Temperatures this spring have been unusually warm and it has us all thinking about being outdoors again. As we begin the growing season, it is important to take a look at our watering habits. How can we best serve our lawn and landscapes while working hard to conserve a precious natural resource? Not all watering is good watering, and bad watering can lead to bigger problems than a lawn that isn’t as green as you may like. Improper watering habits will hurt your grass and your wallet. If you follow these tips on watering, you will not only improve the overall health of your lawn but feel good knowing you are doing what is right for the environment.
Plants need water. All plants require water to live. A good rule of thumb is that grass requires just over an inch of water per week. If your lawn does not get this it will start to show signs of stress. Signs to look for:
- The grass does not rebound to its original position when you walk on it. Instead, your footprints remain as the grass doesn’t have the water in it to support a rigid upright stance.
- The grass will start to wilt. This is harder to see than the above. The grass may start to curl over as well as get “wavy” along the edge.
- The color will change. Grass without water will eventually start to die and slowly become brown as it begins to shut down its systems and transfer vital operations below ground.
Give plants too much water, they will die. Overwatering is one of the worst things you can do for your lawn. Applying too much water too fast can result in not only in oxygen-deprived soil, leading to dead grass, it will also lead to water runoff. Runoff is a big contributor to soil erosion and can move particulates into our lakes and streams. We need to correctly water our lawns, not only for ourselves but for our environment as well.
When To Water
Early to bed, early to rise. Just as it is with comedy, so too is it true that with watering, timing is everything. Applying water to your lawn at the wrong times can seriously damage turf and create more problems than the one you are trying to solve. The best time to water your lawn is early in the morning. This may at first seem counter-intuitive, but your lawn will thank you in the long run. Turf is naturally replenished overnight as temperatures drop and dew begins to form and seep into the soil. If you mimic the cycles found in nature, you can rest assured you are providing water in a helpful and natural way. But the water you are planning to add to the soil is likely to be much more than is provided by mother nature in the form of dew.
Up and at ’em. In order to account for the increased volume of water, the plant will be receiving you need to apply just before the sun rises. This will ensure the plant has all the water it needs ready in the root zone as the sun wakes it up and it begins photosynthesis. The problem here is that, most likely, you don’t get up before the sun rises. If you do, you probably don’t want to spend time watering your lawn. You can find inexpensive timers that attach to your hose and will automatically turn on and off a simple pressure operated sprinkler. Or you can invest in an underground irrigation system and have it happen automatically that way.
Afternoon Delight. Watering in the middle of the day is another water waster. Most of the water you apply will evaporate or get transferred out of the plant very quickly through transpiration. The water droplets that stay on the blade of a grass plant can also act as a lens, magnifying the sun’s rays and burning the leaf surface. Wasted water, wasted time, wasted money. It is also not advisable to water your lawn close to the evening. If you water your lawn as the sun is setting, the turf is getting ready for night time as well and shutting down most processes, thus greatly reducing the need for water. The water you apply will only serve to keep the plant and the soil moist all night, increasing the risk of fungal infestations.
How To Water
There are right ways and wrong ways to water your lawn. It is always better to water less frequently and soak deeper then it is to water every day and only provide a fraction of the water your turf needs. Remember the beginning of this article where I mentioned turf needs just over an inch of water a week? Try applying that in two sessions during the week. A half-inch of water is plenty for your lawn in one sitting and spreading out your waterings can help to keep the grass in good health during the summer when rain is less frequent. Remember as well that mother nature will work with you in this department. If it rains during the week, alter your watering schedule! There is no need to water on Wednesday if it rained two and a half inches on Tuesday.
By following these tips you can improve the turf quality and have an environmentally sound approach to watering. Keeping your lawn well hydrated is an easy way to secure the investment you have made. We spend countless hours working on, playing in and just generally enjoying the aesthetic value of our lawns. You wouldn’t allow other investments you have made to deteriorate, why do it to your lawn? So sit back, sip a tasty cold beverage and watch that sprinkler do its work on the most beautiful lawn in the neighborhood, yours.