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The Lawn Corner: Proper Water

Posted: July 18, 2013

As the hot summer approaches, most lawns will require some watering to maintain a healthy appearance...

The first step in water management is to watch the weather forecast to avoid watering when rain is anticipated. Proper water management when rain is lacking is often easy and can reduce the lawn's water requirements, limit time spent watering, save money, and of course conserve water, all while reducing the turf quality only marginally.

Proper water management begins before the first drops of water hit the lawn. It is important when mowing during the summer months to raise the mower's cutting height to the tallest height recommended for the grass species. Taller grass will shade the ground, keeping soil temperatures lower and reducing moisture evaporation from the soil. Over fertilizing the grass, especially in the spring, will encourage top growth at the expense of root growth. Excessive top growth requires more water, and shallow root growth requires more frequent watering as the grass cannot reach deep into the soil for moisture.

Start water conservation practices at the beginning of the season by watering infrequently and only when the lawn shows signs of need. When watering, be sure to water deeply and slowly. The intent is to soak the soil to a depth slightly below the roots. By watering slowly, the soil is given a chance to absorb the water while minimizing runoff. Deep watering encourages a deep root system, and the sooner it is started, the healthier and deeper the lawn's root system will be for the summer. For deep watering to be truly effective, the soil must not be excessively compacted. If soil compaction is an issue, the lawn may need to be aerated.

Watering during the early morning is best, as the cooler temperatures and
limited wind mean less water is lost to evaporation. Be sure adjacent hard surfaces like sidewalks and driveways are not being needlessly watered. And as mentioned above, water slowly, so runoff is avoided. When morning watering is not practical, be sure to stop watering at least thirty minutes prior to sunset to allow the grass to dry. Damp grass during the cool evening and nighttime hours is an invitation for disease and fungus problems.

Unfortunately, some locations are just not ideal for grass lawns and will require extra watering to compensate. Particularly problematic are high traffic and shaded
areas. For such areas, consider replacing the grass with landscaping that requires little to no watering, such as drought resistant plants, native grasses, or pavers.