Proper watering habits are essential to a healthy, lush lawn. They will ensure your grass has the proper amount of water to stay hydrated for days at a time, prevent lawn diseases, and lessen the chances of damage caused by insects. Frequency and duration are the most important variables, but there are a few other details to keep in mind as well.
Improper watering is a common problem for lawn owners. Not only is it hard on your lawn, but it’s also wasteful. Understanding the signs of improper watering and taking steps to correct the issue will get your lawn back on track.
Dry soil is a clear sign that your grass is not getting the nutrients and moisture it needs to grow healthy. A good test to see if the soil is dry or not is to use a screwdriver. If the ground is sufficiently moist, the screwdriver should go down into the soil easily. If the soil is dry, the screwdriver should be harder to push. Dry soil can be related to underwatering or the compaction or health of the soil. A soil sample is an inexpensive and helpful way to determine what your soil needs.
More often than not, it’s fairly easy to tell if your lawn needs more water. Dry, brittle, and/or greyish grass blades are a good sign that your grass is not receiving the amount of water it needs to stay hydrated between watering. If the lawn has spots of dry yellowed grass, Covington Liquid Lawn Aerator to help the soil retain water longer. If your lawn still seems to need more water, look for these other signs of underwatering:
Dry Soil - In order for a lawn to stay hydrated, its soil must be able to retain water between watering. If the soil is dry apply less water, but more frequently.
Weak Spring Back - Footprints will be more visible when your grass is under-watered due to the grass blades having less water. This prevents the grass from springing back up once they’re stepped on or disturbed. If you walk across your lawn and can still see your footprints in the grass afterward, it’s another sign that the grass needs water. Dehydrated grass can’t spring back up the way it should.
As a result of dry soil, dry grass will grow significantly slower. You can also walk across your lawn after watering. If you look back to see footprints, the grass is dry and needs more water.
Ascochyta Leaf Blight - This heat and stress fungus usually appears as long, uniform stretches of yellow or brittle grass. To see if the lawn is affected by this fungus, you’ll need to look at individual grass blades. The top portion of the blade will be withered while the bottom of the blade will look green and healthy if the fungus is present.
Curling Blades - If the blades are starting to curl, they are dehydrated and need water.
Slow Growth - Slow growth in the grass could be a sign that there’s not enough water. This change in growth can be temporary or permanent depending on the amount of time that has passed without water. The longer the grass goes without watering the more likely it is to lead to permanent changes in the size of the blades.
WHAT DOES OVERWATERING DO?
Overwatering your lawn suffocates your grass and also stunts root growth.
Below the surface of the turf, your soil is made up of soil particles surrounded by pockets of air and water. These pockets of air and water provide the roots of your lawn with the oxygen and water needed for healthy growth. However, when your lawn is overwatered the air pockets become filled with water, removing the oxygen from the soil, and your grass suffocates.
Additionally, when the water becomes readily available in the soil, your grass roots are not encouraged to grow and find water. As a result, the root system of your grass will not develop, leaving a shallow root system that is susceptible to drought and disease.
SIGNS OF OVERWATERING
Your lawn is always trying to tell you something. Whether it’s a lack of nutrients, too little water or too much water, the signs will be there. You just have to know what to look for.
Along with being soggy and unpleasant, overwatering your lawn can be as harmful as underwatering. Too much water may cause grass to develop diseases like drown root damage. Look for these signs of overwatering to see if you need to adjust your watering schedule:
- Runoff: If you can clearly see streams of water running off your lawn and down the sidewalk or street, that water obviously isn’t making it into your soil. This is an indication that your lawn is already well saturated, possibly already overwatered. Additionally, the runoff water could be washing away nutrients that your lawn craves. Once soil is saturated with water, excess water may start to run off. Keep an eye on your lawn and adjust accordingly. You don’t want to suddenly stop watering your lawn altogether. Try to determine how much water it really needs. Consider your climate, the season, and the daily/weekly rainfall. Remember, it’s better to water less frequently, but more thoroughly than to water a little bit every day.
- Spongy Lawn: Another simple way to tell if your lawn is getting too much water is to give it a step test. Just step on the lawn in a few different areas. If the turf feels spongy or just plain squishy, you should probably dial it back a bit.
- Weeds: Overwatering your lawn can create the perfect conditions for certain types of weeds to grow, such as crabgrass and nutsedge. This can greatly affect the health of your lawn, with crabgrass spreading throughout your lawn quickly and affecting the amount of sunlight your grass gets. While an overwatered lawn is not ideal for growing healthy grass, it may be the optimum conditions for weeds to thrive. If you see a lot of weeds moving in and starting to take over, it could mean you’re going a little heavy on the watering.
- Fungus: Fungi thrive in moist environments. This will often result in patches of mushrooms throughout your lawn, with a higher concentration on the areas that get the most water. If you notice mushrooms or other fungi growing in your lawn, reduce watering. Discoloration on your lawn – particularly colorful growth on the grass blades themselves – you likely have overwatered to the point of providing optimal conditions for fungus growth. If you have a noticeable fungal problem, in coordination with dialing back your lawn watering habits you’ll also want to apply a fungicide right away.
- Thatch: Too much moisture in your lawn could make it difficult for dead plant material to be broken down. The end result is thatch. Thatch is a layer of partially decomposed plant material. A little bit of thatch can be a good thing as organisms in soil break down the thatch and provide natural nutrients for the soil. Overwatering inhibits these organisms from breaking down thatch, resulting in thatch build up. Too much thatch can prevent oxygen from getting into the soil. Build up prevents nutrients from reaching the roots of your lawn, leading to grass with shallow roots.
Dethatch: If thatch build up is a problem, it’s essential to remove the excess – anything more than half an inch. There are few ways you can do this. Thatch can be raked out, however it can be a significant amount of labor depending on your situation. Alternatively, there are dethatching products that you can apply to give those organisms a boost in thatch decomposition and breakdown.
- Insects: Thatch is a perfect home for insects, some of which may cause further lawn damage. It protects them from the sun, predators, and even pesticides. If you’ve noticed that the bugs are really stepping up their game, it could be that overwatering has made things easy for them. Once you’ve removed that thatch, those pesky little bugs are exposed and ready for their turn. If you can, try to determine what kind of bugs you have so you can pick the right pesticide to deal with the issue.
7. Discoloration: Overwatering your lawn can cause the excess water to leach nutrients from the soil, causing grass blades to turn a yellow or light-green color. Your lawn is probably struggling to find the nutrients it craves after a period of overwatering. Test your soil if you really want to know what it’s lacking, but a good all-around fertilizer could help your lawn get back to green. To find out exactly what you need you will want to get a soil test.
WHEN IS THE BEST TIME TO WATER YOUR LAWN?
During April and May, you may not need to water your lawn at all (depending on the temperature). As temperatures rise during the hotter summer months, you should slowly start watering your lawn more thoroughly and more frequently. Start with watering once a week, applying roughly half an inch of water. As temperatures reach above 80 degrees, start watering your lawn with one to two inches of water every three days.
The best time of day to water your lawn is early in the morning, as the sun is rising. Grass soaks up the most water early in the morning, before the soil has baked under the heat of the sun. Watering during the heat of the day (between 10am and 6pm) will lead to evaporation and wasted water. By watering at night, your grass will stay wet for a longer time which increases the likeliness of lawn diseases. Also, try to avoid watering your lawn on windy days or after a rainstorm.
HOW LONG SHOULD YOU WATER YOUR GRASS?
The time it takes to water your lawn will depend on the lawn’s size, turf species, soil type, and climate. Generally speaking, lawns require 0.5″ – 2″ of water per week, or an average of 20 – 30 minutes of watering per zone, per session (more on this later.) Instead of light watering daily, try to water your lawn deeply and less frequently, perhaps 2 to 3 times per week for longer periods of time. This helps to deep soak the soil, causing the grass roots to reach deeper for the water they need.
WHAT'S SOIL GOT TO DO WITH IT?
If you’re watering your lawn with one inch of water every three days and the lawn is still drying out between watering, your lawn’s soil may be the reason.
Heavier clay soils have smaller spaces that drain slowly and hold water for a longer period. Adjust the sprinkler timer on clay soils so your system is watering for less time, but repeated during the same watering. For example, instead of watering for 30 minutes per sprinkler zone, set the timer to water for 15 minutes per zone on the first program and 15 minutes per zone on a second program. This will allow time for the water to soak into the root zone and eliminate the runoff that can occur if the sprinklers run for 30 minutes straight.
Coarse, sandy soil has large air spaces that let water pass quickly. Water your grass with shorter, more frequent watering if you have sandy soil. Since sandy soil drains rapidly, it’s important to build up the organic matter in the soil and increase the soils water holding capacity. Aerate the lawn annually, top dress with compost, and then rake the compost into the aeration holes. This practice will change the soil composition over time.
DEVELOP BETTER LAWN WATERING HABITSThe best way to grow a healthy lawn is simply to stay interested and involved. This year, by spending some time adjusting your watering habits you can grow the gorgeous lawn you’ve always wanted. Covington Naturals Products can also assist you in achieving the lawn you need to create the memories you desire.