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Lawn Essentials: Testing Your Irrigation

by Gabby Hyman, All About Lawns Columnist

According to lawn-care experts at the University of California Extension, the number-one cause of discolored lawns is poor watering practice. No matter the level of care you give your grass--from fertilizer to thatch control--your lawn won't thrive or look its best if the water distribution is uneven or spotty. You can easily diagnose your sprinkler system to determine whether it needs adjusting.

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UC experts recommend that you conduct a "can test" on your lawn. Plain, run-of-the-mill grocery cans--six-ounce tuna cans work fine--distributed across the surface of the lawn collect water from the sprinklers. It's important that each collection can is exactly the same size and that you place them roughly equidistant from each other (about every 10 to 15 feet) across the lawn.

Performing the Lawn "Can Test"

Turn on the sprinklers and let them run for 15 to 20 minutes. When you've gathered sufficient water to measure, turn off the sprinklers, but leave the cans where they are. It's the only way you'll know which sprinklers are blocked or set too low. UC lawn experts recommend using a ruler to measure the depth of water in each can.

Once you discover which cans fall below the average, you can troubleshoot the adjacent sprinkler heads for blocks (dirt and rocks) or poor alignment. Chances are good that wherever the cans have low collection totals, the grass is browner than the overall appearance of the lawn.

You can adjust the pop-up (soft-top style) sprinklers by rotating the black-tipped head, clockwise to decrease the angle, counter-clockwise to increase it. Adjust the rotor (orbital) sprinklers when you rotate the orbiter clockwise. You can aim the sprinkler by turning the rotor head in the ground until it sprays directly at the problem area.

About the Author
Gabby Hyman has created online strategies and written content for Fortune 500 companies including eToys, GoTo.com, Siebel Systems, Microsoft Encarta, Avaya, and Nissan UK.

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