Spring Watering and Mowing

 

Proper mowing practices

By far, mowing is the most time-consuming activity in taking care of a lawn. If done correctly, mowing can enhance the benefits that come from other cultural practices, such as watering and fertilizing. Here are a few tips to ensure a proper cut:

  • Mow when the lawn is dry.  This will reduce, if not prevent, leaving clumps of grass throughout the lawn.
  • Always keep mower blades sharp.  Dull mower blades tear turf grass, which results in a loss of moisture. After mowing, grab a couple of grass leaf blades and look at the cut. If the tips are uneven, the blade needs sharpening.
  • Remove no more than 1/3 of the grass blade. Turf grass will remain greener and use less water when removing less than 1/3 of the leaf blade. This may mean mowing twice a week instead of once a week.
  • Mow at a height of 2 ½ to 3 inches. The longer the leaf blade, the deeper the roots can go in the soil. Turf will use less water due to the cooling effect on the soil.
  • Alternate mowing directions. This will help the leaf blades to grow straight up and be more resistant to traffic and wear.
  • As the temperature increases, so should the mowing height. Springtime mowing is recommended to be at 1 ½”, but when the temperature gets into the 90s and 100s, 2 ½” - 3” is recommended. The longer grass will keep the soil from losing water to evaporation and protect the crown of the plant. Longer grass helps promote a deeper root system.

 

Watering

A common mistake is made far too often: setting the irrigation system to water every other day for 10 minutes during the early spring. When summer season arrives, the system is then adjusted to water every day. We then wonder why our lawns suffer from summer heat stress.

Here are some steps to get your lawn ready to face the summer heat:

  • Begin now.  While the temperatures are still cool, the soil is allowed to dry without causing heat stress to plants. Plants lose less water to evapotranspiration in the spring.
  • Water only when needed. Use the “bounce-back” test. If, after stepping on the lawn, the grass blades don’t bounce back, then the lawn needs water. Don’t make the mistake of setting automatic sprinklers to turn on every other day too early in the year. This discourages the roots to go deeper into the soil.
  • Know your water system. The question that gets asked the most is, “How much should I water?” Lawns need about 1” – 2 ½” of water per week, depending on the weather. Using straight-sided cans, measure the amount of water applied in 15 minutes. If the system reaches ½” in 15 minutes, then you should water for 30 minutes to 75 minutes per week.
  • Water deeply and infrequently. Avoid the temptation to water every day or even every other day when the lawn appears dry. Try adding more time to the duration and keep the same number of days between watering. Water should penetrate to just below the root zone per watering (you can check this with a shovel or screwdriver) to encourage roots to go deeper. If runoff occurs before reaching this level, stop watering. Allow the water to soak in for an hour, then run the cycle again.

By following the above steps, you can avoid the drought stress problems that occur in many lawns during the summer. Remember, the trick is to begin in the spring and not when the lawn is suffering from drought stress.

 

 

 

 


 



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