September 2000 - Volume VII, Issue 9

Water Conservation Tips for Home Lawns

David M. Kopec, Extension Turfgrass Specialist

While lawns are not as prevalent as they once were in landscapes, there are still considerable amounts of small lawns tucked away in homeowner yards. Here are some tips to conserve water in your home lawn.

1. Water early in the morning (3-6 am): Evaporation is minimal at this time, and wind interference is usually not a problem.

2. Know your lawn grass: Bermudagrass uses much less than tall fescue in the summer.

3. Raise your mowing height: The lawn will go further in days between irrigations and not wilt as easily when mowed high.

4. Measure your average sprinkler output: Place 10-12 cans in various locations in the lawn. Run the system for 15 minutes. The average depth of water tells you how much the sprinkler system has applied.

5. Water Efficiently: Make sure the distance between sprinklers is correct, and that nozzle sizes match each other for the area they cover. Output is given in gallons per minute. A 360-degree full circle head has to have four times the GPM rating as a 90-degree corner head. Otherwise, the sprinkler system will not be uniform. Likewise, a 180-degree sprinkler has to have twice the GPM rating as a 90-degree corner head.

6. Check coverage area: Make sure just "the lawn area" gets coverage. Sprinklers twist and vibrate, which can change the coverage area.

7. Adjust the sprinkler run times: In the summer, Kentucky Bluegrass (high elevations) needs about 1.50-1.70 inches/week. Bermudagrass in the summer, about the same. Always start low, and adjust run times upward.

8. One hot spot? Water it with the hose instead of running the entire sprinkler system. Do this in between regularly scheduled waterings.

9. Know your soil: Sandy soils need more irrigations per week (with lesser amounts at each event) than loamy-type soils. Clay soils may puddle quickly and have run-off. Therefore, they may also require light frequent applications of water.

10. Aerify your lawn. Poke holes in your lawn by whatever means possible. This decreases runoff and promotes better root and shoot growth.

11. Water when the turf is dry: Don't water everyday. If a screwdriver penetrates the soil 4-5 inches, the turf is moist. If the turf lies flat after being walked on, it needs water. If the lawn is stressed for water, it soon turns blue-green.

12. Don't over fertilize: This makes more growth than may be otherwise necessary. Apply iron to make the lawn green when the turf is already dense.

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