watering your lawn
Most grasses will appear dark and dull, the leaf blades begin to fold or roll, and footprints remain after walking over the area when the grass is under stress. If dry conditions continue, the grass will wilt.
How much water do I apply?
Apply enough water to soak the soil to a depth of 5-7 inches, (about one inch of water on the surface) but not until runoff. This is an average. These are "guidelines" and your results may vary. For instance, Fescue sod will require more water in the summer months here in Georgia, up to twice as much as other grasses such as Bermuda. Some grasses may require less. The height of your mower settings as well as how often you mow affects your lawn’s optimum water requirement. Dormant (wintertime) grasses will not need as much water, BUT will need some if it is a dry winter!
Just before sunrise is the best time to water due to less wind and lower temperature. This prevents fungus buildup and research indicates water loss at night through evaporation may be 50 percent less than midday irrigation.
Studies also show that watering done after the morning dew develops helps prevent disease problems. If you have several zones of irrigation to go through, as long as you get it done by 10 AM, you lawn should do well. After 12 pm, the evaporation loss increases dramatically and costs significantly more money to irrigate due to the water loss. If you wait until the sun sets, you are giving the fungi the entire night to take hold in your lawn because the water will not dry off of your grass and sits there until the sun rises in the morning
Irrigation is most often done incorrectly. Light frequent irrigation causes shallow, weak root systems. A shallow root system prevents efficient use of plant nutrients and soil moisture. The key to success is to condition the grass to require as little extra water as possible. This is best accomplished by developing a deep-rooted grass. If the soil becomes compacted or forms a crust, loosen it by coring (breaking up the soil with a small shovel or coring machine - rent) so water can penetrate to the proper depth.
Place two tuna cans (or similar size containers) at two different locations within your sprinkler’s spray range. Then run your sprinkler for 15 minutes.
You can use a simple child's plastic ruler to find the average amount of water (in inches) collected in your gauges. To do this, insert the rule in your containers you've placed and measure the amount of water in each "rain gauge." Add these two measurements together and divide by two. This is the average amount of water your sprinkler puts out in 15 minutes.
(This will provide you with a good guideline amount. For increased accuracy, repeat steps 1 & 2 several times, placing the gauges at different distances from your sprinkler.) You can use more containers at one time to make the measurement more accurate, but two will be sufficient for the purpose.
If your measurement came out to be 1/2, you would be putting out one inch of water if you ran your sprinkler for half an hour.
You can get a good idea of how deep you are actually reaching by starting with a dry lawn. Turn your irrigation system on for 15 minutes then stop.
Take a sharp shovel and make a slice into your lawn where you have run your irrigation. Measure how far down you have reached in the 15 minutes. Do this in two places and get an average. Restart your irrigation for another 15 minutes. Repeat the measurement, going close proximity to your first measurements.
If your first test measurement on the amount of water your irrigation is putting out is one inch in half an hour, you should be reaching a depth of 5-7 inches. If you are not reaching the desired depth, you will need to add additional time to your timer so that the roots are encouraged to grow deeper.
Run your sprinkler till the water runs off. Stop and look at the time remaining on the controller. Wait an hour and run for the rest of the time. You may even have to break it into smaller segments.
If you have a lot of run off water going into the street you are not accomplishing anything except wasting water and your money. Most control clocks are can now be set up to run multiple times during a 24 hour period. So you may have to run it through half the time then run it through again (same day) within 2-3 hours each cycle to reach the 5-7 inch depth
Because things change. You head out to work in the morning, your sprinklers are running, by the time you get home after dark you don't know if your irrigation is busted or running a nice pool on the driveway for tree frogs! Monitoring your system and running cycle checks will save your water bill and reward you with a healthy lawn.
Many factors influence the amount and frequency of water needed for a turf. Soil types, grass type, fertility level, frequency of rain, temperature, wind and humidity. And if your system is watering the street after you leave home for work, you may not even know how much water is being wasted.
There have been many good advances in rain sensors and they are a good avenue to explore, but they are not fail proof. You should always keep a close eye out for changes in the weather and seasonal changes and check your output on a regular basis.
- *Tip - check your sprinkler system by running it on manual, checking that each valve is coming on properly, that the heads are showing good pressure and the spray is going where you want it to go. You don’t have to be an irrigation repair expert to take care of simple irrigation issues.
***Remember*** new sod is like a baby frequent watering until the roots are established will be required! See our other blog notes on new sod installation.
1. The most ideal watering time is just before sunrise (up until noon is acceptable, afternoon through night is not)
2. One inch per week of water for your lawn (Fescue will need about twice that amount of water in the hot Georgia summer months.)
3. Deeper less frequent watering schedule is best
4. Monitor your sprinkler system frequently gives best lawn health and saves your hard earned money
In our next blog we will go over some of the common trouble shooting for irrigation systems and when to go to an expert repair man for help.