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Residential Usage Tips

Tips to achieving a healthy, drought tolerant lawn

Curtis E. Swift, Ph.D., CSU Cooperative Extensive Office

Watering too often prevents oxygen from entering the soil. In addition, it can cause root death of trees, and turf. Root death increases problems with diseases and insects and produces the need to water more often. Here are some tips to help your lawn stay healthy and green:

  1. Avoid the tendency to water too frequently in the spring.
    • Lawns often need to be watered no more than once a week or once every other week during April and May.
    • Watering too often results in death of deep roots, increases the need to water more often during the heat of summer and increases problems with turf diseases and insects.
  2. Water lawns to a depth of 9 inches; allow the lawn to dry somewhat before watering again.
    • A long screwdriver pushed into the soil an hour after watering will easily penetrate to a depth of 9 inches if the soil is moist to that depth.
    • If the screwdriver will not penetrate to this depth, turn the system on until the 9 inch depth can be achieved.
    • Water again when footprints don't bounce back within an hour or a screwdriver will only penetrate to a depth of 3 inches.
    • Next time you water, leave the system on for the length of time it took for water to reach the 9 inch depth.
  3. Water between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. if possible.
    • This reduces water loss through evaporation and reduces disease problems. The next best time to water is between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m.
  4. This spring, only apply one-half the amount of fertilizer recommended on the fertilizer bag.
    • Putting on too much fertilizer in the spring increases the need to mow, and reduces root depth.
  5. Aerating the lawn in the spring will increase rooting depth of your lawn.
  6. This fall (mid-November) apply twice the amount of fertilizer recommended on the bag. This late season fertilizing technique increases the number of deep roots, increases drought resistance, and reduces lawn disease problems.
  7. An inspection of your irrigation system will identify problems, improve water distribution on the lawn, reduce water use and improve overall lawn health.


More information on these lawn care techniques is available on the web at and by calling 244-1836.