Too soon to water

By Megan Hatch, Conservation Garden Park

Plan for 70 degrees, but also probably snow,” is the advice I give to out-of-towner’s visiting Utah during spring. From now until May, literally anything is possible. Just last Saturday I took an afternoon stroll wearing shorts and a T-shirt — the sun was out, birds were out and people were working in their yards. Today, I logged into my weather app to see two days of snow forecasted for later this week.

A word of caution to those who have already moved on to warmer weather: don’t turn on your sprinklers yet. Don’t do it next week either, or the week after that. Right now, your lawn just doesn’t need it.

But what if my lawn looks brown? Don’t water yet. There are two main reasons your lawn may be looking brown this time of year: first, you have a warm season grass that won’t green up until later in the season. Or, second, your lawn is still dormant from the winter. Over-watered grass has been shown to be late coming out of dormancy. Give it time and your lawn will start to green up on its own.

But what if my lawn is already turning green? Don’t water yet. Your grass has all the water it needs from soil that’s still wet after winter melt. Your lawn will let you know when it is ready to be watered. Step on it. Does the grass spring back up? If it does, you don’t need to water yet. You can also try the screwdriver test. Take a screwdriver and push it into the ground: if it goes in easily, it is still too soon to water.

Waiting to turn on your sprinkler system isn’t just about water conservation (although that is important). It is 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, searching for moisture. Longer, stronger roots mean stronger grass — which can outcompete weeds, recover more easily from damage and resist disease.

Wait until at least Mother’s Day (maybe even later) to start up your irrigation system. In the meantime, here are a few quick tips to help you get ready for the warmer weather ahead:

Take advantage of a smart controller rebate: upgrade your irrigation system with a new smart controller. Smart controllers automatically adjust watering schedules based on local weather and landscape needs. Visit utahwatersavers.com to get a rebate for 50% of your cost (up to $150).

Do a landscape upgrade: spring is a great time to make changes to your yard. Consider installing a water-efficient park strip or converting an irrigation zone to drip. Small changes like this can lead to big water savings.

Check your sprinkler system for any leaks: Before you turn on your sprinklers for the season, be sure to check for leaks. Even a small leak can waste thousands of gallons of water.

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

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