to irrigate warm-season grasses2 to prevent desiccation. This specifically applies to newly installed sod but has application to established grass too. Seeded tall fescue, and ryegrass used for overseeding, absolutely needs irrigation for germination and establishment. Therefore, if a property has a functioning irrigation system, it’s still needed.

Dr. Clint Waltz, Turfgrass

This also applies to any new installed flowers, shrubs and trees. Water is critical for plant establishment; you do not want newly planted material to suffer any stress. If irrigation systems are operating, make sure that they are programmed property for watering these newly planted flowers, shrubs and trees3. Once the system is shut down, hand watering will still be required for establishment. Watch the weather4, and hope for a rainy late fall and winter!

Dr. Bodie Pennisi, Ornamentals

Please note, though – do not run the irrigation system when temperatures will be below freezing – 32 degrees F, as it could seriously damage the system. I would suggest to shut off the main valve of the system and turn off the controller, even disconnect the controller from power, as sometimes power can be disrupted; this could accidentally reset the scheduling in the controller once turned back on.

Rolando Orellana, Irrigation

If you still are concerned about navigating cooler temperatures and operating your irrigation, please feel free to reach out to your County Extension office, 1-800-ASK-UGA1

The sun rising over sprinklers watering plots at the Athens Turfgrass Research and Education Center.

Important Notes for Coastal Georgia:

  1. Tall Fescue is a northern grass and does not perform well in our climate. We recommend overseeding with ryegrass instead. ↩︎
  2. St. Augustine, Centipede, Zoysia, Bermuda, and Bahia are examples of common warm-season grasses ↩︎
  3. For help programming your irrigation system, refer to UGA Extension Publication 894, Irrigation for Lawns and Gardens ↩︎
  4. UGA has an automated weather site where you can view data from locations throughout the state. McIntosh and Glynn counties each have a weather station. ↩︎