Determining whether a lawn requires an adjustment in irrigation is a very important factor in maintaining our lawns in the best health possible. Too much water can be equally as damaging to a lawn as a lawn which is drying out from lack of water, and we’ll look at this problem in another article.
If you believe your lawn isn’t receiving enough water, this is most easily first seen by a wilted appearance on the lawn leaf, or a changing of the color of the leaf from a dark or bright green to a silver or gray color, or even a blue color depending on the turf type, These are the early signs of a lawn lacking in water. Eventually this will lead to the lawn beginning to turn brown and begin dying.
The earliest stages are also confirmed by a footprint test, this is done by an adult walking across the lawn in just an ordinary way, not doing anything different than walking from one end to the other. The lawn is then left for an hour. On returning to the lawn, we can investigate whether the footprints are still apparent, if the footprints are still there, then the lawn may be stressed due to lack of water.
It is important at this stage that we do not confuse this footprint test. If the same footprint test is done on an ultra healthy but very heavily thatched lawn, then the footprints can also remain for a long period of time. So the footprint test must only be done on a lawn which is not heavily thatched and is showing signs that it may be under stress.
If these tests seem to confirm there may be a problem with lack of water, then a spade can be used to dig up a small square cube of the lawn and soil profile to about 6 inches deep, this will quickly determine whether or not there is adequate water throughout the soil profile. If the soil is dry and falls away, then an increase in watering is required.
The increase in watering may be to increase watering times, or to increase watering frequency. If the soil is sandy then it may be best to water more frequently as the sandy soil drains very quickly. If the soil is made up of clay or loam then the answer may be to water for longer.
It is important to note at this stage that if an increase in watering is required, then it only needs to be done in small increments. If the irrigation currently operates for 20 minutes per cycle, then an increase of only 2 minutes extra time is giving the lawn an extra 10% water, which may be all it needs to reach full health, The same process also tells us that an increase of 6 minutes equals 30% extra water, and this may be too much water.
So when increasing watering, always do it in small increments, increase watering times by 10%, and monitor the lawn health for the next 2 weeks, if the lawn is coming good, then no further adjustment is necessary. If the lawn still isn’t turning around, then increase by another 10% in time. This is the safest way to increase lawn watering and finding the optimum watering times and amounts which our individual lawns require without risking further damage from over watering.
When Should I Water My Lawn
Watering our lawns is something which everybody realizes as a priority for maintaining any lawn, especially if we want a beautiful lawn, after all… water is life, and without it the lawn would very quickly die. While everyone may realize this important factor and do indeed keep their lawns well watered, many people simply are not aware of the correct ways to water, and that there can be a massive difference between neighboring lawns simply based on how they are watered.
All lawn watering should be done in the mornings.
Watering a lawn in the morning allows the lawn to make use of the water at the only time of the day it can, which is during the daylight hours. This is because the light of the day provides the power source which lawns use to create their food and to take up water from the soil and to grow, This sunlight powered process is called photosynthesis. When the sun isn’t present, such as at night time, the lawn cannot use any water it has in the soil.
Morning waterings ensure that the lawn can immediately begin using the available water which is supplied to it, whereas watering a lawn at night means a lot of the water which is applied, simply drains away from the root zone of the lawn overnight. The following morning when the lawn “wakes up” and begins taking up water again, most of the water which has been applied, is gone! This is a very wasteful and expensive practice when talking about the amount of lost water.
Because so much of the applied water is lost to drainage, the lawn will require even more water to be applied if watering at night, just so enough water is left over to be used by the lawn in the morning.
The next major factor which determines the importance of watering in the morning is lawn disease.
Watering lawns at night is one of the greatest promoters of diseases in all lawns. The overwhelming majority of lawn diseases flourish in moist conditions and at night time. A night time watering leaves a massive amount of moisture amongst the leaf and thatch layer for a long period of time when there is no sunlight to combat diseases, and night time is when these diseases flourish and grow. By watering at night, the end result is creating perfect natural conditions for lawn diseases to establish, flourish and spread in our home lawns.
Apart from having our beautiful lawn tarnished with disease, we are then faced with the new problem of repairing lawn disease, which costs more money to buy the treatments, and puts unwanted chemicals into the environment too.
In summary, the best time to water our lawns in the morning, it provides water at the only time of day the lawn can use it, reduces water wastage, and severely diminishes the possibility for lawn disease to overtake and destroy our lawns.
How Much Water Does My Lawn Need
There are many factors which contribute to how much water a lawn needs at each watering, and also how often a lawn needs to be watered. These factors include temperature, wind, the grass type, how healthy the lawn is, the soil type and the amount of thatch in lawn. So while we cannot give an exact magical number for the amount of water a lawn needs or how often to water, we can get very close to some general usage guidelines, and then hone these guidelines to achieve the greatest benefit from our watering regime.
The greatest aim of watering our lawns is to apply enough water so that it reaches deep into the root zone, this practice encourages the lawn to set down deep roots into the soil which in turn are less prone to drying out, and will keep the lawn greener and healthier with less water. By not encouraging a deep root system from deep watering, the roots of the lawn will stay very close to the top of the soil, this shallow soil will dry out very quickly on hot or windy days, and when this soil dries out, so do the roots of the lawn, with the end result being a dried out, damaged or even dead lawn in extreme circumstances.
Watering deeply also aids in the next important factor in watering, which is to water less often. The aim of watering less often is so that there is less water around the top of the soil, if there is an abundant and regular supply of water at the top of the soil from very frequent watering, then the lawn will not set down deep a root system. The importance of this factor was explained in the previous paragraph. When we water less often, the lawn will naturally send out it’s roots to a deeper level where soils naturally hold onto more water.
In theory, a lawn should have around 2 1/2 inches of water at each watering so that a watering depth of around 6 inches is achieved, these figures are the basis we must work from.
For sandy soils, the water will more easily drain through the soil profile to reach the desired depth of 6 inches, so we don’t need to apply the full 2 1/2 inches of watering to achieve this, so we can reduce the amount of time we water for.
The next factor when watering sandy soils is to understand that the sandy profile will drain water away much quicker than a clay soil would, so the soil will dry out more quickly, this means is we have a sandy soil we must water more frequently.
So for sandy soils, we apply less water, but apply it a little more often.
Clay and Loam Soils
Clay and loam soils hold onto water far better, for this reason we will need to apply more water so the water can reach down deep enough to get to the desired depth of 6 inches. Otherwise the top of the soil will simply hold onto the available water, and the end result will be a shallow root system.
This capability of clay and loam soils to hold onto water for longer means that we will not have to water a lawn with a clay / loam profile as often.
So for clay or loam soils, our aim is too apply more water, but to water less often.
Seasons and Weather
The other factors which determine how often and how much to water a lawn is based on seasons and weather.
As the weather heats up in Summer, this will obviously require more water to be applied more often, the same is true for when the lawn is subject to a high amount of wind, as this wind will evaporate the water from the top of the soil, and dry out the lawns moisture much quicker.
In Spring and Fall, the lawn’s water requirement will also decrease, and the amount and frequency of watering can be dropped accordingly.
Winter lawn care and watering varies considerably around the country, and while many lawns may be under snow, others won’t be and won’t require any watering at all. But in the warmer regions, we can be easily fooled into thinking that just because it’s Winter, the lawn doesn’t need any water at all, and this is not always the case!
In temperate climates, always monitor the health of the lawn in Winter, even though the weather is colder, the soil can still evaporate it’s water supply, even if it’s at a far reduced rate compared to other seasons, any wind will also aid in this evaporation, and sandy soils will be more susceptible again. In monitoring the soil wetness in Winter, check for any signs of stress to the lawn, and if necessary dig a sample of the lawn and soil profile out with a spade and check for uniform wetness throughout the soil profile, if necessary begin a very light watering regime for the Winter.
Is My Lawn Being Over-Watered
Another major problem with watering lawns and which is often overlooked by many people is if lawns are being watered too much, or too frequently. The problem of over-watering lawns can cause major damage which may be different to lawns drying out from lack of water, but are equally devastating to the turf.
When lawns receive too much water the major ill-effects are that the lawn can become highly susceptible to disease, areas not receiving enough direct sunlight may create rot in the thatch layer, a soggy top soil can cause greater damage to occur under normal wear and tear, shaded areas of turf may die off, the lawn’s roots will become very shallow and subject to quick deterioration under a small amount of heat stress, and if combined with too much fertilizer, the growth rates may explode which requires more lawn mowing and de-thatching to be done more frequently. So it’s important not to over-water our lawns.
Determining whether a lawn is receiving too much water isn’t too difficult to assess. The results are often seen with thick thatch growth, fast growing green leaf which requires very frequent mowing, and the lawn can remain soggy for long periods of time. Many of the problems already mentioned in the previous paragraph will also become apparent.
There are also lawn watering rules which should never be broken, such as quick watering or daily watering, these should never be implemented on established lawns, this creates a shallow root system which results in quick damage from heat stress, wastes an enormous amount of water and also aids in the promotion of weed and disease infestations.
If it is found that a lawn is being over-watered and an adjustment to a watering routine needs to be implemented, it is important to do this properly in order to avoid any sudden stress to the turf. To adjust from daily watering, begin by watering every second day and increasing the amount of water the lawn is receiving, this will avoid any shock from a d sudden ecrease in water supply. Over the next few weeks we can keep the amount of water the same but begin watering every third day for another few weeks. At this stage it is important to understand the needs of your lawn, the soil type and weather. Every 3 days may be a perfect watering frequency for you, if this is the case, continue with this frequency and begin decreasing the amount of water being applied. If you lawn can go for a longer period between waterings then go to the fourth day between watering and then decrease the amount of water being applied until the desired frequency and watering amount is achieved.
It is most important for the homeowner to understand the needs of their individual lawns in order to achieve the best final watering regime.
The key point we are making here is that any adjustment in decreasing water supply must be done gradually in order to avoid any stress to the lawn. We have many articles on our website which will help guide the homeowner to an excellent system of watering, and we recommend reading these to help create the most robust and beautiful lawn we are all seeking.
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