Tis The Season!

In December, “Tis The Season” is a common phrase, referring to various holidays and the old classic song with the words – “tis the season to be jolly”.  In July, “Tis The Season” refers to watering turfgrass.

 

There are many take home messages in the theme of turfgrass irrigation;

First, don’t worry about the # of minutes per cycle or day or the number of cycles per week.  Each system of piece of equipment that is attached to a water spigot is different.  It’s nearly impossible to recommend an exact number of minutes and times per week to water.  It’s best to scratch that whole notion from your mind and insert another one –

 

Two – instead, water enough to keep the soil moist, not soggy or dry.  On average, this means 2-3 times per week, 15 to 20 minutes per cycle.

 

Three, how do you know if it’s soggy, dry or just right?  Use a screwdriver, stick it into the soil, pull it out and feel the end.  If it’s muddy or dripping wet, that’s too much or too often in terms of irrigation frequency.  If it’s dry and powdery, that’s too seldom or not long enough.  The goal is for the tip end of the screwdriver to be cool and moist.

 

Four, on slopes, it’s necessary to irrigate more lightly and frequently.  Why?  Slopes create a precipitation rate that exceeds the infiltration rate; thus, irrigation water runs off the turf and into the street instead of into the lawn….which is wasteful and nonproductive.

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Five, water in the morning hours – 4-10 am.  Using this timing results in more water on the turf, less in the air and on your neighbor’s car.

 

Finally, water evenly.  Check for water application uniformity by collecting tuna cans.  It’s kinda hard to eat enough tuna to collect 10 cans, so you may need the help of some friends and family.  Toss the cans randomly in the middle of the area to be irrigated, and also place a couple about 2-3 feet away from an irrigation head or device.  After running the system for 20 to 30 minutes, measure the output in each can and compare the amounts.  If more than a 20% deviation exists, call a sprinkler repair company to help look for flaws.

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John Fech
Horticulture Extension Educator at Nebraska Extension
John Fech is a horticulturist with the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and certified arborist with the International Society of Arboriculture. The author of 2 books and over 200 popular and trade journal articles, he focuses his time on teaching effective landscape maintenance techniques, water conservation, diagnosing turf and ornamental problems and encouraging effective bilingual communication in the green industry. He works extensively with the media to extend the message of landscape sustainability, making over 100 television and radio appearances each year.
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