Lawn Watering Mistakes We All Make

Lawn watering mistakes can be avoided. Change your approach for a healthier and happier lawn.

It's time for a reset on watering grass. People water too much, too often, at the wrong times, and the wrong way. Not only does this waste a valuable and increasingly scarce resource, it also makes your lawn look worse by increasing disease, insect, and thatch problems. How many of the following have you seen in your neighborhood?

Watering Lawn
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Skip These Lawn Watering Pitfalls

Using sprinklers in the blazing hot sun. Please refrain from using sprinklers when it's sunny and 95 degrees. Practically all the water applied will evaporate into the hot air before ever reaching the roots. You might as well water the storm drain.

Using sprinklers when it's raining. Most people guilty of this use in-ground sprinklers set by a timer. There are rain sensors for this, or smart sprinkler controllers now allow you to customize watering schedules previously set on autopilot.

Using sprinklers to water the street. Again, in-ground sprinklers are the culprit. People set them to go off in the middle of the night and never see where the sprinklers are pointed. As I've said before, you can water asphalt all you want, but that stuff just ain't gonna grow. As a good practice, test your irrigation system annually to make sure sprinkler heads are leak-free and pointing in the right direction.

Focus on What Needs Attention

Giving your flowers, shrubs, and trees the same amount of water that you give your grass. Different plants have different water requirements. Treating them all the same means one will be happy, and the others will hate you. Owners of in-ground sprinkler systems: Create zones that are tailored to different areas of your landscape, your plants and grass will thank you.

Watering the grass every single day for 15 minutes. This turns grass into a shallow-rooted, water-guzzling lawn needing its daily gulp just to soldier on. Instead of watering shallowly every day for 15 minutes, water deeply once a week for an hour or so (or however long it takes to apply an inch of water). You can also look into treating your water if you are a fanatic like me. Check out some Water Softener Reviews, choose what you need, and your grass will never be greener. Your lawn will be healthier and more drought-tolerant. It will also have fewer loathsome weeds like dollarweed and nutgrass (nutsedge) that thrive in overwatered lawns.

How to Water More Efficiently

Pure, fresh water is fundamental to human life, yet we waste it in so many ways. So how can you have a nice lawn while using a modicum of water? Let me elucidate.

Choose a grass well-adapted to your region. Here in north-central Alabama, most people grow either zoysia or Bermuda. Both are naturally drought-tolerant and don't need regular watering. My Bermuda-grass lawn is rarely watered. When it doesn't rain, the grass goes dormant and turns brown. OK, fine. Eventually, it rains and the grass wakes up and turns green again. Simple. Now you can try to grow tall fescue here, but unless you water it regularly, it dies in a heartbeat. St. Augustine grows well here, but needs more water than zoysia and Bermuda. Bottom line—pick a grass suited to your climate that doesn't need a lot of water.

Don't make the lawn bigger than you need. Devote more area to natural areas and drought-tolerant plants and ground covers. Watch your water bill shrink.

Water at the right time. The best time to water is very early morning before it gets hot. Most of the water will make it to the roots. Plus, the grass blades will dry quickly, preventing disease problems.

Don't mow your grass during droughts. Cut grass loses lots of moisture through cut blades and turns brown if you don't water it. So don't cut. My rule during hot, dry summers is, don't cut the grass until it rains two days in a row.

Final Thoughts on Making It Work

Cut your grass at the highest recommended height for your grass. Taller grass shades and cools the ground, reducing moisture loss. In a drought, taller grass always stays greener longer than shorter grass. So cut bluegrass at 2 to 3 inches, tall fescue at 3 inches, perennial ryegrass at 2 inches, Bermuda at 1 1/2 to 2 inches, centipede at 2 inches, St. Augustine at 3 to 4 inches, and zoysia at 2 inches.

If you don't have in-ground sprinklers, don't get them. People with sprinkler systems always use more water because watering is so easy. You don't have to drag hoses. You just set the timer and forget it.

Just look at the Atlanta metro area to see the consequence of sprinkler systems gone wild. For 10 years, practically every house built came with lawn sprinklers. No one really thought about how much water they'd need. Then Atlanta had a terrible drought, and its principal water supply, Lake Lanier, nearly dried up. They had to ban all outside watering, unless you carried gray water outside. Water-guzzling lawns dried up and died.

Make some changes, see your results grow. Water grass wisely, responsibly, and efficiently during hot days, and you may just be delighted by a healthier and happier lawn while enjoying that lower water bill.

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