As water increasingly becomes a scarce resource, conservation and yard management play a more important role in a yard care program. The moisture requirements of a lawn can vary depending on grass species, soil texture, climate and desired level of aesthetics and maintenance.
Turf generally needs about one inch of water a week during the growing season to stay green and actively growing. Drought resistant varieties of cool season grasses are available and many warm season grasses can survive with much less than one inch of water per week.
As a rule, the healthiest turf is on the thirsty side which encourages root growth as they seek moisture deeper in the ground. Hydration is mainly obtained through rain but can be supplemented with lawn sprinklers or an irrigation system.
Domestic water supply comes from a public source for a price, or a well on your property for free. Recently, moisture supply has been of great concern, with many municipalities imposing water restrictions during times of drought.
In extreme cases a yard may have to 'brown out' and go dormant until the rains return. Our expectations of what a healthy yard should look like may need to change in the coming years as water becomes more of a scarcity.
A prudent lawn care program will help a lawn get through a drought. A yard can be watered with a moveable sprinkler or an underground irrigation system.
In either case, they require spray overlap for even coverage. Typical lawn sprinklers are inexpensive and must be moved throughout the yard.
Automatic sprinkler systems provide excellent coverage and if used properly, is the most efficient form of supplemental watering. They run on a computerized time-clock that is fully customizable to individual needs.
Hydration should be applied deep and infrequently to simulate natural weather patterns. Long intervals between watering encourage the grass to develop deep, strong root systems which results in increased drought tolerance.
Shallow and frequent hydration leads to shallow-rooted grass and a weaker overall plant. One or two deep hydrations per week are better than watering a little every day.
The ideal time to hydrate the grass is in the hours between 3:00 AM and 6:00 AM. If this can't be done, hydrate as early as possible before the heat of the day, or even in the evening.
Watering at night should be a last resort, because this can lead to conditions which promote disease. Watering in the middle of the day will cool the turf, but most of the moisture will be lost to evaporation.
To conserve water, use drought resistant grass varieties or native species and mow high for increased moisture reserves in the leaf blade and roots.
You can also apply fertilizers or pesticides prior to rainfall and keep thatch under control to ensure water penetration. Use a rain gauge to help determine how much water is needed.
Fall yard care for cool season grasses entails ensuring that lawns receive enough fall water to carry them through the long winter. Don't think that because the temperatures outside are no longer high, you can forget about watering in the autumn.
Another fall yard care tip that applies specifically to the maintenance of cool season grasses is fertilization. Apply 1 pound of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet of lawn.
You can also purchase a product that has a low middle number for NPK. Conversely, avoid fertilizing a warm season turf grass in the autumn.
The latter undergoes a hardening-off process during this time of year to prepare it for winter. Fertilizing warm season grasses in the fall may interfere with that hardening-off process.
By over-seeding with annual winter ryegrass, homeowners whose yards are composed of warm season grasses can enjoy a green carpet during the winter, instead of having to look at a brown lawn. But when you buy the seed, be sure to ask for the annual, not the perennial.
Annual winter ryegrass will die back when summer's heat returns, turning over the lawn once again to the warm season grasses. The problem with the perennial winter ryegrass is that it doesn't go away, competing with your warm season grasses for sunlight, water and nutrients.