watering

Summertime = water time!

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The forecast is beginning to look like a typical July – temps in the 90’s, lots of sunshine, and only slight chances of scattered showers.     

All the abundant moisture this year is fading quickly from the soils.  In the last 10 days the soil moisture content has gone from 1.0 (saturated) to .2 (dry).  Other than a few scattered showers, it has now been two weeks since we received a 1” of rainfall.  


Good watering practices need to be your number one focus in the landscape for the next few weeks.

Good watering practices will have the biggest influence in the health and appearance of your landscape the rest of the summer.

Best Watering Practices…

Apply 1” to 1.5” of water per week.  

Your lawn and landscape need 1” to 1.5” of moisture per week when temperatures are consistently 85 degrees or higher. 

A common question is “How long should I water?”  Every irrigation system is different – different head types, different size nozzles, different head spacing, different areas, etc.  

The best way to know how long you should water is to measure the amount of water your system puts out in each zone. Take a few cans and place them around your lawn in a random pattern. Run your sprinklers through a cycle and measure the amount of water in the cans. If the sprinklers ran for 15 minutes and you had .25” of water, you need 60 to 90 minutes per week.

Next determine how long you can run your irrigation before you there is excessive runoff. This will tell you how many times per week you need to water. If you can get away with watering every 4th day, you will have a healthier, stronger landscape. Unfortunately, with our tight soils, watering every other day on the required ODD/EVEN system during the hottest times is needed to get the correct amount of water on the lawn without excessive runoff.

If you don’t have the time to audit the amount of water your system puts out, start with these settings, monitor, and adjust: Fixed spray pattern heads with 10-15’ spacings – 15 mins per time. Larger rotor type heads on 10-30’ spacings – 40 mins per time.

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Set your controller to water with back to back run times. 

For most of our landscapes, if we run our sprinklers long enough to get the recommended amount of water, we end up with a lot of water running down the street.  Split your zone run time in half and set your controller to run through the zones back to back. 

Example:  Set the controller to run at 4:00 AM and 4:30 AM.  When the 4:00 cycle completes, even if it past 4:30, the controller will start the second cycle. 

I know from experience that moist soil will absorb more water than dry soil.  Soil is just like the sponge in your sink. A dried sponge repels water before it starts absorbing water.  Your landscape is the same.  The first cycle moistens the soil and the second cycle soaks in. 

Split, back to back, irrigation cycles are an old golf course trick.  In fact, large commercial irrigation controllers have a run/soak cycle setting that waters a short time, delays, and then waters a longer time.

I started this a few years ago on lawns with slopes and gradually have incorporated the concept to all lawns.  It makes a difference in watering efficiency.

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Water in the early morning. 

Evaporation is at the lowest point in the pre-dawn hours.  Also, wind is usually at the lowest point of the day in the pre-dawn hours.  I prefer to set most irrigation controllers to start at 4:00 AM with the goal of having the cycle completed by 8:00 AM. 

Avoid watering in the heat of the day when much of the water will be lost to evaporation.  Also, avoid watering in the evening. Watering in the evening promotes many turf diseases because the lawn stays wet too long.

This is critical for fescue lawns.  If fescue stays wet for more than 6 hours at a time and temperatures are in the upper 80’s or higher, brown patch is unavoidable.  Fescue performs best in the heat if it is watered deeply and grass blades are dry by noon. 

Earlier this week I reset a system on a fescue lawn that had brown patch starting in several areas.  The system was set to run at 4:00 AM, noon, and 9:00 PM every day.  They were creating the perfect breeding and spreading conditions for their lawn’s worst enemy.

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Daily watering is not needed.  

Unless you are trying to get newly planted seed to germinate or new sod to take root, there is not a good reason to water every day.  Always water deep and infrequent.  Daily, shallow watering creates a landscape that is shallow rooted and more dependent on constant moisture for survival. 

Fescue will benefit from a deep soaking, every other day, during the summer months just like Bermuda. Shallow, daily watering in the summer heat is very damaging to fescue. Remember - Brown patch symptoms look very similar to draught stress. Typically, the more you water, the worse the fescue looks, so you add more water, and the cycle of decline continues.

A common myth I would love to dispel is that fescue requires a lot more water than bermuda.  Yes, it does for a couple of weeks in the fall when you are trying to get newly seeded fescue to germinate, but mature fescue doesn’t require more moisture than bermuda

I water my fescue the same way I water bermuda – deep, infrequent cycles.

Aeration improves moisture absorption. 

You can’t beat aeration for improving your soil structure. A key benefit of improved soil structure is better water absorption.  Lawns that receive annual aeration (or at least every other year) do not experience as much runoff. 

Always pay attention to water need. 

If we receive .5” of rain or more, turn your controller off for a few days.  Install a rain sensor if you are not good at remembering.  A rain sensor will pay for itself easily in one season.  Just because it is summer, don’t assume you can leave your controller in automatic and forget it. 

Don’t stress if your lawn and landscape gets a little dry, it will rebound quickly once water is applied.  Remember, just as we have experienced this spring and early summer, too much water is more damaging than not enough. 

A good indicator that your lawn is needing water is the foot print test.  If the grass retains your foot prints instead of quickly springing back, it is time to resume watering.

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Watch for uneven water patterns. 

If you notice areas where the lawn color is fading, you may have uneven moisture patterns.  This could be the result of a broken head, clogged nozzle, or a head that is out of adjustment.  

Even if you don’t have an irrigation system, the concepts of good watering apply.  

It is important to learn how long you need to water when you are using a hose end sprinkler.  Next time you water, set out a few cans.  You will be surprised how long you need to water to get the proper amount of water on your lawn.  Invest in a digital hose water timer, such as the ones made by Orbit.  It will make it easier for you to control the timing and frequency of watering. 
 

If you need help in determining your lawn and landscape’s water needs, let us know. 

We can schedule an irrigation audit for your lawn and landscape.  We will inspect for even water distribution, measure water rates, adjust heads, make recommended irrigation changes, and set the controller for optimal operation. 

Give us a call if we can help – (405)367-3873. 

A healthy landscape is an important part of our environment.  A healthy turf helps clean the air, trap carbon dioxide, reduce erosion, improve groundwater quality, absorb noise, reduces temperatures, as well as, adds cub appeal and value to your home.  A key component to a healthy landscape is proper water usage. 

Lorne Hall

Hall | Stewart Lawn + Landscape