Giving Your Lawn Tough Love?

In the spring, don’t spoil
your lawn
In the spring, don’t spoil your lawn.

Kids who are spoiled keep asking for more. And turf grass that is spoiled by over-watering will also ask for more. Just like child psychologists will tell you to avoid overindulging your child, turf scientists will tell you to avoid spoiling your lawn with too much water – especially in the spring.

Whether we’re dealing with our kids or our lawns, good science is good science.

The scientists at Colorado State University (CSU) tell us that it’s only in the springtime that grass grows its feeder roots. Later on, it will grow more grass blades and in the fall, it will store nutrients for the winter. Only in the spring, however, will it push out those roots that capture water all season long.

If we spoil the lawn with too much water in the spring, those roots will remain shallow in the top inch or so of the soil. Shallow roots dry out sooner, the grass will stress and its brown spots will beg for water.

On the other hand, if that top area of soil is allowed to dry out while the roots are in growth mode, the roots will grow deeper in search of moisture. By encouraging those water-seeking roots to grow deep, we help develop a more healthy and water-wise lawn. In the heat of July, the deep-rooted lawn will be less stressed and require less water. Like a mature person who can now appreciate a little tough love as a child, the lawn will be grateful that it wasn’t spoiled during its early growth.

Tips to promote spring root growth
• If there is a good spring rain every 7-10 days, don’t water.
• As the days get warmer and especially, if there is wind, increase watering to about every 5 to 7 days.
• If there is no precipitation, it is OK to water. Test soil moisture first by probing the lawn with a screwdriver. If it is hard to push the screwdriver into the soil, that indicates it’s time to water.
Exception: Pay special attention to south-facing slopes which take a beating from the sun and can have winter kill. Check these areas frequently and water them when they become dry.

Cycle and soak
• If you usually water an area of lawn about 15 minutes, for example, then don’t apply all the water within one 15-minute timeframe. Watering all at once creates run-off and wasted water your lawn won’t get to use.
• Instead, break the watering time into three intervals so that the water runs for about 5 minutes and then take a break. This break gives the water time to soak into the soil.
• It is easy to schedule these cycle and soak intervals with the timer on your sprinkler system.

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