Where did the rain go? And what do I do about my thirsty lawn?

Image Source: Wikimedia Commons user adrian.benko

Image Source: Wikimedia Commons user adrian.benko

Well – ONCE in a while – I am wrong (unless you talk to my wife).   You see, around the middle of June, I was telling many clients, landscapers and farmers not to worry about all the rain we were getting. I was sure July 1st would hit, and we would not see another drop. Well I was wrong by 18 days.

The last measurable rain at the South Bend Airport was on July 19, 2015. We got a ½ inch that day and over 1-¾ inch the day before that.

Today, after visiting a few of my favorite internet weather sites it does not look like we will see any rain for a while longer, other than a 30% chance this Sunday. We could very well see three more weeks without significant rain.

With that in mind, the question you might be asking yourself is, “What do I need to do with my yard?  

Keep in mind that there are two different types of yards right now:  

  1. yards that are recently established by seed or sod (less than 1 year old); and
  2. yards that are already well-established (1 year or older).

If you are planning on doing a NEW seeding or sodding with Red Hen’s products, you should already have our instructions – so stick with that or let us know if you need those instructions.

CLICK on this PICTURE for Tips for Improving Grass Seed Germination

But what about a 1-year-old or older established yard? There are basically 2 different ways to go about it.

  1. You can let it go, stop watering, and let your lawn go dormant until we get enough rain and hope for the best. Some grasses will make it through and others will not. Some types like perennial and annual ryegrass may not make it. Tall fescue and Kentucky bluegrass do have a much better chance or surviving longer periods without rain or irrigation… or
  2. You can keep up with watering, BUT REMEMBER THE KEY IS TO “WATER DEEPLY AND INFREQUENTLY“. For my own lawn, I am planning on watering deeply every 3 days until the next rain.

If you choose to keep up with your watering, and you need to keep an eye on your water bill and are looking to help conserve water, here are some good pointers:

  1. With more shade, grasses need less water than in areas than full sun. And keep in mind that as trees grow taller, they naturally create more shade. Adjust your sprinkler heads accordingly in shady vs. full sun areas.
  2. Look for areas in your yard that are greener than others. Areas that are less-green need more water.  For instance, you’ll see that on a hill, the grass at the bottom is usually much greener.  Adjust your sprinkler heads accordingly.
  3. As discussed in our previous post about irrigation efficiency, you should consider calibrating your sprinkler heads.  Sound complicated?  Not really.  Basically, you set cups out across a zone check to see if they have the same amount of water, or at least close.  If not, adjust your sprinkler heads accordingly.  CLICK HERE to check out our article that includes instructions on calibrating your sprinkler.

Until next time,
Jeremy Cooper & the Red Hen Turf Team
Call us at 574-232-6811 .. for our location and hours, click here.


Calibrating Sprinkler’s Link updated: 9/25/20

How to Get the Most from YOUR DOLLARS PER DROP when Irrigating

irrigation workshop collage 6-25-15

Photos by Leslie Lestinsky, Summer Intern, Red Hen Turf Farm

On June 25, 2015, Red Hen had the pleasure of hosting an Irrigation System Uniformity Evaluation workshop led by MSU Extension/Purdue University Irrigation Educator, Lyndon Kelley.

Phil Sutton, St. Joseph County (IN) Extension Educator for Agricultural and Natural Resources organized this event.  James Rodriguez, Soil Conservationist with the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), was also on hand to speak to attendees about financial programs available for farmers interested in taking cost-sharing steps to enhance cover crop implementation and improve soil and water quality.

The workshop was geared toward farmers / producers who utilize irrigation systems, but ultimately the takeaway message applies to homeowners with sprinkler systems, too. 

In short, Kelley advocates evaluating your irrigation system throughout the year to detect any problem areas and lack of uniformity.

An irrigation system uniformity evaluation is conducted by sampling the output from a system and identifying areas of the sprinkler package that need improvement. Several procedures have been developed for test irrigation uniformity. All involve running the irrigation system over a set of uniform sized cups and measuring the amount of water collected. In a perfect world, each cup should catch an identical volume of water.

– Lyndon Kelley, MSU / Purdue Irrigation Educator (Source)


Whether you’re a farmer or a homeowner, by regularly testing how much water each irrigation head is putting out – and ensuring that the system as a whole is continually working uniformly by making repairs and/or adjustments – you will use LESS ENERGY, your COSTS WILL BE LOWER, and — for producers — this translates to HIGHER PROFITS.

“Irrigation system uniformity is key… A 10% or less deviation from the average rate is ideal”.

– Lyndon Kelley, MSU / Purdue Irrigation Educator

Kelley discussed several strategies to enhance “dollars per drop,” all designed to ensure your system is working within the parameters of its design, and as a function of flow rate and pressure. Kelley also spoke on how to implement “checkbook irrigation scheduling” and “soil moisture monitoring”—additional actions that ultimately result in a higher yield at a lower cost.

This article barely touches on the wealth of information Lyndon Kelley shared.  TO LEARN MORE, here are some helpful LINKS:

    • Visit Michigan State University’s webpage on Irrigation Resources by CLICKING HERE or visit Purdue’s webpage on Irrigation Resources by CLICKING HERE.
    • To get in touch with Lyndon Kelley about conducting your own irrigation system evaluation (utilizing his simple, free-to-use equipment), he can be reached by e-mail at: Kelley@MSU.EDU or cell: (269)-535-0343, office: (269)-467-5511.
    • To contact NRCS about USDA financial programs, find your local NRCS representative by CLICKING HERE.
    • To contact your local Extension Agent, in Indiana call your county’s Purdue Extension office by CLICKING HERE.  In Michigan, your local Michigan State University Extension Agent can be contacted by CLICKING HERE.
    •  CLICK HERE to read Purdue’s publication, “Irrigation Practices for Home Lawns
    • CLICK HERE to check out our article on calibrating your sprinklers using the “tuna can method”

Every year is different and every yard is different

Sunrise on Turf

Photo by Leslie Lestinsky, Red Hen Summer Intern

How is the year going for you?

Well unless you have not been around the Michiana area for the summer, you know it has been a WET ONE!  At Red Hen, it has been very tough trying to harvest sod, and to plant our tomatoes, corn and soybeans.

On the sod-side of work, taking care of 200 acres of mowing and fertilizing grass has been interesting. We definitely have not had to turn on the irrigation much so far this year. There is nothing like a good rain, but when you get more than a few inches at a time, it can use up chemicals faster on turf grass.

In many lawns, as of now your second application of fertilizer is close or has been used by the plants. In terms of weed control, crabgrass preventer applied in the spring is becoming no longer effective. Granular broadleaf killer has been tough to apply on the right day due to the rains. Sedges have been popping up all over, since wetness and summertime heat is what they thrive in.

If there is a point to this, it is that every year is different and every yard is different. At Red Hen, we don’t believe that sticking to a strict “step program” does justice to the fact that a yard here in New Carlisle may have gotten a lot less rain than a yard in Wakarusa, and both yards have their own issues and conditions. When a customers asks us what fertilizer product someone should be applying, we like to ask, “Well, what’s going on in your yard?,” and we tailor our recommendations to your needs.  Theoretically, we might give your next-door neighbor a different recommendation than you because – like I said before – each yard is different.  Does this surprise you?

Taking it a bit further, we offer the service of designing customized fertilizer programs – based on your goals, the issues you are trying to solve, and a lab-based soil analysis through our soil test program (starting at $25 for one sample).

We’re here to help people fix problems in their yards – even if it’s not our sod.  This is my fifth year here at Red Hen, and this year’s unique weather conditions have been making things especially interesting and challenging, which I love!

Jeremy and the Red Hen Team

Give us a call today if you have questions or concerns about your lawn at 574-232-6811.  We’re here to help make Do-It-Yourself Lawncare Do-able.