Many of us have a tendency to want to spoil those we care for – our significant other, our pets, our children, even our lawns. Some homeowners who long to have a lush, green, healthy lawn tend to spoil their lawns with lots of water. Their lawns should not suffer through a dry, thirsty day! However, spoiling a lawn with too much water can literally be killing it with kindness. (Keep in mind that we are discussing established turf, not newly installed lawns; new lawns do need special care.)
Turfgrass that is overwatered can suffer several fates. Roots can stay shallow near the surface and not dig deep into the soil as they should. A deep root system allows the turf to be more resistant to stress from drought, disease and abiotic factors such as wear from traffic. Excessive water leads to excessive lush growth – that may sound like a good thing, but it’s not. Excessive lush growth leads to thatch build-up and it creates a perfect environment for pests and diseases. An abundance of water also assists those nasty weed seeds to germinate and compete with your turfgrass.
So how do you know how much irrigation is best for the health of your lawn? That depends on the temperature, time of year, the type of turf and your soil type. Irrigate just enough to get water to the root zone without leaching beond that zone. Usually, that amount is 1/2″ to 3/4″ of water each time you irrigate. How often, then, do you turn on those sprinklers?
Let your lawn get thirsty before you water. University of Florida research shows that lawns that dry out and start to show a little drought stress before getting more water actually perform better in the long run. So wait until the leaf blades start to fold, the blades start to look a bit off-color, or you can start to see footprints where you’ve walked.
For lots of great information and publications on caring for your lawn, consult the Your Florida lawn website.