Have You Adjusted the Sprinklers for Winter?
Winter officially starts in a couple weeks, and our area has already had a preview of the chilly temperatures to come. Most of us are busy with holiday tasks — decorating, hanging lights and shopping for gifts. Adjusting or winterizing the sprinklers is probably not on your to-do list, but for your lawn’s sake, it should be.
Why Adjust the Sprinklers?
You may be tempted to just leave the sprinklers running—grass needs water, right? Your lawn still needs water, but there are several reasons why watering your grass in winter at higher summer levels is a bad idea.
Grasses, even cool season varieties, need far less water during cooler months. If you don’t adjust the sprinklers, you risk severely overwatering your lawn. Over time, fungus, mold, root rot and other serious issues can stem from overwatering a lawn.
Fresh water is a limited resource, as many Georgians have unhappily discovered in recent years. So adjusting your sprinkler system is not only important for the long term sustainability of our planet, but also for many communities in the short run as well.
Unless you run your sprinkler system from a well, you are also paying to water the grass in winter. No doubt, you can find a more exciting way to spend your money than spending it on unnecessary watering.
Water Requirements in Winter
Many experts offer an inch per week as a rule of thumb for combined rain and irrigation in the wintertime. So unless your area experiences a lack of rain for two or three consecutive weeks, watering the grass in winter may not be necessary. Mother Nature will likely keep your grass sufficiently hydrated.
Both warm and cool season grasses consume far less water in the winter than in the warmer months since they grow more slowly, if at all. Also, less water evaporates from the grass and soil during cool weather. So even if you live in an area where the grass requires mowing throughout the winter, you should still adjust your watering schedule.
If your grass has not quit growing, or if the weathercaster starts talking about serious rain deficits, then hang a rain gauge to be sure. But if your grass has gone dormant and your area receives normal, periodic rains, you can just turn your sprinkler system off until spring.
For our friends north of Atlanta, where the ground may freeze down far enough to affect buried sprinkler lines, it’s important to winterize your sprinkler system. (For freeze depth maps and other information regarding your specific location, please contact your county extension office.) Occasionally hard freezes fall further south than expected, so if you aren’t planning to use your sprinklers, you might as well play it safe and winterize, too.
Frozen water can burst lines and break valves and fittings, leading to costly repairs. Simply turning off the system and draining the lines is a start, but thoroughly winterizing your sprinkler system requires blowing the water out with compressed air. You can find DIY tutorials online, but the safest option is to leave it to the professionals and let a trusted lawn service do the work for you.