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You Can Grow It: Watering your lawn wisely

Watering wisely is even more important now as we deal with drought, climate change, and a growing population.

BOISE, Idaho — They say the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence. But if you’re having issues keeping your lawn looking good on your side of the fence, it may be too much water, rather than not enough.

We get some tips from an expert on how to keep your lawn healthy. And he says watering wisely is even more important now as we deal with drought, climate change, and a growing population.

Keeping your lawn green and healthy in the summer heat requires water. But the biggest problem with most residential lawns isn’t the lack of water – it’s over-watering.

As we move into the hottest and driest period of the year, water is an issue, especially with the ongoing drought. Learning how to properly water your lawn using the right methods will not only save water, but it will be better for your lawn.

When the weather is hot and dry, you might be tempted to run your sprinklers a lot more, but that only encourages the grass to have shallow roots, which can lead to other problems with your lawn.

“The biggest issue that we’re seeing is that people don’t understand the amount of water to be putting down. They’re watering every single day, or in some cases, multiple times per day, which really is only appropriate if it’s brand new sod,” said Jos Zamzow with Zamzow’s Garden Centers.

So what’s the best way to water your lawn?

“What we want to do in southwest Idaho, and almost all the soil that we have, is to try to water deep and infrequently. It’s really... the grass does better if the surface of the ground gets a chance to dry out in between watering.”

So how often should you run your sprinklers?

“I would recommend that your system not water any more than three times per week. And if you notice that the grass starts to look dry, turn the time up on each day that you water. Don’t add another day.”

And what’s the right amount of water for your lawn?

“In the ideal world, this time of year, you’d be putting down an inch of water a couple of times a week, as opposed to people putting down a quarter of an inch of water every single day.”

Don’t just go by the length of time your sprinklers are on. It won’t tell you how much water your lawn is getting. But you can measure it.

“Water is not measured in time. And so, if they have a water gauge of some kind, or in some cases we’ve used tuna fish cans or what not... but put down in the lawn these gauges and run the system and actually measure how many inches of water you’re putting down.”

And if you’re seeing brown spots in your grass, it doesn’t always mean that it needs water.

“If the grass looks brown rather suddenly, it’s almost never water (issue).”

“What a lot of people don’t understand is the difference between a brown spot, and grass that looks wilted. And a wilted grass actually turns a kind of salty-blue color and kind of lays flat. And that’s really different from a brown spot. A brown spot is probably an indicator of something else.... an insect or a disease issue. And water is not going to help those things.”

Another good practice is to water earlier in the day.

“When you water, if it’s 100 degrees outside and you water, up to a third of that water evaporates before it even hits the ground, which is just wasteful and doesn’t really help the situation.”

Another helpful tip is to set your mower blade higher.

“That longer grass blade will shade the ground and help reduce the amount of evaporation, and also helps the plant deal with the heat better, if it’s got some length to the grass.”

“What we’ve seen is a huge uptick in the last few years in the need for people to apply fungicide to their lawn. And it’s 100 percent caused by improper watering... watering too frequently, keeping that ground moist all the time. It causes way more problems than it solves.”

A few tips to keep your lawn healthy, and save precious water resources at the same time.

Overwatering your lawn not only wastes water, but if the soil is always saturated, the grass roots can actually die. If you aren’t sure what’s causing your grass to turn yellow or brown, take a sample of the grass and the soil to a garden center. They can usually determine what the problem is.

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