With a few changes to our watering practices, we can easily create a more water-wise or water efficient Saint Augustine lawn, which is more resilient to heat stress, remains healthier throughout the year and will tolerate drought a little better. All this while using less water. The principle behind creating a water efficient Saint Augustine lawn is quite simple. Apply more water - less frequently.
How It Works
If the Saint Augustine lawn receives short frequent watering, it will only ever create a shallow root system, which is extremely vulnerable to heat stress and stress from lack of water, as its root system will more quickly dry out during warmer weather.
By watering deeply and frequently, the lawn will still only develop a shallow root system because there is no need for its roots to travel deeper into the soil looking for water, so the lawn is equally as vulnerable as if we watered shallow and frequently, and we've just wasted an enormous amount of extra water on our lawns.
The problem with a shallow root system is that the lawn roots will dry out and suffer stress or deteriorate very quickly once the Summer heat arrives and when the lawn top soil dries out very quickly. This will also dry out the root system and the lawn will suffer.
So our aim is to encourage a deep root system in our Saint Augustine lawn.
Deep Root Systems in Saint Augustine Grass
When the lawn receives a deep soaking, the water will penetrate through from the top of the Saint Augustine grass all the way through the upper soil profile.
When this is combined with infrequent watering, the St Augustine grass will send out its roots deeper and deeper into the soil in search of water as the topsoil begins to dry out. This sets down a good deep root system for the turf, which is well below the immediate evaporation layer where moisture stays present in the soil longer.
And because we watered deeply, the lawn roots will always have access to sufficient water as they travel deeper throughout the soil profile.
Now it's imperative that we do not water again too soon, otherwise the lawn roots will stop traveling down into the soil, and stay shallow in the top level of the soil where the soil is prone to drying out from evaporation.
The next lawn watering should not be pre-determined.
We should monitor the lawn for signs of leaf stress, and only when the lawn reaches a point of beginning to look stressed and its leaf wilting, that it's time to water the lawn again.
Ongoing Saint Augustine Lawn Watering
All subsequent lawn waterings should again be very deep, this is usually double or more of normal irrigation settings if we are using lawn irrigation systems.
By using this method, we will quickly find the right watering frequency for watering our Saint Augustine lawn to perfection, the exact watering frequency for each lawn will be different and dependent on factors such as weather and shade conditions where the lawn is planted. We only need to set our irrigation systems according to our new findings of how long the lawn can last until its leaves start wilting.
Side-note: this author waters his own Saint Augustine lawn perhaps 4 times per year in a hot climate.
Remember, your own lawn environment may be different, so adjust this system as required by monitoring the lawn health. Every lawn is different and every lawn watering schedule will also be different.
How This System Uses Less Water
An example watering schedule may include watering for 20 minutes - 3 times per week - totaling 60 minutes of watering per week.
Swapping to this system would in effect cut this watering down to around 40 minutes per week, and that's a big saving in water.
Even better past these initial water savings, many lawns once fully trained to send down these deep root systems, including my own, can often go for months between waterings, and often only watering just once a month during the heat of Summer. These are huge water, time and cost savings!
The end result is a Saint Augustine lawn with a deep healthy root system, which is far more resilient to heat stress, while using much less water.