So far, 2018 has been dry throughout most of the Brazos River basin, making many people wonder if, despite winter weather, it’s time to turn on the sprinklers. Technically, during the winter months, your grass and most landscaping is dormant and doesn’t require a great deal of moisture. So, a general rule of thumb is once spring has arrived, it’s safe to bring out the hose or restart your sprinkler system. However, Mother Nature can be tricky, and if you start your system before the last freeze of the year, you risk potential damage to both garden hoses and irrigation pipes, which can be costly. So, besides checking the weather forecast for temps above freezing, what are some turf tips people need to take into consideration before deciding to flip the switch?
Watering in February can seem ambivalent. That doesn’t mean people have abandoned watering their yards all together though. Depending on the type of grass you have, warm-season grass normally doesn’t require much irrigation between now and summer due to sufficient rain and cooler temperatures. The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality suggests St. Augustine, Bermuda or Buffalo as good drought- tolerant turf grass alternatives to consider. Yet, with the lack of rain the Brazos River basin has received, colder temperatures and frost can delay growth and dormancy in warm-season grasses. During the winter months, soil moisture is usually adequate to prevent dehydration in lawns during times of drought.
While certain grasses may not need watering during winter months, it is often what lurks beneath that attributes to whether or not you should water your lawn. Keeping an eye on the amount of moisture below your lawn’s surface allows you to determine when your lawn needs water. A moisture meter is an affordable tool that indicates soil moisture status and is available at any garden or hardware store. A screwdriver works just as well though. Insert a screwdriver into the soil about 6 inches. If the soil stuck to the screwdriver is wet, then you may skip watering. If it is dry, then it’s a good signal you’ll need to water your lawn.
Efficiently irrigating is key to a healthy lawn, especially if newly planted sod is in place. Watering your lawn gives the roots a chance to dive deep into the soil, establishing a strong root zone eventually allowing you to water less during dry times. When the sprinkler system has been off for most of the winter though, you will need to open the main water valve slowly in order to allow pipes to fill steadily. If opened too fast, lines might surge to high pressures and unconstrained flow, which can cause them to crack. Failing to be cautious when turning back on your sprinkler system can be a financial nightmare.
Having your sprinkler system geared up in time for the spring will eliminate thirsty plants and promote a healthy lawn. For ways to detect lawn stress or types of grass to select, click here. For helpful weather information near your area, please visit here.