Overwatering Is Out

Keep water in the yard, not the sidewalk.

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How Much is an Inch?

Summer is on the horizon and the first 100° day has already come and gone. We recently talked through two methods to remove or reduce your turf grass, but there is a good chance that one or two of you still have a “traditional lawn” that is watered. Over the next few weeks, we’ll talk about a range of actions you can take to strengthen your turf grass and improve your soil so that you can water less, water smarter, and stop overwatering.

Sound too good to be true? Not at all. In fact it is easy and once you get it right, it’ll take less time and less money to have healthier turf grass.

In light of the drought, the first step is to figure out how much water your grass actually needs. As a rule of thumb, turf grass only needs about an inch of water per week (including from rain) to remain healthy even through the summer.

But how much is an inch? How much do your sprinklers spray and how fast? Here’s a simple trick: Scatter clean, empty tuna cans or other straight-sided containers on your turf grass, turn on the sprinklers, and start a stopwatch. Then run around and check your tuna cans. When most cans have an inch of water in them, turn off your sprinklers and check the time.

That is the total time your sprinklers need to run each week to deliver one inch of water. Note, this isn’t to suggest you run your sprinklers for one continuous spray, this is just the maximum amount of time your sprinklers should run at all in a given week if you want to deliver one inch of water. You just gave your turf grass a deep soak, so you’re all set for this week.

The next week you can conduct a new test. This time, turn on your sprinklers, start a stop watch, and walk around your yard to see when and where runoff starts. Stop the stopwatch and check the time. This is the appropriate amount of time to water before it becomes overwatering.

Finally, divide the amount of time it takes to get an inch of water by the amount of time before overwatering begins and you have the number of times per week you should water and the duration. If it take six minutes to deliver an inch of water and water begins to runoff after three minutes, you should consider watering twice per week for no longer than three minutes.

Two final thoughts:

  1. If one area in particular is quickly producing runoff, consider it a key overwatering zone and figure out what it will take to stop it. You might add a berm or other terrain to redirect water, remove turf grass and add California Friendly plants, or any other alteration that stops the runoff.
  2. Different parts of Orange County have different types of soil. All soil can be improved to hold moisture and encourage root depth, but if watering your turf grass quickly became overwatering, you will definitely want to check in next week when we talk about aerating your soil.

Sooo, how long did it take for your tuna cans to fill up?

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