Did you know that the average homeowner can waste over 60 % of water they use each month?  In the west we have a tendency to believe in the theory that just because it is hotter than most climates that we need to use more water.  We actually do not need to use any more water than the cooler states as we have grasses that are well adapted to the area.  Watering your lawn is vital to the survival and appearance of your lawn, but overwatering is just as detrimental as under watering. 

I start many of my blogs by telling you to check your sprinkler heads and clocks regularly.  This is because one broken sprinkler head can waste 12 gallons of water per minute.  Even if you just checked your heads last month it is a good idea to check them every couple of weeks in case you accidentally hit it with the mower, or some unknown damage was caused to the sprinkler.  If you lose power to your house and your clock does not have a battery back up your run days and times will reset to the factory setting which inevitably is every day.  These are quick tests and are an easy way to save you lots of money throughout the year and save our water at the same time.

In the grass business you hate to hear someone say that if less people had grass, we wouldn’t  be in a drought.  The truth is grass doesn’t waste water, people do and having grass at your house actually helps the environment.  Did you know that 8 houses with a front yard of grass has the cooling effect of 70 tons of air conditioning?  This is a pretty good number considering that the average house has a 3-4 ton capacity air conditioner.  While that is not a relevant issue when it comes to watering, it is important to keep in mind when people are complaining about houses with turf.  The truth is that grass is an important part of a home and it makes us happier to have a green lawn so let’s put one in, and use our water wisely to make our lawn as aesthetically pleasing as possible.

I am going to give you a few tips for checking your system and making your lawn an asset, not a watering liability.  The irrigation check is a simple process and takes no longer than 15 minutes per month.  You will want to space some small cans out over different areas of your lawn and run the system for 15 minutes.  Do not place the cans along the edges of the lawn or right next to the heads so you can determine the sprinkler head output.  This is known as the tuna can test to most, but any old can will do, as long as you have a way of measuring the output of your sprinklers.   After the sprinklers have run for 15 minutes, you will measure the amount of water collected, and it is important to make sure your sprinklers are putting out an even amount of water.  It is also nice to  know how quickly the water is being put out.  If you are getting different amounts of water in each can you know that a nozzle may be bad or you may not have even coverage.  If you don’t have even coverage you will see weak areas in the lawn and will give you the perception that your lawn needs more water.  If this is the case you may have to add a head or change the nozzle to get the desired output and coverage.  Sprinklers are a cheap fix and can save you hundreds of dollars in a year by just having the right equipment.

Just how much should you be watering?  It’ll vary depending on your soil type, temperature, and altitude but your grass has a very tell tale sign of when it needs water and when it doesn’t.  Your lawn will start to have a blue-grey appearance when it is thirsty and is in need of replenishing its supply.

Some of the other easy ways to tell if you should be watering is the foot print test.  If you step on your lawn and your foot print doesn’t bounce back up immediately your lawn needs water.   At this time of the year your lawn should not be getting any more than 30 minutes of water per week and that should be applied with two 15 minute cycles spaced accordingly.  The cooler months allow us to conserve water and water every 3-7 days.  During the summer months you will have to increase your watering, but one additional day is plenty.  It is much better to water deep and infrequent versus daily irrigation cycles.  By watering your lawn daily you are not making the roots work at all for water, and they consume all there water in the top inch or two of the soil.  Why is this bad?  I think that is an easy question to answer because without long roots you will not a strong grass plant.  Make those roots go down and get the water.  During the summer the general rule of thumb is to water 10 minutes for each day you skip.  So if you are watering every third day, you would run 30 minutes.  If 30 minutes of water is causing runoff then split the time into a cycle soak separated by a minimum of 30 minutes in between cycles.  While this may seem unrealistic to get your lawn to stay green watering 2-3 times per week in 115 degree temperatures, you are actually doing it a favor.  Over applying water can cause root rot, fungus, and can be a breeding ground for mosquitoes.  After the long irrigation cycle has been made, make sure that you can stick a screwdriver 6-8 inches into the ground.  If this is not the case, more water will be necessary to feed the deep root system.  Overwatering is an easy thing to spot as many lawns become soggy, show signs of algae or have mushrooms popping up in the lawn.

These are just some easy tips to conserve water and the best way is to not just set a clock and walk away from it, but to check the needs of your lawn.  You can sometimes stretch a good watering out for 10 days during the cooler months and 5 days in the summer.  So go out and buy yourself some sod, and use the core principals I just talked about for watering.  Don’t be afraid to get the screwdriver out and check the soil.  Your neighbors may think you’re crazy, but they’re not paying the water bill.

Until next t ime,