Spring is in the air. Now is the time to start considering how to 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. If this will be another drought year, reducing water waste with proper irrigation is a must.
Harlan Horst, vice president of Greenlawn Sod Co. Inc., said that for mountain communities, bluegrass is the best grass, year-in, year-out. Research has shown that bluegrass, even though the media have given it a "bad rap," is very drought tolerant even with minimal amounts of water, whether it be sprinkler systems or rain showers. Tall fescue is a great choice for the mountain communities, as well; however, care must be taken not to over water it.
"The key to survival of the drought is proper soil preparation and properly designed and installed irrigation systems," Horst 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 of a soil probe or shovel will 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 water efficiency.
A properly designed and installed sprinkler system can reduce water use by up to 20 percent.
"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 after the first complete soaking of your lawn this spring. To save water, aerate 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 allows for the best use of water, oxygen and nutrients to the roots of your turf and is a service available through many lawn maintenance providers.
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 turf color and growth. Lawn clippings contain nitrogen and other nutrients, and when returned to the lawn, promote growth. Consult the Cooperative Extension Office with questions on nitrogen and balanced fertilizer applications for your particular turf grass species.