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Watering Lawns During The Summer

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Many homeowners wonder whether they should regularly water their dry lawns during a drought or essentially leave them alone. A Purdue Extension turfgrass specialist says each option has its pros and cons.

During a dry season, many lawns will show initial symptoms of drought stress, Aaron Patton said. As grass loses water, its leaves become less rigid and wilt; in this stage, grass stays flat after it is stepped on rather than “bouncing back.”

The most telltale signs of drought stress, however, are the crunchy tan or brown leaves of grass that has entered dormancy; the plant is still alive, but the leaves dry up and die. This helps the plant conserve water and survive a drought.

Drought stress is most noticeable on slopes and lawns established on shallow or poor soil, Patton said.

“In order to keep your lawn green during hot and dry periods, at least 1 inch of water will need to be applied weekly,” Patton said. “However, you can keep your lawn alive with far less water.”

Homeowners can water regularly enough to avoid drought stress altogether, or they can let their lawn go dormant and water only occasionally to help it survive.

Some of the advantages and disadvantages of each option:

Watering to keep lawn green

“Water turf two to three times weekly – deeply, a good soaking, so you don’t have to water daily,” Patton said. Watering in the early-morning hours is most effective; watering in the evening could encourage disease or pests.

* Advantages: Turf will stay green, aesthetically pleasing and actively growing; ground remains soft so it can be used for recreation; deep soaking will foster deep roots, which will help plants better survive a prolonged drought.

* Disadvantages: Higher water bill for those with city water; some increased risk of turf disease.

Letting turf go dormant

“Once the lawn turns brown and goes dormant, we can’t tell if a lawn is dying unless we water and wait to see the response,” Patton said. “That is why we advise to water once every two weeks with one-half inch of water once the turf goes dormant to keep plant crowns hydrated during drought. This amount of water will not green up the turf, but it will increase long-term survival during long dry spells.”

* Advantages: Avoid irrigation costs; most turf species are drought-tolerant and will survive typical Indiana droughts.

* Disadvantages: Difficult to tell when turf is getting too dry and needs water to stay alive; lawn is brown and has poor aesthetics; hard soil makes turf less usable for recreation; turf is more susceptible to injury and will not recover until rain returns; some thinning and turf death can occur if there is no rain for 4-6 weeks and no irrigation is applied.

Patton emphasized that when lawns are dry, it is important to stay off them. Mowers and other heavy equipment can cause substantial damage to vulnerable, stressed grass. Once rains return, the turf will begin to recover and grow new leaves within two weeks.

How to water plants in the Summer

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To prevent your plants hanging their heads in summer, they need plenty of water. But how much, how often, water from above or below? Here you find some smart and helpful facts for watering your plants.

Rule no. 1: Keep evenly moist

Most plants depend on even moisture. However, slight drying out before watering promotes root growth of the plants.

Rule no. 2: Water more seldom but then thoroughly

In the flower bed, one to two watering sessions per week are usually sufficient: better to water more seldom but with plenty of water rather than a little water often.

Rule no. 3: Water late in the evening or early in the morning

When you water cooled soil in the evening or night then less water evaporates than as on hot soil during the day. And the plants can sufficiently supply themselves with water before the next day’s heat.

Rule no. 4: Keep leaves dry

Wet leaves become diseased leaves. Kept wet overnight, leaf-mould diseases may result. Leaves that are made wet in the sun develop slight burn marks (burning glass effect of the water droplets).

Requirement-suited watering means that the water must sufficiently reach the roots. Too-low water quantities often only cover the upper soil centimetres – or don’t even reach them at all, e.g. when there is a mulch covering of the soil and too little irrigation. Requirement-suited watering also means that crop plants are particularly dependent upon evenly moist soil in the time until their crops are ripe for harvesting (examples: the forming of roots and corms [carrots, potatoes], leaves [basil, field salad], heads [cauliflower, lettuce], husks [beans] or fruit [tomatoes, fruit]).

Rule no. 5: Give the right water quantity

Rule no. 6: Give larger water quantities in parts

Water needs a moment to seep into the soil. Before precious water in the bed flows away unused, it’s better to water repeatedly in parts.

Rule no. 7: Water with a target but distribute

Always watering at only one root point leads to one-sided root growth and thereby to poorer nutrient absorption in the soil. Therefore, always water around the plant and distribute in the entire irrigation area.

Rule no. 8: Irrigate in a way that saves water

Water as much as necessary and as little as possible. This is simplified with an automatic irrigation system with moisture sensor – in the bed, on the balcony and on the lawn.

Rule no. 9: Avoid waterlogging

Waterlogging suppresses the breathing air of the roots out of the soil – the root cells drown without oxygen.

Rule no. 10: Use quality, clay-rich soil

Plant soil rich in clay minerals has better expanding properties and can therefore hold soil in the water better and in a more even way. In wet summers and in winter, ensure water drainage to prevent waterlogging.