It's turned HOT! No rain in sight! My lawn is looking thirsty! Summer is definitely upon us. It's time to turn on the sprinkler or irrigation system.
- How often should I water my lawn?
- When is the best time to water my lawn?
- How much water should I apply each time I water my lawn?
- Do I change my schedule when it gets really hot this summer?
- How do I know how much water I am applying each time I water?
- What other considerations are important?
There is no ONE right answer when it comes to watering a lawn. However, there are a couple of schools of thought that are popular among many turf experts and those of us at TMI subscribe to.
1. Water the lawn once each day for three consecutive days - skip one day - water for two consecutive days - skip one day. TOTAL = 7 days. This system works great when your lawn is mowed the same day of each week as it allows you to schedule around the mowing.
2. Water the lawn every other day.
Water the lawn as early in the morning as possible after sunrise. We absolutely do not recommend watering late evening or at night as this practice can result in a major fungus problem.
1. Using the seven day schedule outlined above, apply 2/10 to 3/10 of an inch of water during each application. The objective of the program is to apply 1 inch to 1 1/2 inches of water each week.
2. If you water every other day, set the system to apply 3/10 to 4/10 of an inch of water during each application. Again, your objective should be approximately 1 inch to 1 1/2 inches of water per week.
NOTE: Setting the "A" program for 20-30 minutes per zone is a good place to start. Then adjust!
If we have an extended hot and dry spell in the summer when temperatures rise into the upper 80's, the 90's or even 100's and the Heat Indices (combination of heat & humidity) reach the 90 or 100 degree level, adjustments to your watering schedule will become necessary. Moisture evaporation and heat stress will become very severe during that time.
Set the "B Program" on your Irrigation Controller for only 5 - 7 minutes per zone around two to three o'clock each afternoon. Your objective here is to simply cool the grass and reduce the stress of the severe heat. NOTE: Be careful not to change your program from the "A Program" to the "B Program". Each program should operate independently of each other.
IMPORTANT: If after following the prescribed watering schedule above, including the addition of the "B" program in the schedule, the grass is still going under severe stress and showing dry or "hot" spots, a change in your irrigation will be necessary. First, check to see if you are getting the proper coverage (head - to - head) with your system. If areas are not receiving proper coverage, call your irrigation company and ask them to immediately adjust your system. Second, change the primary "A" program to a schedule of six or seven days per week. However, do not increase the time length each zone operates assuming the correct volume of water is normally being applied. Additional volumes of water will not solve the problem, but will create others. It is important to note that lawns with sufficient top soil will not normally experience these severe conditions. This condition will occur most frequently in very thin soils that cannot absorb or retain moisture easily due to their heavy clay content.
As soon as more favorable heat conditions occur, return to the original irrigation schedule. Do not over water!
NOTE: If your grass should go into the dormant stage (brown-out leaves), the lawn should receive 1 - 1 1/2 inches of water every two weeks to maintain hydrated grass crowns and allow for full lawn recovery when more favorable moisture and temperature return in the fall. This is especially important for people who do not have an irrigation system or their community restricts the amount of water used during the hot summer months.
A very easy way to test the volume of water being applied by the system is to purchase a few "rain gauges" at your local hardware store and scatter them around the area to be watered. Set the timer on the system at 20 minutes for each zone and check the gauges to determine the volume of water applied. If the volume applied is less than your desired amount of water, run the test again with a longer time setting. If the volume is more than your desired amount of water, run the test again with a shorter time setting.
One of the most important points of proper watering is to make sure you don't have localized dry spots in the lawn. This is soil that is so hard water will not penetrate it: thereby causing water to run off like water off of a ducks back. These areas must be dealt with and cured before even penetration of water will occur. We have all seen it before; we irrigate our lawn and we still have areas that dry out too fast. These areas wind up as brown dead areas when "summer stress" arrives. When you see these areas start to develop, give TMI a call as new technology is now available that will enable these problems to be corrected.
Don't over water! Nothing could be more harmful. Plants and turf must have water to survive, but not too much. Roots do not chase water. Roots grow in the air spaces in the soil. When we over water, these critical air pores are filled with water, thereby depleting the oxygen supply and forcing the roots to the top of the soil where there won't be enough water for them to survive. Most of our summer fungus problems are enhanced by excess watering. An inch to 1 1/2 inches of water each week is sufficient for most turf conditions if applied properly. If water runs off the soil and does not penetrate the root zone, over watering will not be the answer. (Click here for more information about Organic Matter.)