Fixing An Overwatered Lawn – What To Do About Overwatered Grass

Fixing An Overwatered Lawn – What To Do About Overwatered Grass

By: Teo Spengler

Enough but not too much, that’s a good rule for many things, including watering your lawn. You know the poor results of too little irrigation, but overwatered grass is unhappy grass too. Overwatering the lawn drowns the grass plants and can cause yellow or bare spots. Read on for information on overwatered grass, including tips on how to repair an overwatered lawn.

Can Grass Be Overwatered?

Many gardeners don’t realize that water can be both good and bad for their lawns. Can grass be overwatered? Yes, it can, and the consequences for that smooth carpet of green are not pleasant. Overwatered grass is not just the result of too-eager homeowners. Water on the lawn can come from humidity and showers, as well as sprinkler hoses. And hot, wet summers are not an occasional happenstance in some locales.

Signs of Overwatering the Lawn

A little investigation can tell you if you are overwatering the lawn. If your grass squishes a few hours after watering, that’s a sign. Dying patches of grass can also signal overwatering issues. Other symptoms include an abundance of weeds like crabgrass and nutsedge, thatch and fungal growth like mushrooms. Runoff after irrigation is another sign, as well as yellowing grass.

Fixing an Overwatered Lawn

Once you realize that you have overwatered the lawn, you need to take action. How to repair an overwatered lawn? The first steps are evaluating the overwatering issue. How much water does the grass on your lawn require? How much does it get from rain? How much is your sprinkling system providing?

These types of questions are essential for cutting back irrigation and fixing an overwatered lawn. You’re better off watering thoroughly but only occasionally than sticking to a rigid schedule.

Finally, consider lawn treatment services if your lawn has brown or yellow patches and other issues that don’t go away when you reduce watering. Fixing an overwatered lawn can include aerating and de-thatching your yard.

Aerating encourages healthier grass and takes care of compacted soil. All you have to do is to run a power core aerator over the lawn to pull up plugs of dirt. This opens up areas in the under-soil to stimulate new root growth. It also slits open the soil’s surface and allows nutrients and water to pass through to soil underlayers.

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  • Deprives the roots of oxygen
  • Washes nutrients out of the soil
  • Roots grow shallowly
  • Encourages spread of fungi and mushrooms
  • Encourages insect infestations
  • Develops thatch
  • Promotes weeds

Deprives the roots of oxygen. Soil is quite a porous medium in which the grassroots grow. Overwatering a lawn will saturate the soil and fill in the porous gaps in the soil. This forces the oxygen out of the soil and deprives the roots of what it needs to grow correctly. The grass will be weaker as a result and susceptible to other problems.

Washes nutrients out of the soil. Watering the lawn regularly will naturally wash the nutrients out of the soil. This can especially be an issue on sandy soils that are lighter in consistency and can’t retain minerals as easy. This will weaken the growth of the lawn over the course of the growing season unless it is treated with a lawn feed/fertilizer.

Roots grow shallowly. An overwatered lawn will have a plentiful supply of water near the soil surface. Grassroots in these conditions aren’t encouraged to grow deeply and therefore extensively into the soil. This again leads to a weaker plant.

Encourages the spread of fungi and mushrooms. Fungi love warm, damp conditions at the soil surface layer. This will promote the growth of the fruits of fungi – mushrooms. Although fungi are beneficial to lawns, mushrooms can be unsightly and spoil the look of your perfect lawn.

Encourages insect infestations. A shallow-rooted grass plant is susceptible to insect damage as the younger, softer roots are available at a depth that is the natural habitat of bugs. If you feel that insects are causing an issue on your lawn please read our guidance on some common lawn pests.

Develops thatch. As the shallower roots grow laterally through the top layer of soil, the soil can develop a mat like consistency that will begin to build up with other organic matter, known as thatch. Thatch (and moss), as well as looking unsightly, will suppress the growth of your grass.

Promotes weeds. A regularly saturated lawn will encourage the establishment of weeds such as crabgrass and nutsedge.

How Soft Should the Ground Be

If you are doing great with watering your seeds and they don’t look to be moving around, clumping, getting burried, etc then you should be aware that germination rates can also be affected by the softness of the soil they are sitting on. This is why all grass growing guides will tell you to prep your soil before you put seed down.

The soil under the seed can’t be compacted or overly hard otherwise the seed will have a hard time sending it’s firt roots into the ground.

As I noted above I like to prep the area for seed by lossening up any compaction that exists. I then mix in a small amount of seed starter into to the loose soil to keep the upper layer, the seed bed, as soft as possible.

My secret tip though is that I then deeply water the entire area at this point to get as much water down into the ground as possible so that any misting I do on top doesn’t dry out as fast.

The deep water prior to sowing seed makes it possible for me to water the seed more frequently but with less water per cycle to ensure the seeds stay damp without getting too much water at a time.

Multiple short cycles per day on top of a loosened and most bed help newly formed roots penetrate the ground deeper forming the foundation for healthy turf grass.

You want to encourage your roots to go as deep as possible and this is one of the best times possible to make that happen.

Make sure to see this post for more on getting your grass roots to grow deep.

Can Grass Be Overwatered: Learn How To Repair An Overwatered Lawn - garden

Many regions have soil types which have a heavy silt or clay content which often results in the soil constantly retaining too much water at all times. It’s the very fine particles within these soil types which causes them to stick so closely together, and thus preventing the free flowing of water through the earth.

As a result of this, the Saint Augustine lawn can become constantly water logged, which in turn will make the turf soft and weak and easily damaged from normal wear and tear conditions, the lawn will be far more susceptible to moss, bare patches, diseases, weeds and pests, and will always be unsightly from the resulting recurring damage.

Water logging in Saint Augustine turf is a soil drainage issue, so repairing soil drainage will be the primary focus of this article to fix this problem and try to bring our Saint Augustine lawn back to full health.

Saint Augustine Lawn Coring

Our first approach to curing water logging is to core the lawn and soil. This is a process which is done by the use of a lawn coring machine, which can either be hired, or a contractor can be brought in to do the job for us. We advize the use of a contractor due to the weight and difficulty of the machine for new users to safely operate.

Lawn aerification is done by using this machine to punch steel tubes, called tines, into the turf and soil, which in turn removes plugs (cores) of turf, thatch and soil from the lawn. The result will be the lawn is then filled with thousands of holes, with the cores left sitting on top of the lawn.

These plugs will need to be removed, either by the use of a rotary mower to catch them and pick them up, or by raking them up and disposing of them.

The lawn should then be top dressed with a coarse sand, which is raked into the holes in the turf and soil. This coarse sand will allow for far greater water flow through the soil, as well as allowing more oxygen to the roots of the turf, both of which are vital to good lawn health, and in aiding in the reducing of water retention of the soil.

For soils which have major water logging problems, the lawn aerification process can be repeated once a year until the lawn and soil is fully draining and no longer retains excess water.

Wetting Agents

Wetting Agents are applied to a lawn in the same manner as fertilizers. They can come in the form of a granular agent which is spread by hand or a fertilizer spreader, or in liquid form which is sprayed onto the lawn.

Wetting agents can also be applied by turf professionals.

Wetting agents help soils to more freely circulate and flow water, and as such will allow a water logged lawn soil to more freely disperse of excess water in its profile.

Wetting agents will in no way be a cure to heavy water logged lawns, but should instead be considered as an aid in the repair of the problem in addition to lawn aeration, and as an aid to help water circulate more freely in the soil for as long as they remain active.

Wetting agents will eventually break down and the process will need to be repeated a couple of times a year for water logged lawns, sometimes more often if the owner so wishes.

For the worst affected Saint Augustine lawns and soils, wetting agents may often prove a futile exercise if used on their own and without proper soil repair being undertaken at the same time.

Not All Water Logged Soils Can Be Repaired

Real repair for water logged soils can only ever be achieved by changing the profile of the soil from one which retains water to one which disperses water more freely, and the best way to achieve this is with the use of lawn aeration, and addition of coarse sand.

While such lawn coring can greatly help with many water logged Saint Augustine lawns, the effects do have limitations, and will not repair all lawns or soils.

The reason for this is that the tines which create the holes in the turf and soil can only go so deep, perhaps only an inch or few at best, and for heavy clay based soils this just will not do the job adequately. Because once we get beyond those few inches - we're right back to the cause of the problem, which is the same clay or silt based soil which is still causing exactly the same problem.

Possible Solutions

So what's the solution for these real problem soil types?

First, the lawn owner must judge for themselves whether the combination of lawn coring, coarse sand replacement and wetting agents will work for their own lawn environment. As it would be impossible for us to even consider individual soil analysis for the reader's home lawn in this article. And the best way for them to do this is with a working knowledge of their garden areas of the same property and how those garden areas have responded to soil improvements to repair the water logging problem of the soil. If the soil adjustment was only minor, then coring etc should work equally as well for the Saint Augustine lawn.

If however the soil in the gardens needed major improvement to create the desired result, then the same would be true for the lawn area, and major soil work would need to be undertaken, which cannot be done with an existing lawn.

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