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Lawn Care

After the drought-plagued summer of 2012, these questions were on everyone's lips:

  • Do I need to water?

Irrigate the turf during the summer if a high-quality lawn is desired.  Low- and medium-quality turf may be allowed to go dormant.  The leaves will stop growing and turn brown during extended periods of drought but dormant plants can remain alive for 2-3 months.  New leaves will grow once sufficient water is supplied for an extended period of time (10 days and longer).

Long stretches of extremely hot, dry weather may kill some of the turf.  If large areas do not recover, you may need to overseed or renovate.  To determine if the plants are still alive, check the crowns of several plants at soil level.  The crown is the growing point from which the roots and leaves originate.  The crown tissue of living plants is firm, shiny, and green and white; on dead plants it is brown and often soft or disintegrating.

  • How often should I water?

Rainfall alone is often sufficient to sustain lawns.  Occasionally, irrigation is needed to maintain a high-quality lawn during dry periods.  To keep lawns green throughout the growing season, they should receive approximately 1 inch of water each week, either from rainfall, irrigation, or a combination of both.  Avoid light, frequent watering sessiions as it encourages shallow rooting of the grass plants, making them more susceptible to environmental stresses.

  • How do I measure an inch of water?

To measure the amount of water your sprinkler or irrigation system provides, set a series of several coffee cans, quart-sized jars or similar sized straight-sided containers at 5- to 10-foot intervals from the base of the sprinkler to the end of the irrigation pattern or width.  Use the average amount of water collected in each container during a specific time period (example:  30 minutes) to determine the amount of water provided by your sprinkler.

  • When's the best time to water?

Irrigate the lawn in early morning.  This minimizes water loss from evaporation yet allows the sun to dry the leaf surfaces before many diseases can become active.  Do not irrigate in the late afternoon or early evening as leaves remain wet longer, which may stimulate disease.

  • What do I do if water runs off?

If water begins to run off from your lawn before the sprinkler has applied a full inch of water, split the watering into two or more shorter sessions.  Wait a day or two for the soil to fully absorb the water before applying the remainder.  Watering to the point of runoff wastes water and may remove nutrients and pesticides from the turf.