Lawn Watering – Good and Bad


July is the traditional start of lawn watering season.  July like many horticultural tools and garden practices, there are good and bad “iterations”, as there are with cars, grocery shopping and exercise.  For example, cars are generally considered good, as they help us travel conveniently, however, when you put a drunk driver behind the wheel, they’re bad.  Really bad.  Keeping it on the good side is the goal for cars and lawns.  Here are some techniques to do so:


*Watch your irrigation heads operate.  If they spray areas other than the lawn, don’t turn or are not operating as they should, then they need to be repaired.


David headblown off head guyser


*Measure the output of each head.  Tuna and cat food cans work really well.  Use a simple ruler to how much water has been applied.


*Use a screwdriver to gain a handle on how moist the soil is.  Two techniques to use here:

  1. Push the screwdriver into the soil after watering. If it slides in easily, then watering should cease.  If it’s hard to insert it, then watering is called for.
  2. After pulling the screwdriver out, feel the blade. If it’s cool and moist or wet, then the turf is sufficiently watered.  If it’s dry and powdery, then more water should be applied.  Moist, cool soil is the goal.


screwdriver testing moisture content

screwdriver moist not soggy

*Water in the morning hours for maximum efficiency.


*Return clippings back to the lawn when mowing.  A light sprinkling of grass clippings will act as a mulch for the grass plants and hold in soil moisture.

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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