Lawn Care during Drought Conditions can be a little tricky. It is very important that the lawn and landscape is irrigated properly, otherwise, you might find yourself spending thousands of dollars replacing either of them. Without proper irrigation, no lawncare product will work; this includes both weed control, insect control and fertilization. This is true because they all rely on a micro-encapsulation process that controls the release of the product. With out the proper amount of water, the product will not release at the proper time or with the proper volume. Furthermore drought stressed grass cannot be treated properly with post emergent weed control products, without damaging the desirable grass.
I am not going to get into “How Much” “How To” and “Why’s” of proper irrigation. Instead I have enclosed a pamphlet that I wrote, that will give you the information you need to properly measure the output of your irrigation device, and setup your irrigation system, regardless if you are irrigating by hand, with a hose, or have an underground sprinkler system.
What I am going to try to get you to do is modify your watering habits, in preparation for the drought restrictions currently imposed, or to be soon imposed. And how to get the most benefit from each drop of water used. This modification will also include changing the way you mow and trim.
Soil profiles and available water are different in Central Texas when compared to that of any other area with warm season grasses. We have a heavy, rocky, clay soil. When the term “Heavy Clay” is used, what we are referring to is the content of clay in the soil profile and the lack of sand and organic matter. Our soil is home to many microbes, insects (mostly beneficial), animals, plants and plant roots. When a soil is said to be heavy, what they are referring to is the amount of clay contained in the soil, and the relative airspace between the clay particles. (Porosity) Air pores must be present for the soil to provide space for nutrients, water, organic matter, microbes, etc. In Clay soils, these air pores are very tiny, compared to that of sandy loam, which has ample pore space.
The way each of these soils is watered, is completely different. Sandy soils drain quickly, and hold very little water for any length of time. Water is absorbed quickly, and it quickly filters through the top layers of soil becoming useless to the grass and roots above as it moves downward quickly past the root zone.
Clay Soils have very small pore space. This means that water has trouble being absorbed into the soil. There is also very little oxygen available to the roots, and once the water is in place inside the soil, it has difficulty moving because there are no empty pore spaces for it to travel into, and the pore size is restrictively small.
In Temple, Belton and Harker Heights and the surrounding areas, we have heavy clay soil. This is why when you apply water faster than it can be absorbed; it ends up out on the sidewalk and street. This is especially evident on a slight slope or incline. Most of the information disseminated by TV, radio or print, was not meant for soils such as ours. Most recommend 1.5 inches of water per week, be applied on your lawn once a week. Most of these stories originated from “news services”, and they assume that we all have the more common “Sandy Loam”. Not only do they make incorrect assumptions on what type of soil we have, they also don’t take into consideration the amount of sunlight that the turf receives, or what type of turf you may have. All of which are necessary when trying to estimate water requirements.
I am not suggesting you water more than 1.5 inches per week, instead, I am recommending that you apply as much water as you’re particular lawn/soil will absorb in a reasonable amount of time. In general, no more than ¾ of an inch can be applied before runoff occurs. In a hot drought situation, without water rationing, I recommend watering three times a week. Please read the enclosed pamphlet or take a look at our website to figure out how much and/or how long to water your lawn.
What you should do:
Mow high. Set your lawn mower to its highest setting. Mow once a week. Most people forget that grass is a plant and the blades are the foliage. By mowing high, you will increase root mass, which will help the grass get water a little deeper. Secondly, the shade provided by longer blades will protect the stolons, rhizomes and the thatch from drying out. This will help keep the Chinch Bug populations at bay, and also keep the plant a lot stronger and happier. If water rationing occurs, and you are only allowed to water once every five days, water twice on your day that you are allowed. Water moves slowly through our soil. The object here is to fill the pores in the soil completely with water, to a depth equal to that of the root mass. In another words, normal grass roots extend down to an average depth of three inches. Gravity always pulls water in a downward direction. Watering deeper than the roots does absolutely nothing for your turf. To get the soil saturated to a depth of three inches, you will have to apply approximately one inch of water. Most people will find that this is impossible to do with an irrigation system because the volume of water applied is greater than the speed in which the water can soak into the soil. Manual sprinklers and gear type (oscillating) sprinkler heads do not share this problem. If you have a automated sprinkler system with pop up (fan) heads, you will have to water twice on your designated watering day. This will allow the water to slowly be absorbed into the ground without runoff.
What we are doing:
With the lower levels of moisture, weeds and undesirable insects thrive. Therefore, we have added another round of pre-emergent weed control as well as surfactant to our lawn care program. This will be tank mixed with the already scheduled botanical pesticide. The pre-emergent will help reduce germinating weeds. The surfactant will help reduce surface tension of water so that it can be absorbed into the soil more easily. This is done at no additional charge to you.
Simple tip to know if you are watering adequately: Look at the color and vigor of the turf growing on the shaded sides of your home. This area usually requires less water because it doesn’t receive direct sunlight all day long. If this area looks significantly better than the sunny areas of your lawn, you most likely are under watering.
Please take a minute a read the enclosed brochure on proper irrigation. More information and other tips on lawn and garden care can be found on our website at: http://realgreenlawns.com/water_wise.htm
President, Real Green's Lawn Club Pest and Lawn
Texas Department of Agriculture Certified Diagnostician and Applicator # 00298078
ISA Certified Arborist # TX-3384A
Texas Master Gardner
Texas Structural Pest Control Board Certified Applicator # 44188 PLW
ISA Texas Oak Wilt Certified Arborist # TOWC 0048
Note: Only drought stressed lawns have Chinch Bug Damage. If you need help setting up you sprinkler, call us.
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