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The Earth is the Lord's, and everything in it.

(Psalm 24)

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Watering Guide for Your Established Lawn and Landscape

Turf Management - Bergen County, NJ - Watering Guide for Established Lawns PDF Print E-mail

established-sprink.jpgHorizon Landscape recommends that proper turf management involves watering your lawn with 1" of water per week. This water can be in the form of rainfall and/or automatic sprinklers. The kind of sprinkler heads and nozzles used in your system will determine how long you will need to water to apply that amount.

You can find out a lot about your lawns watering needs by taking a careful look at your entire lawn. If the lawn is green and lush like a carpet, it is getting the proper amount of water. If some areas are soggy, it is getting too much. If you see areas with fainter shades of green or a dry look, the lawn needs more water. These signs of stress could also indicate the presence of insects or disease. If you are not sure, contact Horizon with your turf maintenance questions or concerns.

A common way to establish your watering times is with a can test. (Get the kids to help!) Place several empty cans around the lawn (if you have more than one lawn zone, be sure there is at least two cans in each zone). Turn on your sprinklers and check the cans approximately every 15 minutes. When the cans have 1" of water in them, note the time. That is how long you should water your lawn per week to keep it green. Remember, there are other factors to consider, such as sun exposure, soil type and shade areas. For example - a lawn with a southern (sunny) exposure or in sandy soil may need as much as 2" of water per week, whereas a lawn with a northern or shady exposure may not need water at all. Lawn sloping, thatch and large, rooty trees may also affect water needs.

Some cans in each zone may have different amounts of water after the same amount of time. In this case, the problem is most likely the type of sprinkler head. There are different heads for different watering needs, and they can be replaced with the proper head to make your sprinkler system operates at peak efficiency.

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How long should I water? PDF Print E-mail

established-howlong.jpg Under ideal conditions, you should water three times a week. The length of each watering session depends upon: soil conditions, topography, exposure to sun and wind and the types of heads on the zones. There are several factors to consider when determining your correct turf management plan:

The time of year and the amount of natural rainfall - As turf management specialist we want to water our lawns approximately 1" per week. Sprinklers are needed to supplement normal rainfall. Most people tend to over-water. Keep in mind that after an extensive rainfall, the soil may be saturated and hold water for up to 7 days. Watch your lawn and only water it when it begins to show signs of dryness. Holding back on watering will actually strengthen your lawn by forcing it to send its roots deeper into the soil in search of water.

The kind of soil in your area - Your soil acts like a giant sponge, and will hold water for immediate and future use. Some soils can hold water better than others. The two most common types of soil in the Bergen County, NJ area are:

Sandy Loam - Holds water well and allows water and turf roots to penetrate deeply because of its loose structure. The ideal soil for growing turf would be 6 or more inches of this type of soil. With this soil base, we can "fill" the sponge up once a week with 1" of water and the turf will draw it up as needed.

Clay - Does not hold water well. Because of its tight structure, clay compacts easily and does not allow water and roots to penetrate deeply. This soil is very common in this area. Clay soil becomes saturated quickly and excess water runs off. With clay soil, we need to water for less time and more frequently.

The slope or drainage - Water loves the law of gravity. Slopes are more difficult to maintain because the water "runs" down before it can be absorbed into the soil. They require more frequent watering for shorter periods of time.

Exposure and shade - Areas with more sun exposure require more water; shady areas require less.

The day of the week you mow the lawn - Mowing a saturated lawn can cause turf damage, deep ruts, muddy areas and compacted soil. You should not water the day before or the day of mowing.

To determine how long we can water at a time, we can perform the following test.

  1. Don't water your lawn for 5-7 days; let the lawn and soil dry out.
  2. Turn the sprinklers on and let them run - note what the time is.
  3. Watch for the first signs of the water puddling or running off - you are looking for the point at which the soil is "saturated" and almost all the water we are applying is running off or forming large puddles in the lawn. (Do not be mistaken by "overspray" running down the street or sidewalk). Note the amount of time this took. This is the water-holding capacity of your soil. This capacity may vary widely; it may have taken 10 minutes to run off, or it may have taken 2 hours. This is the maximum time you can water your lawn without "wasting" water

As with the maintenance of all growing things, proper watering is part science, part common sense, and part trial-and-error. With patience and tender loving care, you will discover the turf management plan that unlocks the secret to your lawn's optimum health.

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When should I water? PDF Print E-mail

Under ideal conditions your lawn should be dry at night and during the hottest part of the day. When this is not possible, apply one of the following options:

  1. Water in early evening. This allows the moisture to soak into the ground and be taken up by the roots overnight. The sun cannot evaporate the water and if you complete the cycles early enough you will not spread fungus spores via splashing droplets.
  2. Set your timer to be finished with its watering cycle as you get up in the morning. This takes advantage of higher water pressures at night.
  3. Set your timer to best utilize its watering capabilities during restrictions. Remember - most people over water.

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How do I set my sprinkler system timer to water the proper amount each week? PDF Print E-mail

established-timer.jpgOne we have discovered how much water we need (see How much water do I need?) and how long we need to water (see How long should I water?) it is simple to set the sprinkler timer.

Take the time needed to apply 1" of water per week and divide that by the how long it takes to saturate the lawn.

As an example, if you need 1 hour to apply 1" of water per week to our front lawn and it takes 20 minutes to saturate the front lawn, divide 1 hour (60 minutes) by 20. It will take three separate waterings of 20 minutes each to total the 1 hour of watering time we need to apply 1" each week to that section of the yard. Set your timer, then, for three days per week at 20 minutes each of those three days for that zone.

Horizon Landscape has been a turf management specialist in Bergen County, NJ for more than 30 years.  Please contact us for any of your turf management needs. Residents of the following cities may also find these links helpful:

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