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Proper watering for your turf grass lawn

Apr 03, 2016


Watering is one of the most often
misunderstood aspects of turfgrass culture. Often, watering on turf areas is
too frequent and too light. Frequent, shallow watering encourages shallow
rooting, soil compaction, thatch accumulation, and weed seed germination. Ideally,
turf should not be irrigated on a regular schedule but on one that is
determined by need. An irrigation program cannot be developed to fit every
location due to 1) dissimilar water holding capacities of different soil types
found in Oklahoma, 2) weekly fluctuations in temperature, humidity, wind, and
precipitation, and 3) the influence of management practices, such as mowing and
fertilization on turfgrass water consumption. Sandy coarse-textured soils
absorb water faster but retain less water than fine-textured soils like loams
and clays. Thus, it takes less water to moisten sandy soil to a 6- inch depth
than to moisten a clay soil to the same depth. This means more frequent
applications of less water are required for turfgrasses growing on sandy soils.
Lush, actively growing turfgrasses utilize more water than turfgrasses
maintained on the “lean side.” The ideal time to water is when turfgrasses show
the first visual symptoms of water need or wilt, characterized by “foot
printing” and a blue-gray appearance. When turfgrasses experience moisture
stress, their leaves begin to roll or fold and wilt. Thus, the leaves are
slower to bounce back when stepped on. Enough water should be applied in one
application to wet the soil to a 6-inch depth. This can be checked by probing
the soil. After a few times you should develop a feel for the amount of time
and water required for deep watering. If the area begins to puddle and run-off
is occurring, stop irrigating and allow the water to soak into the soil. It may
be necessary to repeat this cycle several times before proper irrigation is
complete. Irrigating only when turfgrasses show the first visual symptoms of
water need and then watering deep will encourage deep rooting. Early morning is
an ideal time to irrigate.

The above is an excerpt from:

OSU - Oklahoma Cooperative Extension document HLA-6420