Summer months are typically hot with extended dry periods. Northern grasses like bluegrass, ryegrass, and fescues thrive in cool wet conditions and are under great stress during hot dry summer weather. Southern grasses like zoysia and Bermuda grass thrive in warm conditions.
Water is vital to your lawn's ability to survive and thrive. A grass plant is 80 percent water and the plant uses it for cell structure, making food from sunlight, and to cool itself. Summer storms are often spotty and often the rain falls so fast that it runs off before it can soak into the soil.
There are several signs that your lawn needs water. These are...
- a color change from green to bluish green
- foot-prints which remain in the grass for a long time
- a crunchy feeling when you walk on the lawn
- leaf blades which are folded or curled. (see illustration for how to check the blade cross-section)
These signs all tell you that your lawn needs water immediately to prevent it from turning brown and going dormant.
WHEN TO WATER
Ideally watering should be scheduled so it does not encourage diseases which develop more easily when the lawn is wet for more than 12 to 14 hours.
The best times to water are:
- Very early in the morning to wash off the dew.
- In the morning, about two hours after the dew has dried.
- In the late afternoon or early evening if there is time for the grass to dry before the dew falls.
If your schedule makes it impossible to water during these ideal times it would be worth while to purchase a meter that attaches at the faucet which will automatically start and stop the water. It may help if you water a different area each day rather than trying to do the entire lawn at one time.
HOW TO WATER
The objective is to apply the water so that the soil is wet to a depth of six inches because this is the root zone of the grass. An easy way to check the evenness of your sprinkler is to place several tin cans at various distances from the sprinkler. Check each can after 30 to 45 minutes to see how much water has collected in each one. Many circular pattern sprinklers distribute the water unevenly and you must overlap the area previously watered.
The next thing to check is how deeply the water has penetrated the soil. This can be checked easily with a screwdriver. You should be able to insert it easily six inches into the soil if you have enough water on the lawn. If you have clay soil it will take about an inch of water to wet the top six inches; if you have sandy soil only half an inch of water is needed but it will have to be watered more often because sandy soils do not retain moisture as clay soils do.
A little experimenting will pay off in more effective and efficient watering and your lawn will be beautiful all summer.