Watering. Sprinkling. Irrigating.
Can You Have too Much of a Good Thing?
Written by Matt Langemo, Customer Relations Manager
I often get asked how best to water a lawn, and the answer is (you’ll never see this one coming)…
I know you’re thinking, “Aw, Matt. You’re better than that cop-out answer! We’ve read your other blogs. You’re witty and knowledgeable and we expect more out of you.” Listen here. First, thanks for the kind words, and secondly, you’re right. You do deserve more out of me. Had you not been so impatient with your interruption, you’d GET more from me.
Proper watering takes a little know-how, and then some effort. Yes, even for you automatic sprinkler types. You know who you are. You who like to “set it and forget it”. You probably set up bills to auto-pay, and have a fancy coffee machine that wakes itself up each day. Even you need to pay a little bit of attention to make sure you’re watering properly.
As I mention in a previous blog, most of the grass that makes up lawns in the Upper Midwest is Kentucky Bluegrass. This blog will focus on ensuring those lawns get proper irrigation, and if you have a different type of grass on your lawn, you’ll want to tweak a couple of things.
Kentucky Bluegrass is a hardy, cool-season grass that can do really well in the Upper Midwest. This grass, once established, likes to have between 1 and 1.5 inches of water per week. In order to provide what it wants and provide it in a way that encourages deep root development, it should receive that in as few waterings as possible. If you’re only going to have one takeaway from my ramblings, be it this:
INFREQUENT SOAKINGS ARE BETTER THAN FREQUENT SPRINKLINGS
As much as possible, we try to encourage our customers to soak their lawn once a week. If they absolutely refuse to do that, twice a week is about the most we’d recommend for an established lawn. If Mother Nature steps in to help and She provides what the grass needs – your sprinkler system gets to have the week off.
“Matt, I have a sprinkler system – how do I know if I’m soaking my lawn?” Hey, great question. It’s as if either I wrote the question so I could answer it, or it was asked by a paid stooge to tee up a response. Without getting into all the math (calculating the gallons per minute through different diameters of mainline, PSI at the head, heads per zone, and precipitation rates), zones with rotor heads (where they rotate back and forth) should run for about 45 minutes. Zones with pop-up style spray heads should run for about 20 minutes. If you have a pump system with 1.5″ mainline or something, call us and we’ll figure things out with you.
Now, before you ask your next question, I’ll answer it for you. If you’re ESTABLISHING a new lawn, your watering schedule will be about the complete opposite. You’ll want to water your lawn frequently (~3 times per day) for only a few minutes at a time (5-10 minutes per zone). Once your grass has grown tall enough to mow, it can be considered established, and you’ll want to change your watering schedule.
The last question you’re kind enough to ask will be, “Matt, great info! You’re really coming through in the clutch. What time of day should I start and stop watering my lawn so I’m getting the most bang out of my water buck?” First, the waterbuck is a large antelope largely found in sub-Sahara Africa, so it’s not relevant here. But if you’re talking about the dollars you spend on watering your lawn, it’s a great question.
Ideally you want your grass to receive its water as close to sunrise as possible. You don’t want water sitting on your lawn all night as excess moisture can cause fungal problems often manifested as mushrooms. As an example, if you want your stopping point to be 6:00 am and your system runs for 3 hours and 45 minutes, you’ll obviously want to start your system at 2:15 am. That’s best for the health of the grass, and also happens to be about the least windy time of day.
So there you go! Now you know about all you need to about watering your lawn. There are many variables and many lawns are slightly unique, but the main concept remains: For established lawns, infrequent soakings are better than frequent sprinklings. Now get out there and fix your watering schedule!