From the Expert: Lawn Care & Watering
City of Victoria News • June 17, 2021
Laura Wood, owner of By The Woods Custom Landscaping and Victoria resident, shared several ways to care for your lawn during the Emergency Outdoor Watering Ban and general maintenance reminders.
Laura Wood is owner of By The Woods Custom Landscaping in Victoria, MN and The Garden By The Woods garden center in Chanhassen, MN. She has been a resident of the city of Victoria for almost 20 years and has been proud to serve the community in many ways, including as a member of the Victoria Fire Department for the past 11 years. She has been an industry leader in practical, sustainable landscaping that merges low maintenance and cost effective solutions with great care for the environment to create high quality landscapes.
General Lawn Needs
- Lawn grass by itself only needs 1-1.5" of water per week. This is total water, including rain and irrigation.
- Clay soils can actually hold more moisture than sandy soils, and when carefully managed will need less frequent watering when irrigated correctly. Slow is key with clay soils, as large quantities of water will drain off almost immediately to low points in the yard and not penetrate into the top 4-6" of soil. Clay soil can be watered up to 2.5" per week if watered slowly.
- Because of current new construction and irrigation strategies, most residents will be watering their lawn too often and too quickly. This technique leads to a dependency on irrigation water because the grass is not forced to root through the hard clay layer below.
- So, when the irrigation is turned off, the lawn will appear to yellow and die as it forces itself to adjust. It is not dead and will recover in most circumstances, either on its own or when you turn your irrigation back on with a highly reduced schedule. I recommend to all customers to only water their lawn 1-2 times per week as needed.
- Every other day is too much to create a healthy lawn.
- If your lawn is dependent on this schedule, it can go up to a month or more without water as it goes through this transition period. This is based on experience on several sites that we have turned irrigation off during installation.
- There is no perfect rule for watering a lawn. Sun conditions, soil conditions and type of watering system plays a big role in irrigation strategy.
Safely Manage and Transition Lawn During Droughts
- Reduce or eliminate high nitrogen fertilizers to prevent unhealthy rapid growth.
- Leave lawn grasses as long as they can be without the grass seeding or falling over on itself. Generally, this is 3-5" depending on the blend.
- Soil conditioners (liquid carbon, gypsum, humic acid blends) will help reduce compaction in the soil and allow your sod to root more deeply. However, they often need to be watered in.
Lawn Care Examples of Laura’s Lawn
Laura took a few photos of her lawn on June 15 to help demonstrate these concepts.
Notes from Laura
We are on a well and not subject to the restrictions but we chose not to irrigate any part of our lawn. I think it is important to show how good soil health can really affect the quality of your lawn in a drought.
- Images A & B are views of the main part of our lawn. It is the part we care most about and spend the most time in.
- Images C & D show some areas where we leave lawn clippings and how this protects the lawn to keep it green and moist.
- Image E shows what our deeply rooted grass looks like. At a shovel's depth (and beyond), there are fine, hair-like roots that pull up moisture. Although they are not thick, you can tell they bind the soil together when you take out a chunk.
- Images F & G show the parts of the lawn we don’t “play” on and we let go to clover for the bees, but we still mow. That little guy was out there as I was taking pictures.
- The best method is a mobile sprinkler that does not rotate and has a fixed pattern with a timer. A timer is critical here because it is easy to forget and over water.
- Irrigation system use on new sod is ideally 2x per day for 12-15 min for spray head zones, rotor zones can take up to 35 min because of the larger area they cover. This is only for the first week until the sod is rooted.
- Immediately at rooting, when the sod can be tugged without coming up, irrigation should be reduced gradually over the two weeks to every other day, 8 min per spray, 20 min for rotors.
- After this time, the lawn should now be established and should only be watered as needed.
- Drought will strengthen the lawn and cause the sod to root deeply. Many varieties of grass will root up to 4ft if given the opportunity to do so.
You can be a lawn "perfectionist" and enjoy a manicured and green lawn without over irrigation, but you need to allow your lawn to go through a transition period. Then adjust your fertilization technique and work to improve your soil conditions.
Emergency Outdoor Watering Ban
The City of Victoria has concluded the Emergency Outdoor Watering Ban in Victoria. More information is available at www.ci.victoria.mn.us/wateringban.