Adequate watering is the number-one criteria of a healthy, long-lasting lawn. But it's also the number-one challenge to get right, often resulting in one of two scenarios: Water, water everywhere (soggy, drenched turf). Or, not a drop to drink (dry-to-the-bone, parched turf).
The dilemma ends now.
Here to quench your thirst for a definitive guide to proper lawn-watering maintenance is Georgia's leading lawn care specialist, King Green.
The worst mistake you can make is over-watering your lawn. The reason being, it starves the soil of crucial oxygen and creates an irreparably shallow root system. Common signs of an over-saturated lawn are:
- Randomly dispersed puddles that don't abate
- Large concentration of insects
- Odor and presence of mold
- White, ringed patches in a single-file line indicative of lawn fungus
The lesser of the two evils! Here are common signs of an under-watered lawn:
- Grayish-blue grass blades instead of a dark green
- Walking across the lawn leaves footprints
- Folding or rolling blades
- A screwdriver won’t go 6 inches into the soil with gentle pressure
Five Rules of Proper Watering
The King Green team abides by one rule: "water long and deep, not often."
This ensures any manual watering acts as a supplement to natural rainfall, not a substitute for it; ultimately, leaving the lawn just thirsty enough to encourage its root system to deepen in search of water. Here are the top five components of this rule:
- Duration: Water the lawn for an hour or more at a given time
- Frequency: Water the lawn once a week
- Depth: Apply enough water to drench the soil six to eight inches deep
- Time of day: Avoid watering during the heat of the day, as much of the moisture will evaporate before reaching into the ground. Water between 10 PM and 10 AM for best results
- Composition and slope: If there is turf on a hill, or if the ground is hard, you may want to break up your watering times. Water for 20 minutes, let that soak in for 30-60 minutes and then water for another 20 minutes
What About Drought?
Here in Georgia, drought is an all-too common occurrence, often resulting in water-use restrictions. The best course of action to ensure your lawn's survival is to leave it alone. Mow as little as possible, and only on the highest cut setting (3-4 inches). Reduce foot traffic and lawn activities.
Fact is, most warm-season grass goes dormant in times of stress, rather than dying, and will make a complete recovery once conditions of condensation improve.
The "set it and forget it" sprinklers of yore did a better job of saturating sidewalks than actual lawns. They'd also turn on at inappropriate times, like just after a rain storm or at the peak heat of day. Today's systems are equipped with cutting-edge technology that adjust and regulate to changes in climate, grass species, soil type, and so on, even including rain sensors!
Whichever system you choose, King Green stresses adding this crucial step to ensure efficiency: "get in the zone!"
Underground Irrigation Systems
No yard is perfectly even. Some areas face directly into the setting sun, while other areas sit in complete shade. The affects which "zones" of your lawn will require rotor sprinklers versus misting heads, and for how long they'll need to run.
The only way to know for sure is to measure the output for each zone. Using 3-5 rain gauges, tuna or coffee cans, measure the output of each zone. Record how long it takes to achieve the recommended 1” of water in each zone on an index card and tape it to the inside of your controller panel. Do not be surprised if large areas take over an hour while smaller areas may need only 10-15 minutes.
Follow the same steps for the underground irrigation system to determine your lawn's specific "zones."
Then, implement a shut-off timer that attaches to your hose faucet. On Monday put your sprinkler in “zone one," turn it on, and set the timer. The timer turns the sprinkler off for you. The next morning move the sprinkler to “zone two”, and so on until the whole lawn is watered.
According to National Geographic, “Nearly 60% of a person’s household water footprint can go toward lawn and garden maintenance.” Leaks form a hose or sprinkler head can drain as much as 3 gallons of water a day.
At the end of the day, a healthy lawn is not just about how much water comes from above; but also, the soil condition below. Composition, thatch, pH levels, and so on can all impact soil health and erode its water-storing capacity and ability to withstand mechanical and meteorological fluctuations.
Easy ways to strengthen your soil's integrity include xeriscaping (supplementing your lawn with drought-tolerant plants), mulching, composting, mossing, aerating, mowing, topdressing, water recycling via rain barrels, and so on.
Need help? Have your lawn audited by our friends at King Green today.