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September 11, 2017

Planting grass seed? Most Twin Citians water lawns way too much

Early fall may be prime time for planting grass seed, but a recent University of Minnesota Extension survey shows many Twin Cities residents who will be seeding could be grossly overwatering it. In fact, the study funded by the Metropolitan Council revealed more than sixty percent of people with irrigation systems regularly over-irrigate their lawns by watering on an automatic cycle.

“Don’t run your entire irrigation system to irrigate the ten percent of your lawn where you’ve planted seed over existing grass,” said Sam Bauer, an Extension educator who specializes in turf grass science. “We found that in the spring people set up their irrigation systems for watering every other day following their city’s odd-even watering ordinances. That’s way too often, and certainly unnecessary.” In the metro, monthly water use is nearly three times greater in the summer compared to the winter, mostly due to outdoor watering, according to the Metropolitan Council.

Extension researchers conducted the first survey of its kind in the Twin Cities last summer to evaluate the lawn irrigation practices of residents in the seven-county metro area. It’s part of a two-year study designed to help homeowners and communities save money and be more efficient with watering practices. “We learned there are opportunities to improve,” Bauer said.

What the survey showed

  • The survey of more than 900 metro area residents revealed:
  • More than 60 percent of respondents water on an automatic cycle—usually odd/even according to their city’s ordinance.
  • 75 percent of residents’ irrigation systems had one leaking sprinkler head, 27 percent had 5 or more.
  • The average resident irrigates 500 square feet of impervious surface such as streets, driveways, sidewalks, and patios.
  • 73 percent of lawns were made up of Kentucky bluegrass, which requires more water and care compared to low-maintenance fescue grasses.

“One of the most important findings is that at least half of our survey respondents did not have their irrigation systems audited (checked for efficiency),” Bauer said. He recommends giving your irrigation system a complete check once a year to make sure it’s running efficiently, no sprinkler heads are broken and leaking and the heads are not watering impervious surfaces.

How much should I water?

A good rule of thumb is one inch per week, Bauer says, which includes both watering and rainfall amounts. He recommends adding a smart irrigation controller which automatically adjusts to the amount of rainfall, the amount of water in the soil and the demands of the plant being watered. Every irrigation system installed after July 2003 in Minnesota is required by law to have a sensor that will interrupt irrigation during times of sufficient rainfall.

One-third of respondents said they did not know how much water they put on their lawns. But there are good reasons to monitor your irrigation system closely. Bauer says the more you water, the shallower your lawn’s grass roots system will be. Without deep roots, grass isn’t hardy enough to survive the stresses of summer and winter, or diseases, insects and weeds.

More importantly, he says water is a finite resource and a good first step towards conservation is to water less. “Your lawn’s going to look a lot better and you’ll save money on your water bill,” he said. “Your lawn will thank you for it.”

For more information on lawn care-water saving strategies, visit University of Minnesota Extension.

For more information on the study, visit 2016 Twin Cities Lawn Irrigation Efficiency Study.

September 07, 2017

U of M to host MN Sparks event on Crookston campus

On Tuesday, September 19, the University of Minnesota will host Minnesota Sparks in Crookston, Minn., at the Bede Ballroom. The event, hosted by University of Minnesota Regent Tom Anderson, will bring three University researchers—who are tackling some of the area’s most critical issues—into conversation with members of the local community.

August 31, 2017

Beef bring nearly $5 billion to Minnesota's economy

ST. PAUL, Minn. (8/31/2017)—Livestock barn visitors have a new reason to appreciate the beef cattle on display at the Minnesota State Fair: The animals represent an industry that contributes nearly $5 billion to the state’s economy.

August 28, 2017

How pollinator friendly is your yard?

ST. PAUL, Minn. (8/28/2017) – Just how does your yard and garden measure up when it comes to attracting bees, butterflies and other pollinators?

July 27, 2017

University of Minnesota announces 2017 Farm Families of the Year

ST. PAUL, Minn. (7/12/2017)—Eighty families from throughout Minnesota are being honored as 2017 Farm Family of the Year by the University of Minnesota.

July 10, 2017

Extension introduces 'Master Woodland Owner' courses in northeastern Minnesota

ST. PAUL, Minn. (7/10/2017)—A new program to help private woodland owners steward their land and legacy begins this summer in northeastern Minnesota.

June 28, 2017

See U of M Extension at the 2017 Minnesota State Fair!

Note: This list will be updated as more information becomes available.

Media Contact: Allison Sandve, Extension news media manager,, 612-626-4077 (office) or 651-492-0811 (mobile).

If you go to the "Great Minnesota Get-Together," be sure to participate in fun and educational University of Minnesota Extension opportunities. Extension discovers science-based solutions, delivers practical education and engages Minnesotans to build a better future.

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