As the old Texas saying goes, “if you don’t like the weather in Texas, just wait a few minutes and it will change”. It may have taken longer than a few minutes but our weather pattern has changed. What started off as a cool early spring with a surplus of top soil moisture has turned into a hot, dry late spring and early summer.
As I have been driving around the county the last couple of weeks I have seen a lot of really green lush lawns showing signs of heat and moisture stress, both St. Augustine and Bermuda grass. The question is can we keep our lawns looking good and not break the bank this summer? You are probably saying no way, but you can if you water properly and train your yard to use less water.
Each spring as grass starts to green up new roots are being developed by the plant. When rains fall like they have been this early spring the roots are not forced to go deep into the ground to search for water and thus a shallow root system can be formed causing problems when the rain stops. While no one wants the rain to stop it eventually will and then the grass must deal with less water and hotter temperatures. How can we prevent this from stressing our grasses in June, July and August? Here are a few tips on watering that will help you have green grass and green in your checking account.
First, when we get a measurable rain (3/4 inch or more) in the spring there is no need to water for several days. I often see sprinkler systems running a day or two after a big rain. I have even seen them running a few hours after a rain. Soils can only hold so much moisture before water begins to run off. In most cases after a rain watering within a day or two only supplies the road and storm drains with additional water, and helps to keep the soil too wet.
Second, let the soil dry out a little between watering. By allowing the soil to dry out between watering you are encouraging the roots to grow downward towards water (a deeper root system). This will help your grass go longer between watering when we get into the hot summer. In most cases grasses can go at least 3 or 4 days between watering. With well established Bermuda grasses being able to go 5-7 days.
Next, let your grass stress a little bit. Allowing your grass to get a little dry and stress a little for moisture strengthens your turf. If you notice your grass is beginning to need water wait another day before applying supplemental water. This will help your grass adjust to the dry weather and be able to handle it come July and August.
Finally, water deeply. One of the worst things a homeowner can do for their turf is water every day for 5 or 10 minutes. This promotes a very shallow rooted weak turf, not to mention is ideal for fungal diseases. When watering make sure you wet the soil to a depth of around 5-6 inches since this is where the roots are located. This may take 30-45 minutes. If run off starts to occur during this time turn the sprinklers off for 15-20 minutes and then water some more.
There is no one method of watering for everyone. How much and how often you need to water is going to depend on the amount of shade, type of soil, wind, and type of turf you have in your lawn. Always let your lawn tell you when it needs a drink. An easy way to tell if your lawn needs watering is to watch your foot prints. If the grass rapidly pops up the grass is fine. If you prints stay in the grass for 4 or 5 minutes you need to water. As grass becomes stressed the leaves will curl to conserve moisture. This is another indicator that supplemental water should be applied. By following these steps you will have a healthier lawn that requires less water.