Watering is essential to life—too little water and we die, too much and we drown. The same is true of the grass in our lawns. Water makes up 70 to 80% of the weight of our lawn grasses and the clippings alone are nearly 90% water. While most people are concerned about not watering their lawns enough, the fact is that more lawns are damaged or destroyed by over-watering.
WHEN TO WATER NEW TURFGRASS SOD
Newly installed sod has very important watering needs. Proper watering new sod immediately after installation will ensure the turf gets established, and it will also have an impact on how well the lawn continues to flourish for years to come.
Begin watering new sod within a half hour after it is laid on the soil. Apply at least 1 inch of water so that the soil beneath the turf is very wet. Ideally, the soil 3 to 4 inches below the surface should be moist.
Always water in the morning. Typically starting at 5:00 a.m. (that’s of course if you have an irrigation system) is a good starting time. The time you start ultimately determines when your system turns off. This can have an effect on your water pressure inside your home (shower, toilet, etc.) so ideally, you want to program your clock to finish right before your household will be utilizing the water indoors. Benefits: 1) Virtually no water loss from the sun’s evaporation, 2) watering at night or right before can set your lawn up for fungus invitation (damp/dark), 3) turf is already cool so there is not a shock from cool water on a lawn that has been baking all day in 90 degrees weather.
HOW TO WATER NEW TURFGRASS SOD
Proper watering techniques are a critical aspect of lawn watering, equal in importance are when to water, and how much to water. Here are several key factors to proper technique:
- AVOID HAND SPRINKLING because it cannot provide the necessary uniformity as most people do not have the patience, time or “eye” to adequately measure what is being applied across large areas. The only possible exception to this guideline would be the need to syringe the surface of the grass to cool it, or to provide additional water near buildings or other heat-reflecting surfaces.
Understand the advantages of different sprinkler designs, because each type has its advantages and disadvantages and its proper use will be determined by the type of sprinkler you select.
- In-Ground Systems require professional design and installation and they require routine adjustments and regular maintenance to be most effective and efficient. The greatest mistake made with most in-ground systems is the “set it and forget it” philosophy that fails to account for the changing seasonal water requirements or even allowing the system to operate during or following a multi-inch rain storm.
Another frequent problem is when heads get out of alignment and apply water to the sidewalk, street or house-siding, rather than to the lawn.
- Hose-End Sprinklers range in complexity, cost, and durability, but are highly portable and can provide uniform and consistent coverage when properly placed on the yard and adequately maintained.
Sprinklers that do not throw the water high into the air are usually more efficient because prevailing winds are less disruptive of distribution patterns, evaporation loss is reduced and trees, shrubs, and other plants do not block the pattern (or are very noticeable if they do).
Several times during the growing/watering season, routine maintenance to check for blocked outlets, leaking or missing gaskets or misaligned sprinkler heads is important, regardless of the sprinkler design.
WATERING DIFFICULT AREAS
Difficult areas in watering new sod such as slopes, under trees, and in complete shade require some special attention to achieve maximum benefit and a beautiful lawn.
Slopes: Runoff may occur on slopes before the soil is adequately moist. To conserve water and ensure adequate soak-in, turn off the water when runoff begins, wait for 30-minutes to an hour and restart the watering on the same area, repeating this start and stop process, until proper soil moisture is achieved.
Areas Under and Near Trees: You need to know the water requirements for the specific trees, as well as for the grass. Despite having deep “anchor” roots, trees take up moisture and nutrients from the top six inches of soil…the same area as the grass. Trees and turf will compete for water. Watering sufficiently for the grass may over-water some varieties of trees and under-water others. A common solution is to not plant grass under the drip-line of trees, but rather use that area for perennial ground-covers, flower beds or mulch beds.
Areas in Complete Shade: Where there are trees, there is also shade. Shade can be a good thing to help sod from drying up too quickly or from getting burned, although to much shade will inhibit the growth of the sod, keeping it from getting its much-needed sunlight. Sod in shaded areas may have a tendency to hold moisture because of the lack of air flow and sunlight which can also rot and kill sod. Water heavily initially (first watering), and then water as needed using the moisture test by pulling up a corner of the sod and checking how wet the soil is below. The soil should be moist 1-2″ below the sod. With all that said, sod can perform very well in the shade if the extra time is taken in monitoring the correct water consumption.
MEASURING WATERING UNIFORMITY
Watering uniformity can be accomplished with a very simple and inexpensive method that uses only 4 to 6 flat-bottomed, straight-sided cans (tuna fish, cat food, etc.), a ruler
and a watch.
FOLLOW THESE STEPS:
- Arrange the cans at random distances away from any sprinkler, but all within the area you assume is being covered.
- Run the sprinkler for a specific amount of time, say a half-hour OR run the water until a specific amount of water is in at least one can, say 1/2 an inch.
- Measure the amount of water in each can, checking for uniformity. Some variation is expected, but a difference of 10 percent or more between any two cans must be addressed by replacing or adjusting the sprinkler or relocating the system.
This measuring method should be used across an entire lawn that has an in-ground irrigation system to assure maximum coverage and uniformity.
When watering turf, “true head to head coverage” should occur from one irrigation head to another to ensure consistency of watering pattern. “True head to head coverage” means the water from one sprinkler goes all the way to the next sprinkler. As the water releases from the sprinkler the farther the water goes the less effective the water is. This also depends on the type of irrigation system you have, the distance of each sprinkler head, and the pressure of the water. All of these things can play a factor. Diagram C above shows the correct placement of “head to head” coverage.
Diagram: In the first example the sprinklers are barely overlapping, which looks similar to the spacing of the sprinklers when I walked your property today. The middle 3 cups in the first example would not get enough water and if you water long enough to fill those cups up, then the cups closer to the sprinklers would be to wet. In example C the grass is receiving the same amount of water throughout.
WATERING NEW SOD: NEEDS AND APPLICATION
The amount of water your lawn requires and receives will determine its overall health, beauty, and ability to withstand use and drought.
Keep in mind that too much water can ruin a lawn, just as fast, as too little. One inch a week is the standard water requirement established for most lawns; however, this will vary between different turf species and even among cultivars within a species. There will also be varying water requirements for seasonal changes and still more differences brought about because of different soil types.
Look at your lawn to determine its water needs. Grass in need of water will have a grey-blue cast to it, rather than a blue-green or green color. Also, footprints will still appear after a half-hour or more on a lawn in need of water, while on a well-watered lawn, footprints will completely disappear within minutes. Grass overwatered will have a yellowish tint to it and will need to dry out.
Use a soil probe, such as a screwdriver or large spike to determine how dry your lawn is. If the probe can be pushed into the soil easily, it’s probably still moist, but if it takes a lot of pressure to push in, it’s time to water.
Verify watering quantities with the same measuring can method described inside, except you will want to note the time it takes for the cans to collect a specific amount of water. For example, if 1/4 an inch collects in 30 minutes, you can easily calculate that it will take one hour to apply 1/2 inch of water or two hours to apply 1 inch.
Water timers can help provide consistency and even be programmed or set to turn-off when no one is awake or at home. Some timers measure just the amount of time water is flowing through the device and you have to know or calculate how long to set the timer for (see item above). Other units measure the number of gallons of water flowing through it. Knowing that 600 gallons per 1,000 square feet equals one-inch of water will help you calculate the timer settings your lawn will require.
Highlights to Remember!
- Low areas in your yard may not need as much water over time because those specific areas may retain the runoff water from the rest of the yard.
- Areas underneath trees will need less water than sunny areas but will need a consistent amount due to the grass competing with the large tree roots that steal the ground’s nutrients from the Sod.
- As grass becomes rooted, you will once again need to change the amount of water the area receives.
- Changes in temperature also will require an update of your water schedule as more evaporation happens during the hotter temperatures.
- At the end of the day, you see the status of your lawn on a day to day basis and can only ensure a good preparation and installation of sod, which is why we do not warranty Sod.
- Make sure you are monitoring your yard consistently.
- Making sure your irrigation is operating at a true “head to head coverage”