Lawns are water guzzlers. On average, most lawns need 1 to 1.5 inches of water per week to stay lush and green. That water can come from rainfall or irrigation. How often your lawn needs a drink depends on a host of factors, including things like soil type, sunlight, grass type and regional climate. The list truly goes on and on. In many municipalities, water restrictions are the norm, and lawn watering is high on the list of wasteful water activities. Fine tune your lawn watering skills with these easy irrigation tips.
Choose a hose-end sprinkler for a small-to-medium size lawn area. Check out different types of sprinklers to find the one that suits your lawn shape best. This traditional sprinkler waters in a rectangular pattern. Don’t forget to turn off a manual sprinkler. Set an oven timer to help jog your memory and conserve water. With all lawn watering, deeper, less frequent irrigation is best. This encourages grass to grow deep roots, which is one secret to growing a healthy, low-maintenance lawn.
Design an in-ground irrigation system to deliver water in the most efficient way possible. Consider using low-volume, low-angle heads to apply water efficiently. Adjust and angle irrigation heads so that water is delivered as close to turf as possible. This minimizes water lost to evaporation. Observe your system in action. If you spot a mist or even fog coming from heads, that’s a sign that system pressure is too high. Make adjustments to reduce the pressure and restore irrigation to streams of water.
Check out new advances in irrigation technology. Rotary nozzles, also called stream sprays or, in some areas, rotators, deliver water to turf in a slow, even stream. Choose this type of irrigation head for watering slopes or anywhere you want slow, deliberate water delivery. These nozzles are designed to operate with low water pressure, making them adaptable to homes with water pressure in the 20-to-55 psi range. At high water pressures, rotary nozzles don’t revert to mist or fog.
Include a programmable timer in your lawn irrigation set-up. Explore the world of smart timers, which gauge irrigation schedules based on local rainfall, average temperatures and even the evapotranspiration rate of grass (how fast the grass is actually using water). Set your timer to water during low water-use hours. That typically coincides with a pre-dawn irrigation schedule, which is also ideal for minimizing water loss to evaporation. If at all possible, don’t water lawns at night, which makes them more susceptible to disease development.
Explore your yard’s soil type to make the most effective lawn irrigation decisions. For instance, if you see puddling each time you water, your soil likely has high clay content. This type of soil can’t absorb water quickly, but instead requires repeated, shorter watering cycles. On the plus side, clay soil retains water longer than sandy soil, which needs more frequent watering. Take a soil test to learn what kind of soil is hosting your grass, and adjust irrigation cycles accordingly.
Measure Sprinkler Output
Determine how much water your irrigation is actually delivering to the lawn by setting at least six straight-sided containers on the lawn before turning on the irrigation. Tuna fish or cat food cans work really well. Run your watering system for 20 minutes. Measure how much water you have in the containers. To get an average, add the amounts and divide by the number of containers. Multiply your average by three and you’ll know how much water your system delivers in an hour. Set your watering times based on that knowledge.
Dig Into Soil
Every so often, take time to dig into your lawn to see how deeply water is actually penetrating. This is also a good time to take stock of grass roots and soil compaction. If you use a trowel, you can easily inspect soil wetness, water absorption and the existing thatch layer. Stick a shovel into soil and lift a section of the turf, and you can get an idea of how deep grass roots are growing. If they’re not reaching beyond 2 to 3 inches, your soil is likely compacted and would benefit from aeration. Healthy grass roots should reach at least 4 inches into soil.