Answers to watering questions

Published 11:29 pm Saturday, April 26, 2008

What a great week, with nearly every day last week in mid 80s hopefully all of you found sometime to go outside and enjoy the weather. However, these temperatures also mean you may have to begin supplementing water to your lawn and gardens. This is the time of the year when we begin receiving multiple calls about watering so let me answer several common questions now and save many of you a call in the coming weeks and months.

Q. How much is an inch of rain?

The average lawn or garden needs about an inch of rain per week. An inch of rain is equal to .62 gallons per square foot or 27,000 gallons per acre. That’s a lot of water. (There are 43,560 square feet in an acre.) Therefore, if you have a small garden at your house that is 10 feet by 10 feet (100 square feet) it needs 62 gallons of water to equal one inch of rain.

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To find out how much water you are putting out simply see how long it takes to fill up a one gallon container. If it takes about 20 seconds to fill up a gallon milk jug then you are putting out about 3 gallons per minute. Therefore it will take approximately 21 minutes to irrigate 100 square feet with 62 gallons of water.

Obviously it may be somewhat unpractical to water large yards of an acre or more without irrigation systems, therefore you may consider focusing on areas closest to the home or areas of high visibility. Remember this is one inch per week not every day. You may not see signs of stress yet, but with dry forecast in the coming months, this could become a problem.

Q. When is the best time to water?

Right now, during the spring transition of lawns the chances of seeing turf diseases is the highest. The two primary causes of lawn diseases are leaf wetness and over fertilization. Fertilizers with readily available water soluble nitrogen sources that stimulate excessive lush growth tend to create the greatest potential for lawn diseases. Therefore, it would be a better choice to select a fertilizer that has at least some of the nitrogen source in a water insoluble (WIN form). However if you suffer from brown patch every year perhaps you should wait a little longer in the spring to fertilize.

You cannot control rainfall or early morning dew in your lawn from a leaf wetness standpoint, but you can control the amount of water you supply to your landscape and when. The best time to water is from early morning until around 10:00 a.m. The worst time to water is around 7:00 p.m. or later. This prolongs leaf wetness and invites more potential for diseases into your lawn. So if you water after work in the afternoons and see trouble you may consider waking up a little earlier and enjoy the morning while watering before work.

Q. How often should I water?

Please do not over work yourself in hot temperatures. Watering every day is not recommended or necessary. I would recommend you water twice a week as opposed to a little every day. Providing a bi-weekly soaking is preferable over frequent light sprinklings because soaking the soil deeply encourages deeper roots develop, in turn, making the plant better able to withstand drought which we will likely have in the coming months.

David Carter is the director of the Adams County extension service. He can be reached at 601-445-8201.