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Proper watering practices for your lawn.

By Richard Carter, M.C.L.P.

The old saying is: "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure." Well, that holds true when it comes to watering your lawn throughout the growing season as well.

Let's face it most of us want a nice thick, healthy lawn. It provides us with many benefits that can seem almost too good to be true at times. Did you know that grass is estimated to trap some 12 million tons of dust and dirt from the air annually? Have you heard that there are 8 million grass plants in an average 10,000 square foot lawn? And what about the fact that grass requires carbon dioxide to survive. In exchange, it replaces that carbon dioxide with oxygen. I can't think of a better reason to love your lawn!

In order for those little factories under our feet to continue their necessary work, they need to be cared for. One way we can lend them a hand is by following some proper watering practices described below.

Keep an eye open for wilting or drought stress. Here comes that ounce of prevention quote again. If you hope not to over water, once your lawn succumbs to drought stress, then monitor your grasses for signs of wilting. One sign is a blue-ish appearance throughout your once green lawn. Also, foot printing may occur. If, after you walk on your lawn, your footprints remain several minutes later, then this is another sign of wilting. Wilting will not cause permanent damage, however it may lead to drought stress.

Watering your lawn deeply and less frequently will help to avoid over watering later. Light, frequent watering encourages a shallow root system, and increases the chances that your lawn will go into drought stress. When you must water, the goal should be to water the grass roots. Not just the grass blades. A minimum depth of 4 to 6 is sufficient.

Most northern grass varieties require about 1 inch of water per week in order to prevent drought stress. There are some grass types that have a high drought tolerance, such as Tall Fescue and Fine Fescues. Kentucky Bluegrass, which is one of our most popular varieties and can be found mostly in sod, has a moderate level of drought hardiness. Other grasses, such as Perennial Ryegrass and Bentgrass, don't do as well under drought conditions.

Once your lawn goes into drought stress and summer dormancy, it is much more susceptible to unfavorable pest activity, diseases, and weed infestation. This can lead to areas of the lawn that may be hard to differentiate (to the untrained eye) between a dormant lawn, or damage occurring from insects and disease.

Proper watering practices prevent unnecessary harm to those little factories beneath our feet that are producing such great benefits for us all.