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5 Ways to Water Right this Winter

waterblogseptWhen the weather gets colder, Bermuda grass lawns go dormant and stop actively growing. If you are looking to save money and water this winter, try not overseeding with winter rye grass this year. Bonus: Sewer fees are calculated in the months of January, February and March, so if you use less water during those months than you had in the past, you’ll likely see a lower sewer fee for the upcoming year.

Some residents choose to overseed in order to have an actively growing lawn in the winter months. Late September and early October is when lawns are prepared for overseeding. The best time to overseed is when temperatures are around 55o at night and 82-84o during the day.

If you do choose to have a winter lawn, follow these steps to ensure you water right this fall and winter.

  1. Germinate the seed. Rye grass is applied as a seed into the scalped Bermuda grass lawn. To successfully germinate, the top 1 inch of soil needs to be kept moist. So, you need to water frequently (4 times a day throughout the day), for short bursts (about 2-4 minutes, depending on the water application rate of your sprinklers*) until the seed is germinated, which typically takes 5-7 days.

*Water is applied at different rates for spray heads (also called pop ups), rotors, and stream rotors. Know what you have on your system so you can set the proper run time. Spray heads can apply water as much as 2 times faster than the other sprinkler types.

  1. Don’t set and forget.Overseeded winter lawns can use more water than summer lawns. This often happens because people set the original germination watering schedule and forget to change it. Once the seed is germinated, gradually increase the run time (minutes) and decrease the frequency (days) of irrigation events. Once established, winter rye grass can be watered:
    • Once every 3 days in October
    • Once every 10 days in November
    • Once every 14 days in December and January
    • Once every 10 days in February
    • Once every 7 days in March

**Make sure you water deeply every time you irrigate—this allows you to go longer in between irrigation events.

  1. Cycle and soak. Prevent water from running off onto the sidewalk by utilizing the multiple “start times” on your controller. On the day you irrigate, break up the total minutes you need on irrigation day into 3 different irrigation sessions, running about an hour apart.
  2. Stagger your starts. To help reduce energy demand associated with firing up the water treatment plant pumps when everyone’s sprinklers come on, even numbered houses should water on the top of the hour and odd numbered houses should water on the half hour. For instance, if your house address ends in an odd number, and you need to water for 15 minutes total, you could water for 5 minutes at 2:30 AM, 5 minutes at 3:30 AM, and 5 minutes at 4:30 AM.
  3. Mow at the right height.   We suggest you mow your winter grass at a height of 1.5 to 2 inches. Many times, people think that if they mow lower, they’ll be able to mow less often. The opposite is actually true. A good rule of thumb is to never remove more than 1/3 of the grass’s height when mowing. This maintains a healthy photosynthesizing (food-producing) leaf canopy.

Need further assistance? Contact the Gilbert Water Conservation office. We offer free residential and commercial water audits to assist in saving water outdoors.


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