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.