Last Updated on November 18, 2023 by Brian Beck
It was about 65° out today in Colorado Springs today, awesome weather, I wish it would stay like this all year long. Personally I find it very pleasurable.
I want to bring attention to a cycle that I have been able to identify and articulate recently. This is the cycle of death and destruction that I see people fall prey to every single year. It is avoidable but there are some misconceptions about water and what it does. Lets dispel these mindsets so we can save some money and finally enjoy our lawns.
First of all, water is the prime element that enables the movement of nutrients into and through the plant to provide cellular tissue the resources that it needs. This water is also responsible for keeping alive the Biology (Microbiology) that we are inoculating your lawn with to return to a Biological system of fertility.
The more I study soil and microbiology as well as chemistry and geology, the more I understand what it is that we are up against trying to have the perfect lawn. After all, what we are essentially attempting to do is to get the needed resources into the plant as efficiently as possible. When I encounter new clients they often begin the dialogue with the statement, “I don’t want a golf course”. This mindset is very entrenched in the American mindset and there is a reason. It has to do with a system of fertility that everyone is engaged in that ironically makes the lawn very difficult to have and to hold as there are high levels of commitment and a ton of side effects. I usually retort by saying, “Let’s begin with healthy”.
Here are the primary impediments that I have discovered that make things so hard:
Thatch – Excess thatch can bind up water and cause the roots to grow upward and laterally, a function of a dead soil that is compacted and shallow watering. This can be solved with biology and carbon.
Compaction – Soil naturally will compact due to several actions and elements. In a healthy soil there will be fungal properties that naturally aerate the soil as well as other micro and macro biological elements in the soil.
Carbon – Carbon by any other name is organic matter. That in your soil which at some point had DNA and is no longer alive. This is the energy source for the Biology that we are introducing to your lawn and carbon has another interesting effect on your soil. Carbon holds water, a lot of it. As a matter of fact for every 1% increase in your soil of carbon and you will DOUBLE the water carrying capacity of your soil. As our soils have about half of the required carbon necessary to keep the lawn functioning well. Carbon is constantly being used and expended and the loss of it is advanced by the use of synthetic fertilizers.
pH – pH represents the potential of Hydrogen and is a measurement of the Hydrogen ions in the soil and determine whether the soil is acidic or alkaline or somewhere in between. Because of our geology and our climate the soil here tends to be alkaline, or anything above 7.0. Grass does best when the soil is slightly acidic (around 6.5pH). The further it is away from this mark the harder it is for the plant to absorb nutrients from the soil.
Dehydration – As soil dehydrates it not only damages the plant in it but it kills off the biology in the soil as well. As this happens, the soil slowly begins to resist the very thing it needs. In other words it becomes hydrophobic. We see this often in the early spring as sometimes it takes multiple water events over a week or two to get a soil rehydrated. This of course costs a lot of money, not to mention the plant life that is destroyed in the process.
Here is where the cycle begins and why it is costing people so much money. In addition to the previously mentioned obstacles that hinder water from getting in, there are two habits that cause the “cycle of death”. They are:
Shallow Watering. There is this tendency for people to want to water very often and very shallow. This is the absolute worst way to water, period. This does nothing more than drive evaporation and train the roots to grow near the surface. This also reduces the ability for nutrients to get to the roots and also drives two species of pathogenic fungi. Don’t do it. When you water, water deep and reduce frequency. I have been encouraging people to water twice per week for about an hour. You would be surprised how long it takes to get the water down into the soil.
Halting of Watering in the Early Fall and a Lack of Watering During the Winter and Early Spring Months.
If shallow watering sets a lawn up for failure, not watering from October to April, surely deals the death blow. Typically in January and one fateful day in May you realize that your lawn is not coming back and if you are lucky you have blown out a tree along with it. This of course is all preventable with regular water application. The $200 in water that you spare in the early and late fall is going to cost you $3000 come spring. This is why September is so important. Something else that happens during the October – December timeframe is root development. As the temperatures drop and the light decrease during the day, plants turn their energy away from what you can see above ground and turn their efforts towards their roots. If watering is stopped during this time this event is diminished severely, further destroying your lawn and ensuring that you fulfill the “cycle of death”
Plants need water all year long, in varying amounts. If you are not watering during this period you are doing your landscape a great injustice.
Those of you who have participated in our Weather Bender program are experiencing the opposite right now. Keep using them!
You will need to continue to water your lawn all year long as long as it is above 40° (the ground will not readily accept water if it too cold). Here is a good formula to keep your lawn hydrated when there is diminishing light and dropping temperatures.
Over 70° twice per week
Over 60° once per week
Over 40° once every ten days
Starting about right now if we do not get 6-12″ of snow every two weeks you should consider watering on the first day above 40°. This will require a hose and preferably a moving irrigation head to cover more area so you don’t need to move it as much. Remember that when you water water deep, shallow watering is worthless. The temperature dictates how often you water but always water for at least 45-60 minutes to get the water deep into the soil! This will keep the roots hydrated and the microbes that we have been building in your lawn alive and healthy (they need water too).
We are going to address some very important discoveries that we made this year in our next letter. Be sure to look for it! As we are continuously breaking new ground with our Biological program I would like to share with you the guinea pig, otherwise known as my front lawn. I am going to share with you a soil test that I had performed a couple of weeks ago so you can see what it looks like if you have not had one performed on your lawn. This picture below was taken about three weeks ago and it looks about the same today. I even ran the robotic mower today as it needed a little trim off of the top.