With temperatures soaring across many parts of the country, the battle between homeowners and their lawns is in full force. Over 7 billion gallons of water will be used this year to keep our lawns lush and green. Unfortunately much of that will be wasted. Wasting water is one of my biggest pet peeves, a result of my upbringing in the second driest state in the nation. This past week I was particular annoyed by some of the things I saw around town. I mean, is that sprinkler spraying mist into 103° air in the middle of the day really going to properly irrigate your lawn? Not a chance. And you, neighbor who waters their lawn every day, do you realize you’re actually weakening your grass? But enough of my ranting. Instead let’s review some efficient and responsible lawn watering tips that every homeowner should know.
Consider Your Climate
First, make sure you’re growing the right type of lawn grass for your climate. You may want to consider if your climate is appropriate for growing grass in the first place with your allotted water budget and available irrigation. There are many native, drought-tolerant wildflowers and other water-wise landscaping choices available for those who feel traditional lawn won’t be practical or manageable in their situation. You may also want to consider an alternative lawn grass such as a buffalograss, sheep fescue or even a lawn grown from our Low-Maintenance Seed Blend. These grasses are extremely drought-tolerant, requiring only a fraction of the amount of water needed for traditional grasses. In fact, in many climates these grasses can be sustained entirely from natural rainfall amounts. Contact us or your local Cooperative Extension office to find out if these grasses would be a good idea for you.
How and When to Water Your Lawn
Remember that infrequent, deep watering is better for your lawn than frequent, shallow watering. Watering every day not only encourages weed growth, it can also lead to a shallow root system since the roots have no reason to grow deeply to find moisture. This leaves the grass more susceptible to drought if water suddenly becomes unavailable, like when water restrictions are put in place. Shallow roots are also more prone to pest problems, traffic damage and diseases. Instead, water deeply enough to saturate the soil to a depth of 6-8 inches. Do this once or twice a week max. To find out if you’re watering deep enough, grab a shovel and start watering you lawn. Dig up a small section of your lawn every 15 minutes to find out how long it takes for water to seep 6-8 inches down. Once you know how long it takes, set your sprinkler system to water for that duration every time.
Use Efficient Sprinklers
The type of sprinkler head you use will also have a big impact on your water usage. Avoid those “wimpy” sprinklers that spray water straight up into the air, turning it into a fine mist which will be carried away by the wind or lost to evaporation. Instead use pulsating heads that shoots water horizontally. These types are more effective at getting water to penetrate the soil surface. Make sure to adjust the spray patterns to avoid wasting water on roads, driveways or patio areas.
Common Sense Tips
There are other watering tips that are just common sense. Don’t water while it’s raining of course. Try to irrigate only between the hours of 4 a.m. and 10 a.m. Night watering, while still better than day watering, should also be avoided since this increases the risk of lawn disease.
Letting Your Lawn Go Dormant for the Summer
Remember that you can also let your lawn go dormant during the summer months. While it won’t look the most visually pleasing, this is an acceptable option in some circumstances. Most cool season lawn grasses have this mechanism which they use to survive prolong periods of drought. As long as the grass has been established for a few years, and as long as you irrigate the lawn with one inch of water every 2-3 weeks, your lawn should green up again in the autumn when temperatures cool down and the rains return.