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Watering Turf

About 50% of our water is used outdoors, and the majority of this is used to water lawns.

Wise lawn watering will conserve a precious resource and will also reduce your monthly water bills.



How much water is used by turf grasses in the Sierra Vista, AZ area? 

Cool Season Grasses use 30.75 gallons/ft2/year

Warm Season Grasses use 19.50 gallons/ft2/year

Overseeded grasses (warm and annual cool) use 29 gallons/ft2/year

Warm Season grasses actively grow from mid- April (when the soil temperature warms up) to mid- October, and go dormant in the winter. Spreading warm season grasses include bermuda garss and buffalo grass. Bunch warm season grasses include a Cochise County native - blue grama.

Cool Season grasses grow best during the cooler parts of the spring and fall. They may or may not go dormant during the winter cold. Generally cool season grasses are bunch grasses, meaning that they do not spread by runners. They include perennial ryegrass, annual ryegrass and tall fescue.

When should I water?

Watering in the early morning is the most effective time. Less water evaporates and fewer disease problems will occur.

How often should I water?

WATERING TOO MUCH = MORE MOWING!!

Water lawns once every three or four days. Even during the hot summer months, lawns do not need to be watered every day. Third-day watering promotes deeper root growth which makes your lawn more water efficient.

Look for signs of stress: Does your grass stay flat after you step on it? Are the blades surling? If so, then it is time to water.

How long should I water?

How long you should water depends upon two factors:

1. How quickly your sprinklers put water on your lawn (Sprinkler Output).

2. The amount of water your grass needs to stay healthy (Water Requirement).

 

Sprinkler Output

1) Place 4-6 tuna or cat food cans at various locations on your lawn.

2) Turn the sprinkler on and time it for 15 minutes. Then turn it off.

3) Measure the depth of water in each can with a clear plastic ruler.

4) Figure the average depth in inches (add together all the water depths in the cans and divide by  the number of cans).

 

Watering Time

1) Determine the Sprinkler Output (using the can test).

2) Use the Suggested Watering Schedule (below charts).

For example, if your sprinkler output is inch (in 15 minutes) and it is April, water for 22 minutes for warm season grass, 36 minutes for cool season grass and 22 minutes for overseeded grass.

Water again in 3-4 days.

NOTE: A properly adjusted underground sprinkler system is better than hand placed sprinklers. Underground systems deliver water more evenly and at a finer spray that can be absorbed by the turf.

Install a sprinkler control clock or faucet timer.

Suggested Watering Schedules for Cool and Warm Season Grasses in Cochise County, AZ

If water run-off occurs during watering, water using a  "cycle-soak" method. Run the system until run- off begins. Stop and let the water soak in. Run the system again to complete the recommended watering time.


Warm Season Grasses

Month

If your sprinkler output in 15 minutes, in Inches is:

1/8 1/4 3/8 1/2 5/8 3/4

Irrigate for the Number of Minutes Indicated Every 3 Days

January

No Supplemental Irrigation is Needed

February
March
April 44 22 15 11 9 7
May 73 37 24 18 15 12
June 85 43 28 21 17 14
July 51 26 17 13 10 9
August 39 19 13 10 8 6
September 51 25 17 13 10 8
October 23 12 8 6 5 4
November

No Supplemental Irrigation is Needed

December

Cool Season Grasses

Month

If your sprinkler output in 15 minutes, in Inches is:

1/8 1/4 3/8 1/2 5/8 3/4

Irrigate for the Number of Minutes Indicated Every 3 Days

January

No Supplemental Irrigation is Needed

February
March 50 25 17 13 10 8
April 72 36 24 18 14 12
May 91 45 30 23 18 15
June 106 53 35 26 21 18
July 68 34 23 17 14 11
August 54 27 18 14 11 9
September 65 32 22 16 13 11
October 42 21 14 11 8 7
November

35

17 12 9 7 6
December

No Supplemental Irrigation is Needed


Overseeded Grasses

Month

If your sprinkler output in 15 minutes, in Inches is:

1/8 1/4 3/8 1/2 5/8 3/4

Irrigate for the Number of Minutes Indicated Every 3 Days

January

14

7 5 3 3 2
February 23 12 8 6 5 4
March 50 25 17 13 10 8
April 44 22 15 11 9 7
May 73 37 24 18 15 12
June 85 43 28 21 17 14
July 51 26 17 13 10 9
August 39 19 13 10 8 6
September 51 25 17 13 10 8
October 23 12 8 6 5 4
November 35 17 12 9 7 6
December 13 7 4 3 3 2

Other Tips For Improving Watering Efficiency

  •   Dethatch, aerate and top dress your turf once a year to help water penetrate 

  •   If your lawn begins to show water stress 2 or 3 days after applying the prescribed amounts of water, you may have sandy soil. Water more often but at a reduced amount per application. If you have a sandier soil, you will need to water more often but at a reduced rate per application. A general rule for sandy soils is to water every other day but for only one-half (1/2) the amount of time per application indicated using the above Water Schedule.

  •   In the Sprinkler Output test, catch cans which contain 20% more or 20% less water than the average usually indicate sprinkler performance problems resulting in uneven coverage. Find the cause. If you can't easily correct it, manually water the dry spots rather than increase your average application rate. Use the same brand of sprinkler heads.

  •   Efficient watering means wetting the soil just below the root zone (8-12") and then allowing the soil to dry. To determine the depth of watering, gently push a metal rod or screwdriver into the ground. It will stop when it reaches dry soil. Water again when the probe won't penetrate the soil more than 4 inches.

  •   Raise your mover height to 1½ to 2½" for bermuda grass, 2½ to 3" for fescue and bluegrass. This will reduce water loss through evaporation. Cut grass when it is 1/3 higher than the above recommended height. Never remove more that 40% of the grass height at any one time. 

  •   During the drier summer months, use less fertilizer. Your plants will still prosper, but their water needs will be reduced.

  •   If water puddles or runs off, apply less water by more often.

  •   Adjust sprinklers so that they spray on plants, not walls, driveways or sidewalks.

 
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Cochise County Cooperative Extension
450 S. Haskell Avenue Willcox, AZ 85643-2790
Phone: (520) 384-3594 Fax: (520) 384-3681
Satellite Office
1140 N. Colombo Sierra Vista, AZ 85635
Phone:(520) 458-8278 ext 2141
Fax:(520) 458-5823 or 626-2492 (Tucson)

Last Reviewed and Updated: March 14, 2016
Questions/Comments: cdaily@cals.arizona.edu
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