April 2000 - Volume VII, Issue 4

Being a Minimalist
for the Small Lawn Homeowner

David M. Kopec, Extension Turfgrass Specialist

Each month more and more people move to Arizona. As many of our new neighbors are from out of state, they often want a lawn to remind them of back home. Most people want the benefits of a lawn, but often give little concern to water issues we have throughout most of Arizona. One of the most important water conservation items you can impart to the die-hard homeowner who wants a lawn for the kids (warranted) is the irrigation system. I n this case, I m talking about the homeowner who DOES NOT have or will not install an underground sprinkler system. Rather they will say they are willing to have the sprinkler in the yard. This is the worse case scenario, because, there is no efficiency in water application. It s usually a crap shoot which often wastes water

For this type of homeowner, here s the best fix.

(*) design the lawn area around the oscillating sprinkler system.

Here s how to do this. Convince your customer to:

(1) have a small lawn
(2) place an oscillating sprinkler in the general area where they want the lawn to be located
(3) have them turn the sprinkler on for 3 minutes
(4) mark the areas where the sprinkler pattern hits the ground (not the runoff areas)
(5) from the outside perimeter areas, move in 2 feet on all four sides of the wetting pattern
(6) this is the area to place the lawn.

This saves water because there is less over watering from multiple overlaps of the irrigation system. The oscillating sprinkler stays (gets placed) each time in the middle of the lawn, and DOES NOT have to be moved. Thus, less water is applied when the sprinkler does not have to be moved.

Surrounding edges can include hardscapes (stones) or other plants. Further water savings can be achieved if the lawn is set in the shallowest part of the yard.

If the turf is elevated, then irrigation of the edge should benefit other plants.

Always move the lawn inside the wetting front of the oscillating sprinkler. This is done to minimize the effect of wind disruption, and changes in water pressure which will affect the size of the actual wetting front. It s always easier to turn down the faucet, than to have it on full blast and worse, having to move the sprinkler.For a small lawn that will result from the above case, the homeowner should select an electric rotary lawn mower. This requires less maintenance than a gas rotary mower, also, the gas lawn mower will not run efficiently when used only for the 5 minutes or so it will take to mow the 500-600 square feet of lawn.

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