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arrow08Tips to Save Water for your Lawn

City of Hays, KS > Public Announcements > Environmental > Water Conservation2 > WaterLawn >

arrow08City of Hays – Best Practices for Watering Your Lawn

Water is a limited resource in our area and using our water supply wisely not only saves you money on your bill, but it is the right thing to do. It is important to pay attention to weather forecasts and if rainfall is imminent for our area, it is a good practice to adjust your watering schedule accordingly. Also, it is unlawful to waste water in Hays. Make sure your sprinklers are adjusted correctly and are not causing an excessive runoff or water running down the street.

If you plan to utilize water outdoors, do note that the 2nd conservation tier of the City's water rate structure may have an effect on your monthly water bill. Residential customers who consume more than 1,000 cubic feet over their January, February, and March average will be charged the 2nd tier rate per 100 cubic feet.

The recommended approach for watering established lawns is to let the grass tell you when it needs water. Signs your lawn needs some additional moisture are a dull, blue-green color and imprinting. Imprinting is when the grass is pressed down when walked on but, instead of springing back up, it stays down and does not return to the upright position. Wait for signs of stress and then apply enough water to moisten the soil down to 6", using a long screwdriver or spade shovel to determine how deep you're watering. Simply push it into the ground and when you feel a change in resistance, you've hit dry soil. Slight water stress, especially in the spring, translates into better summer drought tolerance. Your turf's root system will be healthier and be better able to withstand the summer heat if you water 6-8" deep and less frequently. If your home is equipped with an automatic sprinkler system, it's a good idea to get to know your controller and become comfortable with adjusting it. The ideal time to use the automatic settings on your sprinkler system is when you'll be out of town. Otherwise, as a homeowner, you are the smartest irrigation controller and the best judge as to whether your lawn needs water.

Catch Can Test

The best way to maximize the efficiency of your sprinkler system and help determine your watering schedule is to gauge the amount of water you're actually putting on the lawn. Next time you're getting ready to water, set a few shallow, empty cans (tuna cans work well) in the areas you will water. Turn on your sprinklers. After the time is up, use a ruler to measure the amount of water in the can(s). Next, check the soil moisture depth using a long screwdriver or spade shovel. If the moisture isn't getting to a 6" depth, you can try cycling your sprinklers on and off, allowing adequate time between cycles to allow the water to percolate deeper into the soil. This will also help prevent runoff, especially on sloped areas. Your yard may also be suffering from excess thatch or soil compaction. Core aeration is a good way to deal with both of these issues. Core aerators are available for rent from several local retailers. For cool-season grass like fescue, you're shooting for - " in the catch cans twice a week. For warm-season grasses like buffalograss or bermudagrass, you're going for 1-1.5" every 14-17 days.

Sprinkler System Optimization

If you water your lawn with an underground sprinkler system, your system is most likely comprised of 3 types of sprinkler heads: pop-up fixed spray, rotary spray, or rotary nozzle. Your system should have matched precipitation rates per zone to ensure an even water distribution throughout the entire zone. You can often find manuals and application rates (in inches/hour) for your particular type of sprinkler heads by visiting the manufacturer's website. The recommendation charts below are based on the following assumptions:

  • Fixed Spray Heads: Average precipitation rate of 2.0"/hour
  • Rotary Spray Heads: Average precipitation rate of 1.0"/hour
  • Rotary Nozzle Spray Heads: Average precipitation rate of 0.90"/hour
  • Manual Sprinkler: Average precipitation rate of 1.5"/hour
  • Matched precipitation rate heads on entire zone

Warm Season Lawn (e.g. buffalograss, bermudagrass)

Warm-season turf grasses such as buffalo or bermuda require much less, if any, supplemental water to keep them lush and healthy. They are better suited to the climate and annual rainfalls in the Hays area than cool-season grass varieties.

Buffalo and Bermuda do best with one good, deep watering every 14-17 days. After watering, check for a 6-8" soil moisture depth using a long screwdriver or spade. The following table contains the City's watering recommendations for warm-season turf grasses. We recommend using the catch can test highlighted above and adjust times for your system accordingly.

Warm-season Watering (e.g. buffalo, bermuda) –
1" supplemental irrigation every 14-17 days

Minutes to water per zone, once every other week

 

Fixed
Spray

Rotary
Spray

Rotary
Nozzle

Manual Sprinkler

 

FixedSprayHeads

RotarySprayHeads

RotaryNozzleSprayHeads

ManualSprinkler

January - May

Water trees and shrubs as needed

June -September

30

60

67

40

October-December

Water trees and shrubs as needed

Cool Season Lawn (e.g. fescue)

If you have a cool-season lawn, such as fescue, the following table has the City's recommendations for optimizing your sprinkler system to be as efficient as possible while also providing a healthy stand of turf. We recommend using the catch can test highlighted above and adjust times for your particular system accordingly.

Cool-season Watering (e.g. Fescue) -
1" supplemental irrigation per week

Minutes to water per zone, twice per week.
Never water more than 3 days per week

 

Fixed
Spray

Rotary
Spray

Rotary
Nozzle

Manual Sprinkler

 

FixedSprayHeads

RotarySprayHeads

RotaryNozzleSprayHeads

ManualSprinkler

January - April

Water trees and shrubs as needed

May -September

15

30

33

19

October-December

Water trees and shrubs as needed

Other Tips

When using an automatic sprinkler system, get to know your sprinkler timer or controller and adjust your system according to seasonal weather conditions and your lawn's needs. Manuals are often available for free on the manufacturer's website.

The City recommends the utilization of a rainfall sensor and a soil moisture sensor on your sprinkler system. Investment in these sensors will pay for itself quickly in the savings you'll see on your water bill. A rainfall sensor suspends irrigation when rainfall is detected, and in conjunction with some smart irrigation controllers, will adjust your irrigation times depending on rainfall amounts. Soil moisture sensors can also be added to most existing systems. These are sensors placed in the ground and, if sufficient moisture is present for active plant growth, will suspend your sprinkler system from running until the turf needs it.

When using manual sprinklers, set a timer to remind you to move or shut off the sprinkler. There are also manual sprinkler timers available at local hardware stores that are a reasonably priced alternative to leaving the water on all night.

Mowing Tips

  • A taller lawn holds moisture better than a shorter lawn, translating into better resistance to the blistering summer heat. We recommend a 3" height.
  • Mow often enough to not remove more than 1/3 of the leaf blade. This might require mowing every 4-5 days in the spring, but only every other week in the heat of the summer.
  • If you miss a spring mowing, set the mower to its maximum height and mow. Give the grass a couple days to recover then mow at your normal height.

(Information courtesy of City of Hays and K-State/Ellis County Research and Extension)

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