Many people think that once summer is over and hints of fall are in the air, they can stop watering their lawns, but that’s not the case. Proper fall lawn care includes proper irrigation, among other tasks such as mowing to the optimal height, fertilizing, and raking leaves. As the seasons change, so does the amount of water your lawn will need in order to stay healthy – so make sure you’re adjusting your watering schedule accordingly.
When to Shut Off Irrigation
It’s important to shut off your irrigation system before nighttime temperatures are expected to dip below freezing. This will help prevent any damage that could be caused by ice or frost. Many homeowners in the Southeast, however, shut their irrigation systems off as soon as the fall season arrives, thinking that their lawn requires less water. The reality is that lawns still need water in the fall. Your lawn should receive one inch of water per week, from rain or irrigation, unless it is fully dormant.
Turning your sprinklers off too soon can cause your lawn to turn brown not from winter dormancy, but from lack of water.
Importance of Fall Watering
Warm season grasses continues to grow throughout the fall season, even if you don’t see much growth happening on the surface. The majority of growth during this time happens underground in preparation for winter. The roots create a solid foundation for your lawn and help to repair any damage that may have occurred over the summer.
It is critical not to deprive grass of irrigation during such an important time of repair. An adequate water supply for grass roots is essential for proper nutrient uptake during any period of growth, above or below ground.
Cool season varieties, however, thrive in the lower temperates of fall, growing more vigorously than in the summer heat. Cool season lawns need sufficient water throughout the fall to absorb nutrients in support of this active growth.
Dormant Grass is Not Dead
It’s important to remember that dormant grass is still living. It has simply gone into a hibernation mode to protect itself from harsh weather. The crowns and roots remain alive, even when the grass blades turn a light tan color. Warm season lawns begin to lose their color when temperatures drop below 55°F, and go dormant when the air temperature falls below 28°F.
Dormant warm season lawns and green cool season lawns still need about half an inch of water per week, either from rain or irrigation. Wind and low humidity can quickly dry out grass, so watering during winter dry spells is important to maintain moisture in the soil and promote a healthy green lawn come springtime.
Balancing Fall Lawn Irrigation
Although it is important to water your lawn in the fall, overwatering it can have just as many negative consequences. Overwatering can suffocate the root system and put your lawn at risk for fungal diseases.
It is important to be mindful of your local weather when determining when to stop irrigating your lawn for the season, or when irrigation may be needed due to a dry spell. Sporadic fall weather patterns commonly experienced in the Southeast make this task a bit difficult, but nonetheless still important to consider.
Irrigation Systems and Changing Seasons
Most irrigation systems have a seasonal adjustment feature that makes it easy for you to adjust the run time according to seasonal needs.
You will need to winterize your sprinkler systems before the first freeze. Water left in pipes can freeze, causing pipes to burst. When you’re ready to winterize your irrigation system, hire a professional, or check your owner’s manual for specific instructions on how best to prepare your system for the cold weather. By consulting your owner’s manual, you can be sure you’re taking the right steps to protect your investment.