Keeping the Lawn Alive During Drought

Keeping the Lawn Alive During Drought

We all know how important water is to maintaining healthy lawns. During times of drought, however, the water supply can become so depleted that some commercial properties may want to begin rationing programs to conserve water. You can still keep your commercial lawn in good condition even if water is rationed.

Using water for outdoor purposes, such as watering lawns could be restricted to one of the following:

  • Alternate Day Use.
  • Restricted Hours of Use.
  • Every Five Day Use.

Irrigation and Management Tips Under This Kind of Conservation

It is better for the overall health of a lawn to water infrequently (when drought symptoms appear) but deeply enough to wet the soil to the recommended depth. This reduces disease, helps air to move to the plant roots, and conserves water.

During designated watering times, apply enough water to wet the soil to a depth of 6 inches. Use the following steps to determine how long to water.

  • Set five or six open-top cans randomly on the lawn (cans with short sides, such as tuna or cat food cans, work best).
  • Turn the sprinkler or system on for 30 minutes.
  • Measure and record the depth of water caught in each individual can.
  • Calculate the average depth of water from all of the cans.
  • Use a garden spade or a soil probe to determine how deeply the soil was wet during the 30-minute period. Push the probe into the soil. It will push through wet soil easily but less easily when it reaches dry soil. Measure the depth of the wet soil.
  • Knowing how much water was applied in the 30-minute cycle and how deep that volume of water wet the soil, you can then determine how long the sprinkler must run to wet the soil to a depth of 6 inches.

After you have adequately wet the soil, do not water again until the grass shows signs of drought stress.

Symptoms of drought stress include grass leaves turning a dull, bluish color; leaf blades rolling or folding; and footprints that remain in the grass after you walk across the lawn. Although drought symptoms generally will develop in 5 to 7 days, symptoms may occur in as little as 3 days or not for 15 days. Therefore, under Stage I rationing, your grass quality should not suffer.

Run-off can be a serious problem that wastes large amounts of water. Soil type and the application rate of the sprinkler system determine how quickly run-off will occur. If water is applied faster than it can seep into the soil, it can run off the lawn and be lost.

To Prevent Run-off

  • Monitor the lawn for several irrigation cycles to spot water running onto sidewalks, streets or gutters.
  • Note how long the sprinkler ran before water began to run off. Stop watering at that point to prevent water losses from run-off.
  • Allow the soil surface to dry (30 minutes to 1 hour).
  • Change your irrigation timer to the shorter time limit noted above and begin watering again.
  • Continue this cycle until enough water has been applied to wet the soil 6 inches deep.

Other Considerations

  • Mow your grass often enough to remove no more than one-third of the leaf blade at any one time.
  • Reduce the amount of fertilizer applied to keep nitrogen levels low.
  • If soil is compacted, aerification of the lawn will significantly improve efficiency of water moving into the soil surface.

A smart irrigation system will help you make the most of designated watering times and make sure that each zone is receiving the right amount of water for the plant type in that area. LMC can help design, install and maintain a smart irrigation system for your commercial property.

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