Jump start your lawn watering

We’ve had plenty of rain these past few days, and it’s easy to get lulled into complacency about the need to water the lawn. That’s what happened to my neighbor a couple of years ago when the rainy season in June gave way to drought in July.

Busy with work, he lost track of watering for a few days, and then discovered his lawn was turning brown. Large sections of the lawn had dried into light brown patches of thatch. Bald spots emerged, and newly planted areas looked dead. The only plants that seemed to thrive were the weeds, especially those horrid pointy-leafed lettuce weeds dotting the lawn.

In a mild panic, my neighbor armed himself with three different sprinklers to water his lawn. He had a rotating sprinkler, another one that went back and forth and a garden hose gushing out water into the bald spots. However, he made two big rookie errors. He watered in the early afternoon when much of the water evaporated. I could actually see the steam rise, instead of nourishing the lawn. Also, he had the hose pressure set so high, that gallons of water ran down the driveway into the sewer instead of into the lawn.

Fortunately, the local police didn’t spot him watering outside of the town restriction times.  Unfortunately, his lawn deteriorated considerably that year. Here are a few ideas to avoid these mistakes.

Town Watering Restrictions

In Orland Park, New Lenox and Mokena, watering is allowed from 7 to 11 a.m. and 7 to 11 p.m. on an odd/even address basis. Frankfort allows watering from 7 to 10 a.m. and 7 to 10 p.m., also on an odd/even address basis. Given busy schedules and limited resources, get the most bang out of your watering buck with these tips from experts.

When to Water

Although local townships allow watering in the evenings, watering accomplishes the most results in early morning. At this time of day, water pressure is high, the temperature is still cool, evaporation is low and seepage into the soil is optimized. Midday watering wastes a lot of water because the sun bakes the ground hard resulting in excessive runoff into the sewers. Avoid watering the lawn at night because the grass holds too much moisture, often promoting lawn diseases.

Although it is tempting to water when summer heat sets in, lawns benefit from experiencing mild drought stress.  This promotes plant rooting and heartiness. When you notice foot printing, or footprints remaining on the lawn after you walk across it, start watering.

For detailed information on precise watering guidelines, see http://extension.illinois.edu/lawntalk/planting/watering_guidelines_home_lawns.cfm

How Much to Water

In general, water the lawn evenly for an hour or so. Most lawns benefit more from a good soaking once or twice a week than a light sprinkling on a daily basis. Exceptions to this general rule are newly seeded or sodded lawns where the surfaces needs to stay moist to promote growth. Visit https://www.thespruce.com/best-sprinklers-4153534 for tips on buying the best sprinkler systems.

Be proactive. Don’t be like my neighbor. Start watering early in the summer; don’t wait for lawn damage to set in.

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