Keeping your lawn alive

Published 5:24 pm Friday, April 21, 2017

By Ty Torrance

We have entered a significant dry period and I know you are doing your best to your lawn alive. The amount of water and frequency of watering to supplement your grass will have lasting effects for the year. Many factors influence the amount and frequency of water centipedegrass needs. Soil type, fertility level, rain frequency, temperature, wind and humidity all affect the amount of water needed. Consequently, a high-level fertilization program and hot, windy days tend to increase the demand for water, while low level fertilization and cool, cloudy days tend to decrease the demand for water.

Wilt is a physiological defense mechanism of the turfgrass plant. Some moisture stress actually triggers the plant to initiate rooting, allowing the turfgrass to explore a larger soil surface area for water reserves. Frequent (daily) irrigation of turfgrass produces short roots incapable of tolerating periodic stresses. The key to good moisture management is finding the balance between some wilt and too much wilt. Wilted grasses appear dark and dull, the leaf blades begin to fold or roll, and footprints remain after walking over the area when the grass is under water stress. Actually observing some wilt, or moisture stress, within the lawn prior to irrigating can improve the sustainability of the turf and conserve water. Established centipedegrass only needs 1 inch of water per week. Irrigation should be applied to supplement rainfall as needed.

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Apply enough water to wet the soil to a depth of 5 to 7 inches. This is usually equivalent to 1 inch of water. Do not apply water until runoff occurs. If water is being applied faster than the soil can absorb it, turn the irrigation off and allow the existing moisture to move into the soil, then apply the remaining irrigation to achieve 1 inch.

Prior to sunrise is the best time to water because there is less wind and lower temperature. Research indicates water loss at night through evaporation may be 50 percent less than during midday irrigation. When irrigating to supplement rainfall it is important to limit the time the turf is wet.  Turf that stays too wet will begin to develop disease.  Studies suggest that irrigating after dew develops will not increase disease problems because the turf is already wet from the dew. However, irrigating prior to dew formation or after the dew has dried from the morning sun and/or wind extends the period of turf moisture and increases disease.

If you have any questions, please call the Extension Office at (229-248-3033). Information from UGA Turf Publication.