Proper watering is the most important lawn care practice upon which healthy lawns are built. And a healthy lawn is a great looking lawn. Grasses, like all other plants, require water to stay alive. Mother Nature provides for a good portion of your lawn’s water needs, but during periods of hot weather or drought, supplemental water is needed in the form of irrigation. The way in which this water is provided will guarantee the success or failure of your lawn.
A lot of homeowners – especially those with an irrigation system – have been conditioned to water for 20-30 minutes multiple times a week. This creates a vicious circle in which because water is always available at the surface, the roots grow shallow to take advantage of this water. Because the roots grow shallow, water must be provided frequently or the plant suffers. Frequent watering also causes numerous fungal disease problems which typically wipe out large portions of lawns in early summer. But there’s a better way – it’s called deep an infrequent.
Deep and infrequent watering is a simple concept which involves applying larger amounts of water which penetrate deeper into the soil only when the grass shows signs of drought stress. Water penetrates heavier soils like clay very slowly, while others soils like sand drain very quickly. Temperatures vary from season to season. Some areas of your lawn get full sun, while others are in shade. Some grasses need more water than other. All these variables mean that water needs vary from region to region, and even from one section of your lawn to the next. The deep and infrequent method presented below accounts for all these variables by watering to a depth of 6 inches only when your grass needs it. Sound complicated? It’s not, here are the 2 golden rules:
- Do not water unless your grass is showing signs of drought stress. This means that you may only need to water once a month in the spring, or not at all in the fall. This accounts for all weather and lawn condition – if the lawn is stressed it’s time to water, be it every 3 days in the summer or once a month in the fall.
- When watering, water until a 6″ flat head screwdriver easily penetrates the soil all the way to the handle. This will ensure that regardless of soil type and sprinkler output, water penetrates deep enough to encourage deep root growth.
What are the benefits of a deep and infrequent watering program?
- Grasses are encouraged to “seek” water deeper in the soil building a deeper root system which will better sustain them through periods of drought.
- Allowing the surface of the soil to dry between watering means that weeds will be unable to compete with your grass.
- A lawn that is not constantly damp is far less susceptible to fungal disease.
- Deep and infrequent uses less water resulting in money savings.
Ready to jump on board? Great. Keep in mind that if you’re making the switch, the transition will have to made slowly to allow your grass to adapt to the new regime. Once you master proper watering, the grass will always be greener on your side – especially when everyone else’s lawns are crisp from the heat or dead from fungal disease.