WateringGuides

It is estimated that close to 50% of the water used by homeowners is used to water landscapes, of which a large part is put on our lawns.  It has also been estimated that 20% to 80% of what is used is wasted.  With water resources becoming ever harder to replace as each year goes by it is important that we better manage the water that is used, so that it isn't wasted to begin with.

One place to start on the road to better water management would be with the sprinkler clock that we all rely on to water our lawns. Most homeowners only set their clock once a year when they fire up their systems in the Spring. It just keeps on watering the same every week, every month, regardless of weather or temperature changes. This results in overwatering in the Spring and Fall and under watering in the hot months of Summer.

If not used properly the irrigation clock will actually waste more water than they were designed to save. Just like we adjust our thermostats for different times of the year, our sprinkler clocks must also be adjusted according to seasonal fluctuations. Our lawns do not need the same amount of water in April as in July. Run times must be changed throughout the growing season.

There is more to watering your lawn than turning on your sprinkler system and forgetting it. To be a responsible steward of this precious resource (water), each of us must determine what the plant requires and then apply only what is needed. First let’s look at factors that cause needs to vary in the lawn ecosystem. It could be soil type, temperature, wind, or humidity. Each day is different. Adjustments must be made.

It is important to make sure the subsoil (top 4" to 6") is kept moist. This can be determined by inserting a 6-8" screw driver into the ground. If it goes in easily, you have established your subsoil moisture. Another simple method of determining whether the grass needs watering is to observe the dehydration sign given by the grass blades.

  • 1st Stage - Grass has a purplish tint.
  • 2nd Stage - Grass blades turn steel grey and footprints are left when walked upon.
  • 3rd Stage - Grass blades turn straw color.

Your lawns ever increasing need for more water may be a sign of poor soil conditions. One way to use less water in maintaining lawn areas is by improving the water holding capacity of the soil.

The water holding capacity of soils is influenced by soil texture and the amount of organic matter present in the soil itself. Here in Colorado we primarily have sandy or heavy clay soils. Water will either drain through too fast or run right off the surface. Soils composed of small particles such as clay, have larger surface areas than soils with larger particles such as sand. Large surface area soils will hold more water. In sandy soils water will often drain away too quickly before plants can begin to use it. Clay soils can bind up water so tightly it is unrecoverable by the plant.

The addition of organic matter such as compost will improve the physical properties of the existing soil. Organic matter will greatly enhance the water and nutrient holding capacity of the soil. It will aid in water infiltration and drainage; enabling water to travel to the plants root zone where it can be utilized more efficiently. The amount of organic matter present in the soil will determine its water holding capacity. The best and easiest way to increase the amount of organic matter in the soil is by adding compost Just a 1% increase of compost in the soil can dramatically increase it’s ability to hold water.