Start Watering by the Weather

By Megan Hatch, Conservation Garden Park

A few weeks back I wrote an article begging people to hold off watering their landscapes until Mother’s Day. That’s typically a good rule of thumb, but Mother Nature must have had a good Mother’s Day because May has been wet, and two weeks later, Utah landscapes still haven’t needed any irrigation.

As someone who loves rules and schedules and really straight lines, I have always loved the Mother’s Day watering rule and hated the (perhaps wiser) answers of some of my co-workers who say to “water when water is needed” or “wait as long as possible to water.” But, sitting here writing this article with the sound of rain hitting my office roof, I am finally ready to admit that it is time to stop watering by the calendar and start watering by the weather.

So, how do you know when water is needed? And what does “water by the weather” even mean? Most of the time, your grass can tell you. Here are a few tests, tricks and resources to help you know when it is time to start irrigating your landscape, regardless of what the calendar says.

Step on your lawn

If the grass springs back and your footprints readily fade away, you don’t need to water. If the prints stay, it’s time.

Use the screwdriver test

Check how hard it is to push a screwdriver into your grass. A moist lawn will easily allow the screwdriver through. If it is difficult to press the screwdriver into the ground, it is too dry and needs watering.

Consult the state’s watering guide

Each week the Utah Division of Water Resources publishes a watering guide that recommends how many days per week each county should water (Hint: this week is zero). The guide is based on extensive research and specific weather conditions. You can access it on slowtheflow.org or download the division’s app.

Upgrade your irrigation system with a smart controller

You can get back 50% of the cost of your smart controller (up to $150) by applying for a rebate at utahwateravers.com.  While smart controllers can automatically adjust your watering schedule based on local weather and landscape needs, we still recommend you turn on your sprinklers from the app when your lawn needs water — easy peasy.

Waiting to turn on your sprinkler system until your landscape really needs it isn’t just about water conservation (though that is important), it’s actually one of the best things you can do for the health of your lawn. By letting the soil dry out, you force your lawn’s roots to grow deeper into the ground. Longer, stronger roots mean stronger grass — which can outcompete weeds, recover more easily from damage and resist disease. I am excited to see how long I can wait to water by responding to the weather instead of looking at my calendar.

To get more tips for spring landscape maintenance, visit Conservation Garden Park at 8275 S. 1300 W. in West Jordan, or follow us on Facebook.

The weekly watering guide is available at slowtheflow.org.

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