Ah, May! The time of year when our gardens start to explode and those with green thumbs are itching to get out and get dirty. First things first, though: Your lawn needs your attention.
This is the time of year to apply the first dose of fertilizer to warm-season grasses and the time to withhold food from cool-season types. You may also start mowing in May, and it’s definitely time to apply weed control to stop those broadleaf nasties.
Of course watering is essential, but either too much or too little can be detrimental to the lawn’s health and beauty. As a general rule of thumb, a lawn needs 1 inch of water per week. This advice doesn’t hold when the weather is hot and/or windy; at these times, grass needs more water.
How can you be sure your lawn is getting enough water – without being wasteful in the process?
It’s common sense to know that the lawn needs less help from you when it rains. If you truly want to harness the power of the rain to tend to your grass, turn your downspouts toward the lawn during rainy periods.
But you’ll need to step in when there’s not enough rainfall. How do you know if it’s time? Walk across the lawn. If your footprints don’t spring back but remain visible, it’s time to water.
When to Water Your Lawn
There are two important words to remember when you’re considering when and how often to water your lawn: Deeply and infrequently. In addition to the footprint test, you can check the soil using a screwdriver or other long sharp object. Stick the object into the soil; if it comes out damp, don’t water. Try the test again in a day or two.
Avoid watering your lawn during the hottest part of the day, in other words, when the lawn gets the most direct sunlight. This is typically between noon and 3 p.m. During this period, water is wasted by evaporation. Instead, water early in the morning before it gets hot.
What about that 1-inch of water rule per week? Split it in half and apply it twice a week.
Don’t Waste Even One Drop of Water
Now you know when to water – and about how much water your lawn needs each week. To determine how long to run your sprinkler, drip system, or other irrigation to get the right amount will take some testing.
Find a half dozen or more empty cat food or tuna cans and place them evenly spaced around the area to be watered. Turn on your irrigation system and let it run for 20 minutes. Then, measure the amount of water in each can, and add up those numbers. Divide the result by the numbers of cans you used, and then multiply that number by three. Now you know how much water your lawn gets in an hour. You can then adjust the timer to make sure the lawn gets the right amount of water on irrigation days.
There are two additional things you’ll want to keep an eye on. First, you want to avoid puddling on the lawn. If you see puddles, your system is applying too much water too quickly, and the soil can’t absorb it.
Second, check the area that your sprinklers are hitting. Adjust them to avoid wasting water on hardscape surfaces. Restrict your irrigation area to only the lawn.
Maintain the Irrigation System
A hose-end sprinkler may be fine for a small lawn, but it is not an efficient way to water larger areas. The ideas system is low-volume with low-angle sprinklers, according to the experts at Bayer Advanced. They recommend that you “[a]ngle heads as low as possible to minimize evaporation.”
At the beginning of spring, inspect your irrigation system. Check the valve boxes for water, which can signify a leak, and the sprinklers themselves for clogs and leaks.
During the long, hot months of summer, water conservation is key to not only a healthy lawn but also a healthy planet and pocketbook, too!
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