Tips for Watering Your Lawn Efficiently
Many factors play into how often your lawn needs watered, including regional climate, soil type, sunlight and grass type. Use these tips to fine-tune irrigation so that you’re maintaining your lawn, but not being wasteful.
Hose-end sprinklers work well for small and medium size lawns. Several types are available, so be sure to find the one that suits your particular lawn shape. If you go with a manual sprinkler, don’t forget to turn it off. Setting an oven timer is a good way to help you remember. When it comes to any lawn watering, your goal is to provide deeper irrigation, less frequently, as it facilitates deep roots. Deep roots are a major factor in growing a healthy lawn that is low-maintenance.
Putting together an in-ground irrigation system is another option for efficient water delivery. Low-angle, low-volume heads are available that can be adjusted so water is distributed as close to the grass as possible. This reduces the amount of water lost to evaporation. Once installed, monitor your system while it’s running. Do you notice any mist or fogginess coming from the heads? Your system pressure might be too high. Adjust accordingly so that your irrigation system produces streams of water.
Rotary nozzles are a new advance in irrigation technology that are well suited for areas in need of slow, intentional water delivery, like slopes or inclines. Designed to function with low water pressure, they are accommodating to homes that have water pressure in the range of 20-to-55 psi. In addition, rotary nozzles do not mist or fog at high water pressures like other irrigation systems.
Consider adding a programmable timer to your lawn irrigation system. Smart timers have the ability to analyze watering schedules based on things like average temperatures, area rainfall, or even how fast the grass actually uses the water. You can also program your timer so that watering is done during off-peak hours, which is typically pre-dawn — the perfect irrigation time for minimizing evaporation. Try to avoid watering your lawn at night, if at all possible. Nighttime irrigation makes your grass more likely to develop disease.
Soil Types & Irrigation
Knowing and understanding your yard’s soil type will allow you to fine-tune irrigation decisions so you can achieve optimal water delivery. For instance, if you notice puddles every time you water, there’s a good chance your soil has high clay content, which is unable to absorb water fast. Moving to shorter watering cycles is an appropriate adjustment. To find out what kind of soil your yard has, consider taking a soil test.
Assess Actual Sprinkler Output
Get a basic understanding of how much water your system is actually transporting to your grass by placing at least six containers with straight sides on the lawn before activating the irrigation. Shallow cans, like cat food or tuna fish tins work very well. Next, run your irrigation system for 20 minutes and turn it off. Measure how deep the water is in your containers. To calculate an average, add all the amounts together and divide by the number of containers. Take that average and multiply it by three to find out how much water is delivered in an hour. Use that knowledge for scheduling watering times.
Watering Slopes & Hillsides
Timing and frequency are important factors when watering slopes or hillsides. Short watering cycles spaced out over time are generally most effective. For example, briefly water a sloping area first, and then allow the system to water a different spot in the yard while the water is absorbed into the slope. Circle back later for another dose of water to the slope. Repeat as many times as necessary. This strategy also works for soils with high clay content.
Made in the Shade
Shady lawn areas typically require less-frequent watering than those in the sun. The exception? When the grass is located under a tree. In those spots, the lawn is in competition with tree roots for water and more frequent irrigation may be necessary. Don’t forget that your goal is to water deeply, which fosters deep grass roots and healthy grass.
Sodded Vs. Seeded Lawns
Freshly seeded and newly sodded turf calls for more water than established lawns. For the most part, expect to water newly sodded lawns daily for the first week. After that, taper off irrigation to help the grass develop deep roots. For seeded turf, water twice daily to ensure seedlings take hold. Try to maintain moisture in that top inch of soil. Continue to irrigate daily until you mow the grass once or twice.
Once established, observe your watering system over time and continue to make adjustments as needed. Look for areas where puddling is taking place or where water is covering areas like driveways or walkways. Tweak nozzles and watering duration so that every drop of water is being used as efficiently as possible.
In addition, make resetting your irrigation timer a monthly thing. This is often overlooked, but summer settings versus winter and rainy season settings are going to look very different, so it’s important to reevaluate every month. In some states, water management authorities post recommended timer settings online based on past weather data.
Lastly, every once in a while, take a trowel and dig into your turf to check how deeply your irrigation efforts are actually penetrating into the soil. Assess your grass roots and soil density. If your grass roots don’t go beyond 2 or 3 inches, your soil is probably compacted and could use aeration. Ideally, you want your grass roots to be 4 inches into soil, at a minimum.