Home & Garden: Keep your lawn healthy and bug free with watering audit | PostIndependent.com

Home & Garden: Keep your lawn healthy and bug free with watering audit

Curt Swift
Free Press Gardening Columnist

If you have learned anything from these hot days, it’s about the weak points of your underground sprinkler systems. When you look across your lawn and see off-colored areas, some of which may even appear dead, you know you have problems. It could be due to poor soil preparation, inadequate rooting depth, wrong nozzles on your sprinklers (quite common with impact sprinklers), nozzles that are improperly spaced or placed, tilted heads, or other problems.

You might also have a watering problem due to the irrigation clock. If your lawn is sloped, it is best to have multiple start times for the zones covering that slope. You want to ensure the length of run time is based on the point at which runoff occurs. If you are watering a sloping area for 20 minutes, yet water starts to run off within seven minutes of the zone being turned on, the maximum amount of time the zone should run at one time is seven minutes. To apply 20 minutes worth of water, you should use three or more start times with an hour between each run time. Break up the 20 minutes in sets based on the number of start times you decide on. Almost all clocks will allow you to do this; all you need to know is how.

If areas of your lawn dried out during these hot weeks, you would also most likely benefit from an inspection of your irrigation system to identify the problems so you have them fixed. I have been working with High Country Lawns to develop an irrigation audit program specifically designed to detail the problems you need to correct lawn and landscape irrigation problems. This audit will provide details regarding how much water you are applying based on the settings on your irrigation clock and how much should be applied based on the plant material in your landscape.

For example if you have a cool-season lawn of Kentucky bluegrass you should be applying 80 percent of the evapotranspiration rate (ET), the amount of water being release to the atmosphere through the plant and from the soil. If you have a xeric shrub planting, you can get by on 40 percent of ET. If you have not taken this information into account when you set the run times for each zone, you could be wasting water or not applying enough to maintain the health of your lawn or landscape. An incorrect setting on your controller can increase problems with shallow roots and reduce tolerance to drought. This also could increase root-rot problems, foliar diseases and insect attack. It all has to due with plant stress. The irrigation of trees and shrubs also needs to be taken into account when setting your irrigation clock. Lawns can be replaced a lot easier than established trees and shrubs.

Winter dieback and increased winter mite problems also are likely to be more of a problem when the sprinkler system is not working properly. HCL will provide you guidance on how to adjust your controller to improve rooting depth and make your lawn more drought tolerant to avoid the problems you are currently experiencing in this heat. I’m always amazed at how few people use or even understand how to use their controller’s start time and seasonal adjust percentage capability to improve water conservation while enhancing the appearance of the lawn. HCL can help set and explain these settings.

Whether you are a homeowner with a small lawn and landscape, or a commercial business owner with acres of turf, trees and shrubs, or other plant materials, we can do an audit and help you reduce your water use and improve the health and condition of your lawn and landscaped areas. Give Annika a call at High Country Lawns — 970-245-0875 — to schedule your audit and get problems corrected. Your lawn and landscape will appreciate the help in keeping it healthy and bug free.

GJ Free Press columnist Dr. Curtis E. Swift is a retired horticulture agent with the Colorado State University Extension. Reach him at Curtis.Swift@alumni.colostate.edu, 970-778-7866 or check out his blog at http://SwiftsGardeningBlog.blogspot.com. He owns Swift Horticultural Consulting and High Altitude Lavender.

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