Irrigation system reduces water usage

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Spring is in the air. Now is the time to start considering how you can maintain a healthy, water-wise lawn.

According to Xeriscape Colorado Inc., an estimated 45 percent of residential water used in Colorado is applied to our landscapes. As we wonder whether this will be another drought year, reducing water-waste with proper irrigation is a must.

Harlan Horst, vice president of Greenlawn Sod Company, believes that for mountain communities, bluegrass is the best grass, year-in and year-out. Research has shown that bluegrass, even though the press has given it a 'bad rap', is very drought-tolerant even with minimal amounts of water applied, whether it be sprinkler system or rain showers. Tall fescue is a great choice for the mountain communities as well; however, care must be taken to not overwater it.

"The key to survival of the drought is proper soil preparation and properly designed and installed irrigation systems," Horse said.

He suggests that proper soil preparation must include 3 to 5 cubic yards of high organic compost per 1,000 square feet, tilled into the soil to a depth of 4 to 6 inches.

Many factors influence watering requirements, including lawn type, weather and sun exposure. When watering, apply enough water to moisten as much of the root zone as possible. Use a soil probe or shovel to determine the rooting depth of your lawn and soil moisture conditions.

The most efficient time to water is late evening to early morning, (10 p.m. to 6 a.m.) Less wind, cooler air and higher humidity at these times result in optimal distribution patterns and complete water efficiency to the plants. A properly designed and installed sprinkler system can save up to 20 percent of water use.

"A properly designed and operating sprinkler system will provide uniform water in the correct amounts if monitored biweekly," Horst said. "Plants are 100 percent efficient in their use of water. Therefore, sprinkler system monitoring, maintenance and early repair are a must to a water-wise lawn. Proper watering promotes a deeply rooted, healthier landscape."

Aeration should be done following the first complete soaking of your lawn this spring.

To save water, aerify the lawn after the soil thaws and has firmed up. This process removes plugs of thatch and soil 2 inches long and deposits them on the lawn. Aeration, available through many lawn-maintenance providers, allows for the best utilization of water, oxygen and nutrients to the roots of turf.

Water-wise turf management suggests using a sharp mower blade to trim your turf to a height of 2 to 3 inches. Mow frequently enough that no more that one-third of the grass blade is removed.

Nitrogen is the most important nutrient for promoting healthy green turf color and growth. Lawn clippings contain nitrogen and other nutrients, and when returned to the lawn, promote grass growth. Consult the Colorado State Cooperative Extension Office for suggested nitrogen and balanced fertilizer applications for your particular trufgrass species.

Denise Hitchcock is a Master Gardener through the Colorado State University Cooperative Extension office in Routt County. Questions? Call 879-0825 or e-mail gardeners@co.routt.co.us.

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