Watering Your Lawn

Many factors influence lawn water requirements and no two lawns are identical. A healthy, high quality
lawn may need up to 1¾ inches of water per week to keep it growing vigorously under hot, dry, windy summer conditions. This total water requirement includes both rainfall and irrigation. The lawn will require much less water when the weather is cool or cloudy. A turf-type tall fescue lawn may require less watering than a Kentucky bluegrass lawn, if it can grow a deep root system. In many cases, however, tall fescue rooting is limited by poor soil conditions and subsequently such lawns require as much watering as Kentucky bluegrass to look good and maintain healthy vigorous growth. Fine fescue's are excellent choices for lawns receiving limited or no irrigation. Fine fescue's, however, are less tolerant of traffic under drought stress than Kentucky bluegrass, tall fescue and perennial ryegrass. Zoysia grass lawns can remain green for weeks without watering, even during hot dry summers. Zoysia grass,however, is a warm-season grass that turns off-color quickly in October and remains brown until late spring. Shady lawns and areas protected from wind require less water over the growing season than more exposed turf sites. The roots of trees and shrubs, however, also need
water. Thus, you may need to water mature landscapes because of the competition for water from the roots of many plants. Healthy turf, encouraged by proper mowing,fertilizing, and cultivation uses water more efficiently and is more drought resistant.


Application of Water
Each time you water the lawn, apply enough water to moisten as much of the root zone as possible. Use a soil probe or shovel to determine the average rooting depth is in your lawn. If the roots grow down 6 inches, water until the soil is moistened to that depth. If the soil has a considerable amount of clay, apply 1 to 1½ inches of water to moisten to a 6-inch depth. Sandy soils hold less water therefore you should apply about ½ inch of water to wet the soil to the 6-inch depth. Use a rain gage or straight-rimmed cup to measure the depth of water applied by sprinklers. It is important to know not only how deep the roots grow, but also how deep your irrigation water penetrates. Use a shovel after irrigating to determine how deep the water has percolated. Watering too deeply, especially on sandy soil, wastes water and allows it to percolate past the root zone.


Frequency of Watering

Based on the above, turf grown on sandy soil must be watered more often than the same grass grown on clay or loam soils. Even after a thorough watering, sandy soils hold less plant-available water and require more frequent irrigation with a smaller amount of water. Conversely, turf growing on a loamy-clay soil can be irrigated less frequently with larger quantities of water. Watering too often (daily) results in less efficient use of water because of greater loss to evaporation. Excess watering can also
increase the amount of weeds that appear in a lawn. Undermost lawn situations in New Jersey, a thorough watering of a lawn more than twice per week is probably excessive.


Source: Rutgers (Cook College)


Using The Facts Above:

  • Take into account personal and professional predictions regarding local weather for the next two months.
  • Consider whether or not a total water ban may be imposed in your area.
  • Decide if a small area can be watered or if the entire lawn should be left dry.
  • Estimate the cost of replacing your lawn if it becomes severely damaged.
  • Proper Turf Watering Nine out of every ten problems in the landscape are related to water - not enough water and too frequently applied. In turf, daily watering or watering on alternate days can be one of the most harmful of garden practices. Light, frequent watering's cause the turf to develop shallow root systems. Shallow roots have a limited area to obtain the nutrients they need and are more prone to drought stress. Deep, infrequent watering stimulates roots to grow deep in search of water as the soil dries out. Deep-rooted turf is stronger, healthier turf. The timing of watering's is very important. The ideal time to apply water is between midnight to 9 am. Mid-day watering results in 60 percent of the water either lost through evaporation or effectively taken up by heat-stressed turf.

  • Apply 1 - 1 1/2 inches of water as quickly as possible without runoff.
  • Overlap the area being covered between one sprinkler station and the next by 30-40%.
  • Water turf separately from shrubs, ground covers and other beds.
  • Avoid watering in windy conditions which cause water to drift.
  • A rainfall of 1 inch or greater will substitute for a watering.
  • Do not water your turf again until it shows signs of stress. Signs may include curling of leaf blades, turf turning gray-green in color, or foot prints remaining on the turf after it has been waked on. When you see these signs, it is time to water again. Finally, to decrease your turf's demand for water, raise the mowing height 1/2 inch in the summer, avoid summer fertilization and remove no more than 1/3 of the total height of your turf when you mow.


    Source: http://walterreeves.com/lawns/article.phtml?cat=6&id=517



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