The Watering Paradox

Aug. 14th, 2019 by W Scott McAdam Jr.

If I had a dollar for every time someone told me they water their turf every other day for 15 minutes per zone, I’d be able to take a much-needed vacation.

A common belief among homeowners is that in order to keep your grass green and healthy, you need to water frequently, yet not much at a time, to avoid overwatering.  However, more negative than positive comes from this frequent, shallow watering:

  1. Increased fungal growth
  2. Shallow roots (lack of drought tolerance) since they don’t have to grow deep to find water
  3. Increased weed pressure

So what should you do? Deep and infrequent watering! 

Watering twice a week for 45 to 60 minutes per zone will provide healthy turf that better resists weed, disease, and insect pressures. It will also promote deeper root systems, which results in greater tolerance to drought conditions. 

Timing is critical, too: evening watering spurs on fungal growth because without the sun, the surface isn’t able to dry. Dark and wet = fungal growth.

It’s best to water only from predawn through mid-morning. This enables adequate absorption (evaporation occurs during midday watering) and the surface of the turf will be allowed to dry.

This installment of "Ask the Plant Expert" is published in the August 14, 2019 edition of the Wednesday Journal of Oak Park and River Forest, the Forest Park Review and the Riverside-Brookfield Landmark.