How much water does your lawn truly need?
TRACY HODGEWhile we may experience one or two more cold spells, March is typically a fairly warm month here in Central Florida, making supplemental watering necessary for plants and lawn grass. Now is the time to determine just how much water your lawn grass needs to look its best.
Published: March 6, 2013
Published: March 6, 2013
Properly watering your lawn will help keep it healthy looking all summer long. Lawn grass that receives too little water will become dry and discolored, eventually going dormant during the summer or dying altogether. However, too much water can also cause a multitude of problems. Saturated grass often lacks the air necessary around the roots to develop a deep, healthy root system.
So, just how are you to know what the perfect amount of water your lawn grass needs to look its best? Here are a few guidelines to keep in mind for the spring and summer ahead.
The general rule of thumb among landscape professionals is to provide at least one inch of supplemental water to your lawn grass each week. The specialists at Sun State Landscaping recommend reducing watering frequency and duration if we experience periods of heavy rain.
If we go through a drought, you may find yourself watering several times each week.
One way to determine if your lawn is getting adequate amounts of water is to probe the soil. These probes are available at lawn and garden centers and actually measure the amount of water in the soil.
You can also test your soil without purchasing a probe by inserting a long piece of wire into the soil in several different areas of your lawn.
If you can easily penetrate the soil to 8 inches, your lawn is getting the water it needs to grow healthy and strong. If not, you need to water for longer periods of time so the moisture reaches the proper soil depth.
The type of soil in your yard also dictates how much water is necessary. In Florida, many of us have sandy soils that do not hold in moisture like other types of soils. Clay soils are high in density and retain moisture for longer periods of time than sandy soils.
Loam soils are a combination of clay and sand. In our area, most home gardeners find they have a mixture of soil types such as sandy-loam.
To determine how much moisture your soil is retaining, simply pick up a handful of soil and squeeze it together. If the soil clumps together, it is well hydrated and if it falls apart, you must water more often.
If your lawn doesn't seem to be getting enough water, you may need to check your irrigation system to be sure it is working properly. An irrigation specialist can test each zone to be sure all sprinklers are free from clogs and repair any broken sprinkler heads. If you are handy, you can check your system yourself and measure water output.
Place coffee cans or flower pots of equal size in different areas of your yard and run the system for 20 to 30 minutes. Measure the amount of water in each container after this period of time. If the water is unevenly distributed throughout your yard, adjust your sprinklers and run it again until you are sure all areas are getting equal amounts of water. Any serious problems such as broken lines or busted sprinkler heads will probably require help from a professional for best results.
Once you have determined how often and how long to water your lawn, take the time to inspect it each week for signs of drought or over-watering. You may need to reduce watering times when it is cooler, less humid or when we have a lot of cloud cover.
You may find you need to increase watering duration and frequency when it is hot, windy or during periods of drought. When your lawn grass is receiving adequate amounts of moisture, the result will be obvious. As always, your local extension office is available to help you with any problems that might require the experience of a master gardener.