Watering in Winter “Weather”
Winterizing Your Yard
During the winter months not only are we thinking of Chestnuts roasting and Jack Frost nipping, many homeowners also start planning for the heavy travel season of Thanksgiving through New Year. As you may be traveling during this part of the year, you are likely needing to program your sprinklers and irrigation system to maintain your watering schedule.
The chart above shows average temperatures and relative monthly rainfall rates. This can be used to help determine the best schedule practices for irrigation in our region.
Each type of grass prefers differing amounts of water but in general, we recommend laying 1” of water a week during mid spring, summer and early fall. From mid fall, winter, into early spring irrigation is meant to maintain moisture. During the “off season” in the fall and winter, most grasses become dormant and require less watering. Watering every 2-3 weeks during this period (November through February) is more than enough and should keep the sleeping grass happy, and roots well-moistened. Use weather, soil condition, plant type and rainfall to determine proper watering schedule and run time all throughout the year. Running a system after a ½ rain event is just a waste of water, and water isn’t cheap anymore.
No matter the season, your sprinkler heads should provide the ideal amount of water in a coverage rate ideal for the grass type. The lawn institute has a great guide on the different type of grass and key features of each from characteristics and usage recommendations to drought resistance and shade adaption. For watering, here are some insights on the following common grasses used in San Antonio and much of Texas.
- Kentucky Bluegrass
- St. Augustine (thrives with more watering)
All of which need moderate watering during dryer months and when initially taking root.: apply at least 1 inch of water as a deep soaking, every 4 to 7 days. Set up soak cycles which apply ½ the water in on one cycle and then starts again to apply second ½. This allows the water to penetrate deeper into soil with less run off. Allow the soil to dry out and begin to stress the grass or vegetation before irrigating again to stimulate healthy root growth during hot or dry periods. Shallow or spotty watering can result in shallow weak roots, permitting weed germination and growth—this is why a quality irrigation system with proper sprinkler heads and scheduling is important.
Picking the right Sprinklers
You have three primary options for turf sprinklers: Spray heads, rotor heads, MP rotators.
Spray sprinklers are your most common, producing an circular blanket that covers the area in smaller water droplets. Based on the PSI of your system (20-30psi), they can cover between 15-18 feet. These heads produce about 2” and hour requiring them to run a total of approximately 30 min per week to apply 1” of water. These sprinklers are great for smaller level areas to evenly distribute water. Using nozzles with a lower profile make these better suited for our climate as they are impacted less by winds and evaporation.
Rotor Sprinklers are used to water larger turf areas. The water droplets are larger and the range of the spray stream is between 25-40’. These heads generally produce .25 to 1” of water per hour requiring them to run at least 1 hour a week to produce 1” of water. The rotor heads when adjusted properly produce one of the most even precipitation rates for large turf area.
MP Rotators are kind of a hybrid between sprays and rotors. These heads produce many streams of waters that rotate. They cover between 15-30’ and operate at a much lower gallon usage than spray heads. They can be used in lower pressure and flow situations making these heads an option in slope and clay soil conditions when other heads wont work. These heads use less water but will require longer period of run times to apply 1” of water. The precipitation rate resembles that of the rotor heads.
These factors will determine the heads you choose: Slope, soil, plant type, size of area. Sprinkler heads should always be matched with the similar precipitation rates. Choosing the correct head will make the system work more efficient and make scheduling easier. Contact us if you need help repairing, installing or upgrading your irrigation systems.