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Welcome to lawn watering 101. Let’s begin by a question: Is it socially acceptable and sustainable to use such a precious resource for lawn watering?

If things were perfect, the right amount of water would always fall from the sky at the right time. But we all know that life doesn’t work this way. Mother nature will sometimes give us two weeks of rain followed by two months of drought.

Is it a good idea to let nature follow its course and to let our lawn and plants die? If we did that, not only would we be loosing an investment, but we would also loose part of our quality of life. Not to mention that we wouldn’t be helping all those birds and small animals that visit our lawns for food and water. And let’s not forget that everything that grows in your lawn helps reduce greenhouse gases. Finally, if you were to let everything die only to replant the next summer, all the water and energy required to grow and transport all those new plants would not help the environment.

And if you want to save water, which is a very good idea, there are many things you can do. You can stop using water to clean your driveway, start your dishwasher only when it’s full, shut off the water when you lather up in the shower, as so on and so forth.

So what are the best lawn watering strategies that will help us have healthy green lawns without overusing water? Here are a few tips.

Turf grass varieties

There are different types of turf grasses. Some may require more or less sun, while others require more or less water. But all varieties do require a fair amount of sun and water.

When buying turf grass seeds, read what’s written on the bag and choose seeds that correspond to your conditions. You may even need to get multiple varieties. If your front lawn is especially dry, for instance, use a turf variety that is more drought resistant for that part of your yard.

If you live in a warm part of the world, you have warm-season grasses on your lawn. These are well adapted to drought conditions. So when it doesn’t rain for a while, your grass turns yellow and goes into dormancy. When it does rain, your grass wakes up and turns green.

But if you live in a temperate part of the world, you probably have cool-season grasses on your lawn. These are not well adapted to droughts. So if it stops raining for a longer period of time and if you don’t water your grass, keep your fingers crossed. When the drought is over, your grass lawn may simply not recover. So some lawn watering may very well be essential.

Choosing plants

Some plants can’t stand to have wet roots, while others can’t stand to have dry roots. If you know that your region is likely to have regular drought conditions, ask about drought resistance when you buy plants.

Making your lawn more drought resistant

There are a few things you can do to help your lawn retain more of the water it does receive:

  • Don’t mow your grass lawn too short (try setting your mower as high as possible and then adjust it as required). Keeping your grass long enough will give it a better fighting chance against the sun’s hot rays. Plus longer grass blades usually means longer roots, which is also good.
  • After a drought, when the rain finally falls, the soil is often so dry that it doesn’t absorb the water it gets. The rain simply runs over the surface and ends up in streams and drains. Dead organic matter sitting on the ground (thatch, for instance) may also prevent water from seeping in. The solution to get more out of each rainfall or lawn watering may simply be to give your lawn a good raking and to aerate it.
  • Use green fertilizers that improve drought resistance as well as soil structure and quality. Healthy plants always have better chances when the going gets tough.

Manual lawn watering

There are a number of specialists who claim that manual lawn watering may often cause more harm then good. The problem is that most people who water their lawn by hand often do just a light sprinkling. Watering your lawn for half an hour every night may be enough to wake up dry plants from dormancy, but probably not enough to provide any relief.

Lawn watering is better if you do it less often but use more water. So instead of watering your lawn for a few minutes everyday, it’s better to use a sprinkler once a week and to leave it on long enough to apply roughly one inch of water all over your lawn. You can put a container on the lawn to measure how much water you are actually using. Shut off the water when there is one inch of water in the container.

It is important, when you leave your sprinkler on for long periods of time, that you make sure that you actually water your lawn, not your driveway. The biggest annoyance when using sprinklers is that you often need to move them around several times, so as to cover your whole lawn without wasting water. So if you need to leave your sprinkler on for one hour to apply one inch of water, and if you need to move your sprinkler four times to cover your whole lawn, well that simply means that you need to spend almost half a day watering your lawn.

And by the way, you need to make sure that there are no lawn watering restrictions in effect in your town or region.

Sprinkler systems

Sprinkler systems are the easiest and most efficient way to water your lawn, and there are many reasons for this:

  • The regular supply of water means that the soil never dries out completely and that your lawn and plants never suffer from drought conditions. This means that you can use less water each time you water your lawn.
  • The sprinklers are positioned so as to cover your entire yard without wasting water on sidewalks and pavement.
  • You can set your timer to start your sprinkler system at night, while you sleep. That’s the best time, since water consumption is much lower at night.
  • You can set the timer so as to use the exact amount of water you need. Note that it may be a good idea to check how much water comes out of your sprinklers. Since water pressure is often reduced at night, you may see a difference between how your sprinklers work during the day and at night.
  • The best time to water your lawn is typically before dawn. Since the sun is not yet up and the air cooler, there is less evaporation. Plus, morning is the time when plants need water most. Some studies even indicate that watering in the evening is more likely to bring about plant diseases.

Sprinkler systems don’t usually cost a fortune, but having them installed is often quite costly. Some companies will sell you all the equipment you need to do it by yourself, but installing such a system is not as easy as it seems. You need to install the sprinklers so as to give your whole lawn just enough water. And consider the fact that those trees and bushes on your yard have roots that may make your job a lot harder. Finally, if you live in a region where trucks and plows are used to remove snow off the sidewalks, make sure your sprinklers won’t get broken off every winter.

Lawns are not always easy to keep top shape. To maximize your chances, you must have a comprehensive lawn care program.

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