Drought-Restricted Watering Doesn't Have to Mean Dead Lawns

by Kay Ledbetter
11/2/2012

Lush, green lawns may not be possible during drought-restricted watering schedules, but sustaining and maintaining grass is something that can be done with proper management, according to a Texas A&M AgriLife Research expert.

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality estimated approximately 1,000 Texas public water systems imposed water restrictions during the 2011 drought, which frequently limit homeowners to a two-day-per-week watering schedule.

Jim Thomas, AgriLife Research senior research associate, and Leslie Keen, with Naiad Water in Conroe, worked with a study this summer to determine what such a schedule might do to a lawn's condition.

The study at the Texas A&M Turfgrass Field Lab in College Station compared irrigation timing and sprinkler-head types in an effort to provide guidelines for meeting the two-day-per-week watering schedule and maintaining a healthy turf.

The turf plots utilized in this study were established in the fall of 2010, Thomas said. Previously, the six plots planted to St. Augustine and bermudagrasses were watered half on a four-day-per-week watering schedule and half on a two-day-per-week watering schedule, applying a full inch of water per week.

In the 2012 research project, all six plots were set to a two-day watering schedule with a reduced total of water applied, and the researchers compared four sprinkler heads: spray, MP rotator, rotors and sub-surface drip.

The comparison of sprinkler heads/systems showed the best outcome occurred under drip irrigation, followed by the turf watered with spray heads, the MP rotator heads. The poorest performers were the rotor heads, the two said.

Another key is timing of the water application. Thomas suggested using a cycle-soak system, where a small amount of water is applied and allowed to soak in and then a second amount is applied and allowed to soak in, thus minimizing runoff.

Most residential controllers can have multiple start times, and can be programmed to apply water at multiple times in one day, allowing a person to lower the application at each watering.

Another finding of the study: Brown does not always equal dead.

For the full article at AgriLife Today, click here