Not Too Little, Not Too Much: Bluegrass Watering Basics
It’s that time of year again. You know, when we all get out and try to create the neighborhood’s best Kentucky bluegrass lawn. Ok, I am not very interested in it myself, but more about that in a later blog. Today is about you and your lawn! The first thing we need to cover is watering. Water issues create more problems for lawns than just about anything else.
Too much or too little water is a lawn killer. Few people actually under water their lawns, but nearly everyone over waters their lawn. Unfortunately, getting the right amount of water is going to depend on the time of year, the climate, and what kind of soil you have. Fortunately, if you have a screwdriver with a long blade (eight inches or longer) you can test your soil for how much water it contains. If the blade goes down easily for six to eight inches you are good and have plenty of water in the soil. If it only goes down easily an inch or two you need to look at watering for a longer period. If you struggle to get it through the first couple of inches but the soil gets wet underneath, you can wait to water for a while, the soil has enough water for the deep roots to feed on at the moment.
My father-in-law only waters one of his lawns once every nine days, but for six hours at a time. It is healthy, deep rooted and does well even in drought years. Deep, infrequent watering forces the roots down to where water is stored in the soil. Once the roots are deep they have greater access to nutrients and minerals that will strengthen the lawn.
Fix Your Sprinkler Heads
It still amazes me when people complain about the brown spots on their lawn. They water and water and water, but it never greens up. When I look at the sprinklers I find that they are pointed at the sidewalk rather than the lawn, that the nozzles are clogged or cracked, or that they have water spraying out from somewhere underground creating a crater in one spot and a dry spot in another. If your system is broken it will not work!
Redo Your Irrigation System
I live in a house that was built in the late seventies; the irrigation system was put in around the same time. The system was made to get things wet, but not to water evenly. There is no way I am going to have a uniform, green lawn without hand watering. There are just too many areas that don’t get enough water. The previous owner tried to remedy this by running the system for longer, but only succeeded in making the lawn lumpy; a haven for bent grass rather than a good home for bluegrass. Most old systems as well as many of the newer systems have the same problem; they were designed only to get things wet. If you get a proper system designed and installed your lawn will be much healthier and happier, and you will spend less time fighting with it.
Replace Inefficient Sprinkler Heads
Impact heads are part of the now classic sounds of summer, but they are an old technology that is really hard to adjust for uniform coverage. Spray heads cover very evenly, but they kick out water too quickly for most soils to absorb. This means that the water you are paying for is often, literally, running down the drain. It is best to replace both of these outdated heads with either rotors or mini-rotors. If you don’t know what a mini-rotor is, it is time for you to head down to your local sprinkler shop. If you don’t have a sprinkler shop in your area you might be out of luck, the big box stores don’t have many of the newer devices.
Over the next month or so I will be covering more on lawns, there is simply more than I can fit into a single write up, so stay tuned for more lawn tips and help.