IRRIGATION Part 1

There is only one reason for the application of water on turf and other planted areas – to aid in the continual vigor of the turf and plants which result in a pleasing visual scene.

But the application of water on landscaped areas is not always as easy as it may initially seem. The ultimate condition of soil in which the turf and plants grow must have the proper balance of air, water, and soil particles. When this balance is not achieved or maintained, burning or smothering may result, causing damage to the turf and plants. That is why it is important to understand a few basic principles of how your irrigation system and landscape work together.

IRRIGATION SCHEDULING

When the installation of your irrigation system was completed, the controller of your system was programmed to deliver the amount of water a new landscape needs to properly establish itself. Two or three weeks after installation, you can begin to adjust the controller to deliver only the amount of water your landscape needs to maintain itself. Too much water is just as harmful to your landscape as too little water.

To get the most out of irrigation water, you need to constantly assess just how much water is needed and run the system to deliver proper amounts. For instance, within a given week, if Mother Nature is so kind to deliver the amount of free water to your landscape that you would normally apply through your irrigation system, do not allow your system to operate. Simply by-pass the operating times on your controller to prevent overwatering.

There are several ways, from simple to quite complex, that watering frequencies and amounts can be established. The appearance of grass can be used as a guide to when to water. Footprints that remain visible on the grass for several minutes after walking on it, loss of leaf luster, wilting appearance of shrubs and small trees, and a blue-grey appearance of the turf indicate a need for water. Irrigating shortly after these conditions are noticed will lead to rapid improvement to turf quality. If the water stress proceeds to the point where the leaves turn brown, it can take days or even weeks of irrigation to return the turf to the quality it had before it became stressed.

Soils act as a reservoir for storing and supplying water for turf use. A high percentage of turf roots are in upper 2 to 3 inches of soil; however, effective rooting and corresponding water extraction also occur at deeper soil depths. Because of better aeration, grass normally roots much deeper in sands and loams than in clay soils. Consequently, turf grown on a good, sandy loam soil does not require irrigation as frequently as that grown on a heavy clay soil. With heavy clay soils, the tendency is to overwater continuously, causing a shallow-rooted turf that is difficult to manage.

Estimating critical soil moisture amounts to use as a guide on when to irrigate can be done by probing the soil with a screwdriver, heavy wire, or similar simple probe. Usually, when a probe easily penetrates the soil to 3 to 4 inches, enough water is available to carry the grass for about a day, depending, of course, on the rate the water dissipates from the soil.

Irrigation scheduling needs to take into account whether an area is composed of heavy clay, is compacted, or is steeply sloped. Cyclic irrigation, or repeated, short applications of water throughout the day is effective to minimize runoff on slopes and heavy soils. Cyclic watering, especially with an automatic irrigation system, can be quite helpful in reducing runoff and preventing ponding. Other ways to prevent water loss is by aerating and dethatching. Aeration holes catch and hold water until it can infiltrate the soil. Breaking the thatch barrier by the use of a dethatching rake or dethatching machine will speed water movement into the soil.

If your soil is sandy, you can probably expect to water every 3 days. On clay soil, watering every other day seems to be the norm.

 

Look for part 2 in a few days

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Benefits of a Healthy Lawn

One of the neighborhood bullies used to tell the rest of us kids to, “Go play in the street!” Have you played in the street lately? Even this time of year, driving around on Atlanta’s blacktops helps us to appreciate the cooling properties of our lawns. Have you noticed the drop in temperature when you turn into you residential neighborhood? Don’t think for a moment that this is an accident. The lawns of just 8 average houses have the same cooling effect as about 70 tons of air conditioning. Trees, shrubs and lawn areas around homes can reduce air temperatures from 7 to 14 degrees. One estimate suggests that planting lawns and other landscape vegetation could reduce total U.S. air conditioning energy requirements by 25 percent.

Another benefit of a healthy lawn is water absorption. As our society grows, so does the amount of paved and other impervious surfaces. Large amounts of poor quality storm runoff are channeled into storm drains which dump directly into our streams, rivers and lakes. A healthy dense lawn prevents all but the most intense rainfall from running off into our drinking water supply. Dense grass shoots, stems and leaves of an actively growing, healthy lawn slows down runoff reducing erosion and traps and removes pollutants from water moving down through the soil. This filtering effect actually improves water quality as it moves through the turfgrass root zone.

While your lawn is busy cooling your neighborhood and filtering your drinking water, it is also quietly absorbing cardon dioxide from the air and replacing it with fresh healthy oxygen! A healthy turf area just 50-feet by 50-feet absorbs carbon dioxide, ozone, hydrogen fluoride, sulfur dioxide and releases enough oxygen to meet the needs of a family of four.

Strict conservationists berate the lowly lawn as an expensive consumer of natural resources. Your lawn is actually a natural provider for our ecosystem. Healthy, dense lawns absorb rainfall, prevents runoff and erosion of our precious top soil, keeps chemicals from entering our streams and rivers, absorbs co2, releases O2 and traps much of the estimated 12 million tons of dust and dirt released into the US atmosphere annually. Your lawn provides cooler summer places for your children to play. In combination with other landscape plants your lawn contributes to reductions in noise levels. Your landscape creates feelings of serenity, privacy, thoughtfulness or happiness.

You see our trucks every week. If you sometimes wonder why, remember this. While our guys are properly mowing, trimming and feeding your lawn it is repaying you in ways that money can’t buy.

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