Proper Watering Techniques for Turfgrass Lawns
Proper watering techniques are a critical aspect of lawn watering, equal in importance to the issues of when to water and how much to water. Water is a valuable resource and should be used as efficiently as possible. Several key factors impact proper techniques.
Avoid hand sprinkling because it cannot provide the necessary uniformity. Most people do not have the patience, time or "eye" to adequately measure what is being applied across any large areas of lawn. The possible exceptions to this guideline would be the need to syringe the surface of the grass to cool it, or to provide additional water near buildings or other heat-reflecting surfaces.
Each type of sprinkler design has its advantages and disadvantages. Select the type of sprinkler that best fits your needs and budget.
In-ground Irrigation Systems
In-ground irrigation systems require professional design and installation. They also require routine adjustments and regular maintenance to be most effective and efficient.
A professional irrigation specialist will conduct a thorough system check-up as part of the spring start-up service.
The greatest mistake made with most in-ground systems is the "set it and forget it" philosophy. This fails to account for the changing seasonal water requirements to maximize turf growth.
A preset in-ground system without an automatic rain sensor shutoff could even operate during or following a multi-inch rain.
Another frequent problem is when in-ground sprinkler heads get out of alignment and apply water to the sidewalk, street or house-siding, rather than to the lawn.
Above-ground, Hose-end Sprinklers
Above-ground, hose-end sprinklers range in complexity, cost and durability, but are highly portable. They can work well when properly placed on the yard and adequately maintained.
Impulse sprinklers are designed to shoot a stream of water relatively close to the ground to minimize evaporation. They deliver water in a circular pattern. Many are adjustable from full circle to partial circle configurations.
Oscillating sprinklers deliver water in a rectangular pattern. They feature a long, hollow bar, perforated with holes, that moves from side-to-side gently distributing water across the full rectangular area. Some models can be adjusted to restrict the arm movement to irrigate a partial section of the full rectangle.
Most whirling sprinklers feature spinning arms with nozzles at the end. Each nozzle delivers a stream of water across either a circular or square pattern as the arms rotate.
An alternate whirling sprinkler design features spinning fan-like blades that channel water delivered from perforations in the base across a circular or square pattern.
Turret sprinklers feature an assortment of watering patterns that can range from full- to part-circle, to square or rectangular. They give you the flexibility to select the pattern to match the area you wish to irrigate and allow you to irrigate multiple area shapes with one sprinkler.
Spinning sprinklers are available in a variety of nozzle types to deliver water in a gentle mist, rather than a spray. They work well where low water pressure is an issue and to replace hand-watering for syringing.
Most of these above-ground sprinklers are available on an assortment of bases: stakes to stick into the ground, stationary to place on the lawn, or wheeled to pull from site to site.
Traveling sprinklers come in several types, but all will follow the path that you create across the lawn area to be irrigated. They work well for large open spaces. Most can follow curving, as well as straight paths. Most are designed with shutoffs that are automatically activated at the end of the path.
Select sprinklers and systems for uniformity of coverage across whatever area they are designed to water.
Sprinklers that do not throw the water high into the air usually are more efficient. The prevailing winds are less disruptive of distribution patterns, the potential for evaporation loss is reduced and there’s less chance for trees, shrubs and other plants to block the water pattern.
Either inexpensive hose-end sprinklers or in-ground irrigation systems can provide uniform coverage, but they can also be extremely variable and inconsistent in their coverage patterns. Verify watering uniformity when you first begin irrigation and as needed if dry or wet spots or other problems occur.
Whichever type of sprinkler design you select, observe your system in action to identify problems. Check for leaking pipes or hoses, blocked outlets, leaking or missing gaskets, or misaligned sprinkler heads. Plan on routine maintenance several times during the growing/watering season.
For maximum efficiency of in-ground systems, consider an irrigation audit conducted by a certified landscape irrigation auditor (CLIA).