Watering Your Lawn and Landscape

In 2010, between the middle of June to the middle of September, we experienced above-average temperatures and below-average rainfall. Luckily, we received 10-1/2 inches of rain in July, even though it remained hot. For our customers who irrigated their lawns and landscape during this period, their properties came through the summer with little or no damage. But, there are still a number of customers who did not water at all! This caused their lawns to become stressed and resulted in our applying extra fungus, weed and insect controls to try to prevent areas of the lawns from being permanently damaged. Simply stated, we had to use more chemicals to offset the fact they did not water and this is something our company does not like to do for environmental reasons. But, this could not prevent the damage to areas that simply died because of drought stress. These areas needed to be renovated in the Fall, which caused extra work for us and extra cost for them. We also observed many bushes and small trees which died and needed to be replaced. This could have been prevented if they had a watering plan in place during this period. Remember it takes less water to maintain your present lawn and landscape than it takes to re-establish grass and replant a bush or tree.

Some examples of problems we have observed are as follows. Some customers have faucets, hoses and sprinklers that are no longer functional. For our customers who have sprinkler systems, many of you have never been shown how to increase the watering times during these stress periods. Some customers feel that they are wasting water when the water their lawns and landscape. Please remember that healthy lawns and landscapes are not only attractive and increase the value of your home and property, but also are environmentally effective in removing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. An area of grass, 50 ft. by 50 ft. generates enough oxygen to meet the needs of a family of four and traps dust and pollutants from the air. The air from just eight average front lawns provide the cooling effect of about 70 tons of air conditioning, reduces runoff and has the ability to attract, trap and hold rainfall.

In the late 1990s and the early 2000s, we had record heat and droughts causing severe water restrictions imposed by the State of Delaware, because the State of Delaware and the water companies had no plan on how to manage this precious resource. So, these agencies along with the Delaware Ground Maintenance Society which I represent at these State meetings came up with a workable plan that not only protects our water supply during these periods of hot, dry weather, but also recognizes the benefits of a healthy lawn and landscape and the financial losses that homeowners could sustain with dead lawn areas and landscape plants. These guidelines are in place today. The water companies went about increasing their water capacities by building a new reservoir in Newark and at the same time doubling the size of the underground aquifers in New Castle County. That is why last year we had plenty of water available in our area unlike Kent and Sussex counties.

Therefore, for 2011, to help each of you to better manage your lawn and landscape during these stress periods we plan to do the following:

Besides the individual bulletin left with each lawn service which has both watering and mowing procedures, this year under Weather Updates on our website we will be providing a color-coded alert on what watering and mowing procedures you or your lawn mowing company should be following based on the current weather conditions. We will update this on an as needed basis throughout the growing season.
Provide you with a free water audit.

For our customers who manually water their lawns, we can check your current equipment and recommend newer sprinklers and water timers, which are both more effective and efficient. We have two bulletins on our website which will address this:

1. Manual Watering Bulletin
2. Sprinkler and Water Timer Bulletin

For our customers who have underground sprinkler systems, we have a bulletin on our website to provide the proper watering techniques for your system entitled How To Prepare Your Sprinkler System.

In conclusion, by managing the watering and mowing techniques, we will be able to minimize the controls that we have to apply to the lawns. Remember that the best chemicals and fertilizers are the ones that we do not have to apply unnecessarily. This will provide you with not only an attractive lawn, but also a healthy, environmentally responsible one of which we both can be proud.