Does your lawn need water?
A symptom indicating that your lawn needs water is loss of green color. When you walk across the lawn, the grass remains flattened in the footprints. The inability to penetrate the soil with a screwdriver indicates dry soil.
How much water is enough?
Winter: 1″ of water if no precipitation within two weeks during dormant periods. The roots of your lawn are still alive while the top looks dead or dormant.
Spring: 1″ to 1 ½” of water per week if no precipitation as the turf begins to grow.
Summer: 1 ½” to 2″ of water per week during the heat of the summer.
Fall: 1″ to 1 ½” of water per week if no precipitation as the growth of the lawn begins to slow.
Deep and infrequent watering is best
Light and frequent watering produces a weak and shallow root system. A shallow root system cannot withstand dry heat or extreme cold temperatures. Watering at the proper depth allows deep, healthy roots to endure heat and cold temperatures. Healthy roots produce a greener, healthier lawn.
Measuring how much water
Measure the water by using a measuring device with a flat bottom and sides, like a tuna can. Place the measuring device on the lawn. Turn on your sprinklers and check to see how much water was measured. Once you have determined how much water is measured, then you can adjust your watering to achieve the proper amount needed.
Our clay soils don’t absorb water very well. It may be necessary to water in cycles. First determine how long a cycle can water before the water begins to run off onto the sidewalk or the street. If you are irrigating for 15 minutes and the water seems to be running down the street, then back the time down to 12 minutes and so on. If 15 minutes seems to be working, you may increase the time and use less cycles.
The first rule of watering is to water when possible. The best time to water is early in the morning after the sun begins to rise. Watering at this time will help to reduce evaporation and reduce the chance of disease. To determine how to achieve your optimum watering per week, follow the example listed.
Example: If you turn on your sprinkler for 10 minutes and measure the water at ¼”. You will need to cycle your sprinkler four times that day to achieve 1″ of water. By starting the cycles over at the end of the last cycle, the water will have time to soak into the soil.
Run your sprinklers three or four times per week to achieve the desired amount of water needed. For fescue lawns, you may need to run the sprinkler during the heat of the day in the summer for one cycle to cool the grass down. This is not necessary with Bermuda or St. Augustine lawns.
Using the “repeated cycles” method, you can water your lawn and conserve water at the same time. This will help you to achieve the necessary water you need per week.
Mowing your lawn and watering
Mowing can play a large part in watering your lawn. Make sure the mower blades are sharp. Dull blades will tear the grass instead of cutting. Tearing the leaf blades causes the lawn to lose water. It also gives the lawn an overall brown appearance.
Mowing frequency is also important so that you don’t cut off more than one-third of the leaf blade at any mowing. This can cause the lawn to lose moisture and stress the turf. Mowing height is critical to maintaining a green, healthy lawn.
Scalping is cutting the lawn very short in the early spring and the removal (bagging) of the dormant grass clippings. The dormant grass acts as insulation during the winter months to protect the roots. Removal of the insulation will allow the soil to warm up and green up the lawn quicker. Fescue lawns do not need to be scalped.
Scalping can be done after our last frost, usually after March 20. The following mowing heights are recommended during the growing season:
Common Bermuda – 1 ½” to 2″
Tiff Bermuda – ½” to 1″
St. Augustine – 2″ to 3″
Fescue – 2″ to 3 ½”
Keep the lawn mowed shorter in the spring to promote growth and thickening of the turf. As temperatures begin to heat up, raise the mowing height. During the heat of the summer, the lawn should be mowed at the highest recommended cutting height to help the grass retain water.