Extension shares outdoor water management techniques

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Keeping lawns in good shape takes most of summer water use

As much as 80 percent of the water used around the home during the summer is for outside uses, according to Kelly McGowan, horticulture educator, University of Missouri Extension.

"Watering the lawn is one of the main outside uses of water," McGowan said. "But, proper water management for lawns may reduce the amount of water usage plus promote the health of the turf."

Of course, watering the lawn is an individual choice. Every homeowner has a standard for how attractive they want their lawn to look.

"Most of the hardy cool season lawn grass species, such as the tall turf fescues, will tolerate drought by going dormant during the summer months and rebounding in the fall when temperatures cool and rain is more abundant," McGowan said.

However, during extreme drought conditions, turf grasses can be killed if periodic deep watering is not applied to the turf.

Purple-blue wilting leaves, footprints that stay, and folded or rolled leaves are signs that lawns should be thoroughly watered if grasses are to remain green and actively growing. According to McGowan, when the soil lacks moisture, grass blades first turn bluish purple, indicating plant wilt.

"Watering thoroughly will encourage deeper root systems and be less stressful on the plant. Shallow watering will encourage the germination of annual weeds such as crabgrass or foxtail. Frequent watering may also encourage diseases," McGowan said.

The best way to determine whether the correct amount of water is being applied to the lawn is to place small containers randomly around the lawn and check the amount of water collected.

According to McGowan, this technique allows the gardener to also determine how evenly the water application is being applied, as well as the total amount.

"Another technique during hot summer months that reduces grass stress and the need for watering is to mow the lawn taller. Taller grass has deeper roots and a lower tendency to wilt. Also taller grass provides shading of the soil surface and reduces lethal temperatures near the base of the grass plant," McGowan said.

For more information, people may contact the Barry County Extension office at 417-847-3161.