Lawn Maintenance Basics: Watering

We all have heard of water as the molecule of life. All plant life needs water (in one way or the other) to survive and your lawn is not an exception. Georgia weather is always changing, one year we are having a drought and the next we live in a rainforest. These conditions make watering a science and an art. Like with any science or art for that matter, observation is critical. You are looking for signs! Signs of wilting of your lawn like discoloration or leaf curling or signs of overwatering such as browning and yellowing of grasses and leaves, spongy feel when you walk on it, and obvious signs such as water runoff. A well-hydrated grass will spring back up when you step on it.

To accomplish a healthy lawn there are three things to consider:

How to Water your Lawn

Independently if you are watering your lawn with a hose or if you have an irrigation system, the same rule applies, water should never be applied at a rate faster than it can be absorbed by the soil. There are many types of soil with different textures and structure therefore the water absorption rate is going to be different. Remember the science and the art? Yes, you need to observe how fast your soil absorbs the water.

For our Georgia clay soils, the best way to water the lawn is to water it in sections. Make sure you come back to each section to water a second or third time to allow the soil to absorb the water. If you see surface runoff, you are probably doing it wrong.

When to Water your Lawn

Early morning (5 AM to 7 AM) is the best time to water your lawn. Right before the sun comes out in the morning is the best time as the water standing on the leaves will quickly evaporate with the rising sun, reducing the risk of disease. At the same time, this will decrease the evaporation rate allowing for the water to reach the roots.

How Much and How Often to Water your Lawn

The first thing you need to consider when determining how much water to apply to your lawn is your type of grass. This will tell you how much water it needs and how it grows to determine its water needs throughout the seasons. In general, warm-season grass types require less water than cool-season grasses.

How frequently you need to water will change due to differences in rainfall and weather conditions. If your grass is growing, it needs water. Grass requires the most water in conditions of heat, drought, low humidity, and high winds. So again, observation is critical.

The second most important thing you need to consider about how much and how often to water is that infrequent and deep watering is key. Most turf grasses need about one inch of water per week, which should be applied in a single application if possible. Watering deeply encourages the grass to develop deep and healthy roots. Watering too much and too often discourages the roots to grow deep. Why grow deep if you can find water at the surface easily? We want the grass to develop healthy and deep roots that will protect the turf in times of high environmental stress, such as heat and droughts.

There are a couple of different ways to measure how much moisture your grass is getting when you water regardless of your irrigation method. Probe the ground with a screwdriver. You should be able to reach a depth of 6 inches easily but note that the ground shouldn’t be spongy. If it’s too squishy, you’re overwatering. If you can’t get the screwdriver in more than a couple inches, your ground is still too dry, and more watering is needed.

The third thing we advise all homeowners with an irrigation system is to get all the help they can get from technology. Adding rain and soil sensors to their irrigation system will take a lot of the guesswork of when and how much to water and will help with their water conservation.

Tip: Taller grass means a healthier lawn. Having a dense, lush lawn maintained at a minimum height of 2.5 or 3 inches is more tolerant of infrequent watering and drought stress because there are increased moisture reserves in the leaf tissue and root system. In addition, it shades the soil surface keeping the soil from drying out and therefore reducing its watering needs.

Want to learn more about lawn maintenance practices that will help you have a healthy lawn? Don’t forget to subscribe to receive the next posts of this series.

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