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Watering Your Lawn Wisely
Many cities now restrict lawn watering during summer. That makes watering your lawn wisely critical as you need to squeeze as many benefits as you can from your watering allotment.
The first question to ask is whether you really need to water at all. The eastern half of North America usually receives enough rain that watering is optional if your lawn is healthy and established. During the dry part of summer, the grass goes dormant and turns brown, then perks up again when rain returns. Mind you, it’s optional for a healthy lawn with well-established roots. If you’re trying to nurture a neglected lawn back to health, or if your lawn is only a year or two old, it needs the boost that watering gives it.
If you live in a hot, dry region, the dormancy period is long enough that the turf becomes weak, allowing weeds to invade. Many cities in these regions recommend modifying your landscape to include less lawn.
Wherever you live, if you do water, follow these guidelines:
Water when the grass needs it. It’s time to water when the grass looks dull because the leaves have folded to prevent water loss, thus showing the paler underside. If you step on the lawn, the limp blades don’t bounce right back.
Water deeply. To encourage deep root growth, apply enough water to soak the soil about five inches deep. You can poke a stake into the ground to see how far down the soil is moist.
In a pinch, spritz. Frequent light watering is discouraged because it promotes shallow roots, which are more vulnerable to damage during drought. But on occasion — when the lawn is stressed during hot, dry weather — it benefits from a light spraying to cool off the leaves. This practice, called syringing, is also recommended for newly seeded grass and areas with patch disease.
Prevent runoff. How fast water soaks into the soil depends on the soil type, as well as how dry or compacted it is. If you see water running onto nearby pavement, turn off the sprinkler for a few hours to allow the water to soak in.
Minimize evaporation. If possible, water early when the wind is still, to reduce water loss through evaporation. And use a sprinkler that shoots big drops close to the ground, rather than one that sprays a high arch of water.