EAST DUNDEE, Ill. — The drought on the west coast and parts of the south west has heightened awareness of water use nationwide. If you happen to be in an area that is currently going through an unusually dry period, with little or no precipitation and are faced with watering restrictions, these helpful suggestions from The Lawn Institute can help you care for your lawn, conserve water and help the environment. They may also be helpful for homeowners who want to make a conscious effort to regulate their irrigation practices.
One of the most important things to understand is a lawn's ability to go dormant for differing lengths of time depending on the genetics of the species and the overall health of the plant. Dormancy is simply a state of reduced water usage where the turfgrass plant focuses resources on the roots. Most grasses can live through reasonably long periods of drought.
If a drought and/or hot weather continues for an extended period of time, or if watering restrictions are implemented in your community, the following recommendations may prove helpful:
• The best times to water your lawn are in the early morning or early evening when there is generally less wind and heat.
• The least desirable times are in the afternoon when water evaporates quickly because of heat, or late in the evening which can cause the lawn to stay wet all night encouraging disease development.
• Over-watering is much worse than under-watering.
• Water only when the soil is dry 4 to 6 inches below the surface. Most turfgrass plants can stay in a dormant state for at least 3-4 weeks without the grass dying (longer if the dormancy is induced by cold). If drought goes beyond the 4 week mark, apply enough water to re-hydrate the grass slightly and wet the soil down to a 5-inch (12.5 cm) depth.
• A quarter-inch (0.6 mm) of water every four to six weeks will keep the vital turfgrass crowns hydrated and capable of greening up when temperatures cool and moisture is again available. In most cases, this will not green up the turfgrass, but it will keep the turfgrass plant alive.
• Use a screwdriver or other probe to determine dryness.