Landscape Logic column: How to deal with brown spots in the lawn
July 13, 2014
Governor Hickenlooper has proclaimed July as Smart Irrigation Month for Colorado, which is well timed because July is the hottest month of the year. Now is when all the shortcomings in our sprinkler systems show up. In the heat of July, almost every lawn has brown spots, and we all see them.
Brown spots are really the lawn's SOS call for help. The grass is obviously stressed and, of course, we think it needs more water.
The temptation is to turn up the sprinkler system so it waters longer. But if the water isn't getting to that brown spot to begin with, watering longer won't solve the problem.
So how do we find the problem?
ADDRESSING SPRINKLER PROBLEMS
Most brown spots can be solved right at the source of where the water comes out — at the sprinkler heads themselves. These four common problems are quick fixes that will get your system back in order. If you do the work yourself, it shouldn't take a lot time. If you need to hire a pro to fix these problems, the benefits will be a healthier lawn and, hopefully, lower water use and costs.
Problem one: The nozzle in the sprinkler head where the water comes out is clogged. Dirt and debris often get into the nozzle and once it is cleaned out, the head will spray water where it's intended.
Problem two: The direction that the nozzle sprays is out of adjustment. The nozzle may be directing water too low or too high. Either one will keep the water from hitting the area it is supposed to reach. Making the adjustment will solve the problem.
Problem three: With rotor heads — the ones that oscillate back and forth — they may be pointed in the wrong direction or stuck. A head that's aimed at the street rather than your lawn is the culprit and wasting water in the process. Getting the heads back into adjustment will put the water where it needs to go.
Problem four: Sprinkler heads aren't popping up high enough. Equipment damage or soil build-up over the years may mean the sprinklers aren't popping up high enough to clear the top of the grass blades. Water will hit the grass closest the head and be deflected. Raising the heads — or replacing them with sprinklers that pop up higher — will solve the problem.
More advice for brown spots
Once the lawn is stressed, it will take some additional water during high temperatures to bring it back to health. After the basic problems are solved, the lawn will get the water it needs.
For a few days, you may want to hand water just those brown spots to give them extra TLC — but avoid making the entire sprinkler system run longer just to deal with problem areas. That's a waste of water — and added cost.
Becky Garber is member of the Associated Landscape Contractors, of Colorado of which Neils Lunceford, a landscaping company, is a member. You may contact them at 970-468-0340.