How complicated can it be to water the lawn? It’s basic, right? You put out the sprinkler or turn on the soaker hoses or even stand in the yard and hold the hose and spray the water around yourself, making sure to soak the buses and trees. You do it when you have time, or after work or dinner. What more can you do,right? Wrong. Sorry to make a science out of something so simple, but knowing when and when not to water your lawn is actually a science.
There are five factors to consider when watering your lawn: how much water, the time of day, the weather, the method of watering and the use of chemical agents or fertilizers in the water are all important factors.
Most turf lawns only need about three-quarters to one inch of water a week to keep that emerald green glow we all know and love. During hotter days or drought periods however, you actually want to cut back, not increase your watering. This allows the lawn’s growth to naturally slow during extreme conditions. It’s better for the water supply and actually healthier for the lawn.
Allowing lawns to go under mild droughts makes the root system stronger and healthier. Frequent watering actually harms root systems, making them shallower and more susceptible to pests. Frequent watering also adds to your community’s storm water runoff, which pollutes water systems and carries lawn chemicals into our rivers.
Of course the more you water your lawn the faster it grows and the more frequently you need to mow it.
Decide before the summer season begins if you’re going to let your lawn go dormant in the worst heat or if you’re going to water through a drought. If your town imposes watering restrictions you may want to decide early on not to try to have a green lawn summer round.
On the other hand, if you have unlimited water resources such as a deep well or nearby river you draw from, you may want to continue to keep your lawn green in spite of a drought. But don’t let the lawn turn brown then decide over the weekend to water it and green it back up. Sure it may look okay, but continually breaking a lawn’s dormant periods will actually deplete its food reserves and weaken the lawn.
Over watering not only impacts your water bill, but it can increase problems with diseases and insects too. Use a rainguage to determine how much water you’ve applied. Once you know how long it takes to water your lawn then you can adjust your sprinklers and watering time that way.
If you’re not sure then you should water simply walk across your lawn. Turn around and look for what is called ‘foot printing’ where your footprints remain in the grass. This is caused by leaf blades not bouncing back up after they’ve been stepped on it’s an indicator the lawn needs watering.When you do water make sure the water soaks down to the roots. You can’t do this in a few minutes so spraying the lawn with a hose for a few minutes out of guilt will do more harm than good. Not only does this promote shallow root systems it also encourages more weeds.
When you do water, water as early in the day as possible, usually when the grass and plants are already wet with dew. Watering later in the day when the sun is higher and temps are up can lead to evaporation of the water. Mid-day watering also leaves water droplets on the plants, which become small magnifying glasses that allow the sun’s ray to burn or scorch the plants. That leads to a brown, scruffy looking lawn in spite of adequate watering. You can water later in the afternoon or early evening, but late night watering can lead to problems with disease since the water sits on the lawn longer.
There are exceptions to this rule however. If daytime temps are extremely hot and nighttime temps don’t drop below 68-70 degrees you can safely water at night.
Weather is a factor as well. Keep an eye on the weather report and try not to water your lawn when it is expected to rain. Keep a rain gauge on your lawn so you can monitor how much rain the lawn received and adjust your watering that week accordingly.
If you’re doing the watering make sure your sprinkler system spreads a uniform path across the lawn. Many people will set out a sprinkler and never move it. That’s great for the patches that get the water, but uneven watering can lead to an uneven greenness. Put out coffee cans or some sort of straight sided container to help you measure your sprinkler’s application rates.
Watch for runoff in areas where your lawn slopes. Steeper hills and slopes may require additional watering to accommodate runoff and allow for better soil penetration. Knowing the kind of soil you have (whether it’s peat, loam, sand, silt or clay) is important. Penetration is based on the percolation rate of your soil type. Some lawns may require shorter periods of watering followed by another period of watering to allow the first application to sink in.
Finally, when it’s time to use fertilizer or other chemical treatments on your lawn, try not to do so when it is expected to rain. The rains will only wash the nutrients out of the root system and down the drain. Follow the directions on the package and make sure that you water as directed to make sure you don’t burn your lawn or your grasses root system.