November 24, 2014
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Experts urge ’Slow the Flow’ of lawn watering
Kim Kalunian
JUST AN INCH: By using a rain gauge, like the one pictured here, experts say homeowners can determine how much water their lawn has gotten per week, both from natural sources, like rain, and from sprinkler systems. No rain gauge? Use a pie tin or tuna can, said Pat Hogan, sales manager at Sodco.

Is your lawn getting enough water? More than likely, it’s getting too much, according to experts.

Ensuring your lawn gets one inch of water per week is ideal, said Kenneth Burke, general manager of the Water Resources Board on the hottest day of the year so far. Burke said the board spent a year in conjunction with grass growing experts, like Pat Hogan, sales manager at Sodco, to determine the amount of water that is both lawn- and eco-friendly.

To Burke’s surprise, they found the one-inch marker to be satisfactory to both sides of the issue.

“I said, ‘Wait, you agree with us?’” laughed Burke.

Burke and Hogan were joined by members of the press at Sodco to unveil a “slow the flow” campaign to get homeowners to properly water their lawns.

But Hogan did, and he knows grass. Sodco is a 500-acre sod and corn farm in North Kingstown and has been providing sod and services to customers for more than 30 years. They grow various types of grass for residential and commercial use, and adhere to Water Resource Board guidelines. They also grow corn to fuel their heating systems and utilize solar energy, too.

According to Hogan, over-watering is a common mistake.

Hogan said people should only water their lawns two times a week. He said customers who over-water their sod or new grass prevent the grass from rooting deeply into the soil. With the water being constantly provided, the roots do not have to delve into the soil to seek out moisture.

“Then the roots grow sideways,” he said.

Over-watering can also lead to disease and fungal growth.

“A good, healthy lawn can absorb 65 percent more runoff,” he said.

And the benefits go beyond that.

Hogan said the cooling effects of a healthy lawn are like that of an air conditioner.

“The average front lawn produces 3.5 tons of air conditioning,” he said.

Hogan and Burke agree that healthy lawns are not only beautiful but very important to the environment.

Yesterday, in the 90-degree heat, Burke gestured to the sky, noting the Department of Environmental Management had issued an “ozone alert” due to poor air quality.

“Grass is working to absorb all of this carbon dioxide and is pumping out oxygen,” he said. “Green is beneficial to the environment. There are measurable benefits.”

Hogan said 55 square feet of lawn produces enough oxygen for one person each day.

At Sodco, farmers use huge irrigation systems with technology that ensures water is dispersed equally and accurately. But for the average homeowner, keeping grass healthy and well hydrated doesn’t require a fancy sprinkler system; it just requires adequate dispersal of water.

In order to keep track of the amount of water your lawn is getting, Hogan and Burke suggest using a rain gauge, a cylindrical measuring container.

The Water Resources Board is giving away free rain gauges to those who take a “lawn watering IQ” quiz on their website, www.riwater.com.

For those who don’t have a rain gauge, Hogan suggested using a tuna can or pie plate. Once you establish how long it takes your sprinkler system to fill the plate or can, you can begin to time your lawn-watering sessions without the use of a gauge.

Rain gauges are particularly helpful, said Hogan, when your lawn is getting a combination of rainwater and hydration from sprinklers.

To get the best results, Hogan suggests that homeowners water their lawn early in the morning.

“Around 4 a.m.,” he said. “You’re not going to lose [water] to evaporation at that time.”

By keeping a close eye on the amount of water your lawn gets, Burke and Hogan say people can get the optimal results for their lawn while doing their part to conserve water.

“It’s a symbiotic relationship,” said Burke. “If you have a lawn, maintain it. With lawns, there’s a connection to the American psyche – it’s your welcome mat.”


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