47- How should I water my lawn?

The summer heat is here. The sun is beating down on your lawn with brutal intensity. Your lawn needs water. And it needs the right amount of water at the right times. How should you water your lawn? How much water does your lawn need? When should you be running my irrigation? How do you make sure your sprinklers are giving adequate coverage? Get the answers to your lawn watering questions today on Eco Lawn Science.

See the video version of this podcast

This product claims to save you up to 50% on your water bill. 
Using smart technology it utilizes the moisture around your plants and lawn and converts it to liquid H20. Much of the water we apply through our irrigation and also from natural sources is not utilized by the plants/lawn due to evaporation. This helps the water you use go further saving you money and allowing you to use less. 

In this episode I share some of the results that I have seen while using it on my clients lawns and landscapes. 


Hey, hey, what is up everyone? This is Ete with another episode of Eco Lawn Science. Hope you're all having a wonderful day today.

I want to talk about a product that I really get behind. It's an organic, or at least an eco friendly. I need to check. It's been a few couple of years since I've read the label, so let me check on that one. But it's a great product and it helps the environment in so many ways, and it helps your lawn, it helps your flower beds, but it's really underutilized. Not everybody needs it, but there are some many that do. And I think the concepts behind this product could be a huge part in helping us battle overusing resources for our landscape, helping us battle drought stress, just a lot of things. So, there's a lot of value to everyone for it as far as it's going to help your landscape, your lawn survive the drought, but it's also, on an environmental standpoint, you're going to use significantly less water, so you're going to save money, save resources, especially in a place like Utah, Arizona, California, all these regions where it's not like back east and we have tons of rain. It's a precious commodity. And being less wasteful is a good way to put it.

So anyway, the product today is called Hydretain. I found out about this, it's been about eight-ish years ago. They're out of Florida, Ocala area, which is a cool little area not far from Gainesville. I know it. My aunt lived there for a while. My family lives in Gainesville. It's just a cool little area. Anyway, that's where these guys are coming from, but there's distributors around the country. And what it is, it's called Hydretain. And if you actually look at the word, "hydro," right, so we're talking about moisture, and then "retain" is in the title, so retaining the moisture, right? That's what it is. They call it a moisture management tool. And I'll tell you a little bit about, I've done some testing with it, I've had some great experiences, and I would like to share some things that I have learned, because it's one thing to see the marketing materials or talk to the company and see all their proof of videos, but it's another thing to have done it for myself. And like anyone, you'll have to do it on your own if you're interested.

But yeah, I wanted to share a little bit about my experience with it. I love the product. I think it's great and yeah, I'm excited. I wish there was more of this because I feel like we could use less water, use it up on our lawns and landscapes, and this is the answer. This is going to help us, especially here. We hit a drought season every year here in Utah, in Park City, and there's restrictions that go on.

And so this product needs to be applied usually around...here, about May. So, we get hot in June, but our lawns, our landscapes are still thriving, doing well. It's not till late June or July that the drought begins, the drought stress. And so this product, you want to put it down in the bountiful time. So you put it down in... depending on where you are, that could be May, that could be late June. You still could have plenty of rainfall. If you're back east where you get tons of rain, then you might have a drought August to September, in the Jersey area, maybe you'll put it down beginning of July. But you want to put it down when things are going good and you don't want to wait until they are already stressed and starting to go.

So, a little bit about my experience with it. I'd like to share just two stories. So, I've mentioned Park City, Utah, and it's very expensive to keep things wet up there. Just the layout of it, it's complicated. There's a lot going on, but water is very expensive. I had a client come and they would spend, I think in a month it was about $3,500 was their water bill, and that was for a lot that I think it was about a third of an acre, and a lot of that was just stone. But that was for a lawn, a small lawn, and flower beds and those type of things, and that was the price. And so I really started looking at it one, just saying, "Hey, we got to find a better way to save people money," but then two was, "We've got to find a way to reduce the amount that we're using because it is a drought. I don't want to run out of water because we're all trying to keep everything green and pretty."

So, we started looking around and that's when we found Hydretain. And since then, I know there's other companies that are making generic versions of this product. I can't speak for those, I haven't used those, so I can only speak for Hydretain. But as far as I understand, they're the ones that kind of came up with this concept and technology, at least first to market, and maybe I'm wrong there, but that was the one at the time.

So, I met with Hydretain, I watched the videos, I saw the research they've, and I'll get into it a little bit later, but they've had some great research done from different universities that have a great turf program. And what they did is they found that the amount of water that you were saving really depended on a few things, but they were finding some... So, the universities' studies are run on a bunch of different properties, some saved, I think at the lower end, about 20%. So they were having the same green lawn with 20% less water, which is a big deal if you think about, especially if you're in an area like Park City where it's expensive or drought, and then the highest was somewhere around 50 to 50% savings, and that was on a lawn. So they did it on crops as well, but we're going to talk more about lawns, home landscape.

And so they were averaging 20 to 50, 55% savings, and so I thought, "Wow, I've got to do that." Because like the prices have already told you, even if I can apply this for just my customers in Park City and help them save money, and of course, not use up as much because we need it, this is a big deal. This is a big game changer, especially in these drought states. And so I brought some in and we ran a test. And I'm going to talk about just two jobs. The first one was a 20,000 square foot property on a gradual slope in Park City. That's about a half acre. That's a good size turf. And I had been managing the property for about three years prior, so I know what this lawn looks like on our current program, but I hadn't seen what it would look like if we did big changes like this, so there was a little bit of risk. So I asked the homeowner to allow me to have access to the sprinklers the day of the treatment and that I was going to come myself and do this treatment.

So, I used the Hydretain ES, it's a granular. They have a liquid now as well, but I used a granular and I applied it with your traditional landscape spreader. This was a Lesco 80 lb hopper push spreader. And so I applied that and immediately I went to the sprinklers. So, it was a heavy little, like, limestone pellet almost. As soon as that was down, went to the sprinklers and I adjusted the water. And right off the bat, I dropped it to 25%. So I said, "Please tell me what your schedule is. We'll do the math and then we're going to do a 25% decrease throughout the week. We'll spread out over the week to see the results we have, and we're going to leave it there." And so with this property, we left it there for the whole summer. I did just the one treatment and I did it in May, like I said, usually around June-ish, that's when our drought season comes. I did it very, very end of May, so the lawn was still healthy, it was green, it didn't have the drought stress spots.

So, we did that, decreased the water 25% and then I left. So, we continued on the rest of the year with our normal fertilization program, which is about monthly, and every time we come for the next three or four visits for the summer into the fall, we took pictures of the lawn and we were able to compare them to previous. And what I found was with that one treatment, we were able to reduce the water 25% usage and the lawn looked the same. It looked as good as it did the three years prior.

And so, yeah, there's a lot more research we could do into it, and I know some people could say that's not much, but from my point of view, I know how the lawns look, I know what they react to here, I was really impressed the fact that I was able to literally take a quarter of the water off and still have the same color that we had every other year. There was one difference. The previous years, not the year before, but the year before that, on some of the slopes, they started drying out and it started going like almost dormant Brown in those areas, and on the year that I put the Hydretain, we did not have that. And so that really intrigued me. I didn't want to do any other changes except for that, and I was really thrilled with that. That was my first test.

My second one was a much smaller property where I applied it to the lawn and the landscape., I think in total, it was about a 5,000 square foot long, 3000 square foot of flower beds, about 8,000 square foot worth, again, on Hydretain ES granular. This was the same summer, because I was testing before I brought it in on a bigger scale, and I did the same thing. But this time I went up to 30% because it was a lot less of property, so I wasn't as worried in case it didn't fulfill what it was supposed to. So, I went up to 30%, meaning 30% water reduction right from the treatment, left it through summer, and the same thing. The property looked great, the plants looked healthy, everything just ran great.

So, since then I've used it, not as much as I'd like, but I've used it on some big commercial jobs, and everywhere I've used it over the years, things have done well, things have thrived and they've done really well. So, my experience is I really liked this product from the quality and the health and the color of the lawn, I was impressed, but then also just that idea of, "Wow, this one treatment literally just reduced usage by, on the one property, 25, the other property 30%," and I saw that, so this is a no brainer. I think everybody should be using this in the area, especially because, like I said, we have these drought conditions. And so that's really what got me excited about Hydretain.

From an economical standpoint, it made a lot of sense because this product to apply is more expensive. At the time, it was about three times more the price of a normal bag of fertilizer for me as a contractor, and so we did have to increase the price. But we found a great way to not make it too hard for the homeowners, but if their normal lawn treatment was 100 bucks, this one was about 180, somewhere in there. But then if you do the math for 180 and then they're going to decrease their water bill for the summer, the peak months, even at the lowest, at 25%, there's no question there. That's an easy solution.

So, let's talk a little bit about how it works, because that's one of the coolest things I got excited about. What happens is basically when you're normally watering your lawn, whether it's through rainfall, irrigation, natural sources, a large percentage of that is never ever even used by the plant, by the lawn or your target. And there's all kinds of research behind that as far as what is that percentage? Some scientists say it's as low as 10. I have seen research that says 45% of the water that you're putting down. So, every time you water your lawn, 45% is gone, it doesn't even hit the target. And so I don't have the exact number there. I am going to dig more into it and see if there's a more conclusive answer there. So, where is it going? So, what happens is it's basically this force, there's this force of gravity, right, which is pulling the moisture back up, an evaporation pulling moisture back up into the atmosphere. So, I mean, literally, you're putting it down and it's just sucking it out.

And so as the soils dry down, the water is depleted, and basically it leaves this moisture vapor behind. And so the idea, how they sell it, is they say, "Just like we can't drink humidity out of the air around us, plants can't use moisture vapor, right? They need it in the form that they need it." And so this product was actually engineered to take that vapor and collect it back into microscopic liquid droplets. So basically, there's moisture vapor, just reaching out... imagine little arms from your soil grabbing those little moisture vapor barriers and converting it back into liquid and allowing your lawn to use it. So, it's a really smart, smart product. The engineering is just fascinating to me. So again, just a really clever and just really smart product.

Some of the universities that they did the study and the testing... so the universities that did their own testing are Clemson, Ohio, Illinois University, Penn State and UF down in Florida. So, it's got some good credibility to it. And those are the ones I referred to earlier that were saying some of them got up to 55% water reduction. So yeah, it's been around, they've been testing it, and I've kind of shared a little bit with you about my experience with it. And here's just a few other kind of FAQ thing about the Hydretain if you are interested. One thing that I like is they have brought it to... not only is it for professionals, but now they have hose and sprayers for homeowners. So, you can find it yourself, a homeowner can hook it onto their hose and apply it. And you know what? I've actually done that.

So, I guess when I had it years ago, they were still in the beta phase, but now anybody can have access to it, so I'm excited about that. I did look it up earlier because I wasn't sure if it was organic or eco-friendly and I found that it's not certified organic but it's basically food grade, organic based products. So, they can't classify it as organic but it's darn close. It is safe for children and pets, like anything I would recommend. You can use it for potted and hanging plants if you'd like, besides of the lawn and shrubs outside, you can use it in your home for interior plants. And each treatment will last about three months. So, there was a job we did about two years ago. It was a commercial high profile job. So, we actually put it down before summer, and then towards the end of summer coming into the fall, so you'd get about a three month period.

So anyways, so there is Hydretain. I think the thing I just love about it is what I've seen is, wow, if I can get the same green lawn I had but reduce my water by a significant amount, I didn't even test past that. They claim and the universities found up to 50%, but I mean, I found 30, no problems. So if I can reap even 30%, I mean, wow, that's a big deal. That's a good step that I can do and I make my back through the savings of water, unless you're in an area where it's just free. More and more every year, I see all these articles coming out of Salt Lake, the concerns for the drought, the future of our state, the Rocky Mountain area, and so I think this is a great tool and a great solution.

So anyway, there it is. There's Hydretain. If you have any questions on it, you can hit me up, rob@ecolawnutah.com. But thanks again. Hope you have a great day. I hope this one helps. See you.

Just because you are hiring a lawn company does not mean everything will be perfect and that you do not have to do anything. In this episode we talk about the three main parts to a healthy lawn and the importance the homeowner plays in all of this. 

To have an amazing lawn you need to feed the lawn and soil, water correctly, and mow correctly. Often I see many people do 1 or 2 of the 3 and expect an amazing lawn. But that's not how it works. These are things you have to watch and inspect each month throughout the entire season. 


Hey, hey everyone, what is up? This is Ete with another episode of Eco Lawn Science. Hope you're having a great day. Mine's going pretty well. Thanks for asking. Today I want to talk a little bit about expectations when you have a lawn care service. 

So when you have a company like mine that is out there performing the treatments on your property, trying to get the weeds out, keep that lawn healthy and you're hiring those guys, you know, there's some work that you have to do as the homeowner to really make this work. And I want to kind of jump into that because that comes up a lot. I recently interviewed a landscaper in Park City as someone I look up to, respect a lot, for one of my other shows–I have a show called The Company Next Door where I interview other entrepreneurs, anyway–and she said this. She does installs and she, you know, does incredible work on some of the best, greatest properties in Park City. And she said, you know, she said, Ete, what I do is when I show up, I listen to the client: so the homeowner, their needs. And then I listen to the property, the landscape. And I kind of help this whole conversation and I connect them. 

And I really liked that, uh, that approach. And I think we're missing that sometimes in this industry. You know, it's just, we come, we ride big machines, we blow off, we make a lot of noise and, and we, we get the lawn looking good and we do the right things there. But sometimes there's this like, it's disconnected. The homeowner might not understand something: Well, why is this happening? Why don't I have this? I pay you guys, why is my lawn not perfectly green? And so anyway, that's kind of what's led to this conversation today. So a little bit about that is we can only do, and I say we as service professionals, we can only do so much, right? 

The best clients, my favorite clients and the favorite lawns that I've been able to work on over the years are the ones where the homeowner and the, the company they hire, are locked up. You know, they have the same understandings, they have a great communication and they're working in some ways, side-by-side to get the best lawn. And that doesn't mean they're calling me every week, "Hey, I just saw this, this," but it's just more, we locked that up before we start: the right values and the right goals and everything is just clear. And then there is a system of communication where they understand, hey, when something's not right, let me, let me check in with these guys. And I don't have to check in yelling and screaming. Like some people could like, you know, "Why is there a weed? I pay you!" without really truly understanding, you know, the biology and what's going on in the soil. Because we obviously can't control that as service companies, but people really believe that sometimes. And so, but working together in this, this kind of synergistic way where there's a great communication and a great reply and things are getting done. 

And so as far as expectations go, you know, we as service professionals, we can apply the fertilizers, you know, we can take care of the weeds, we can feed your soil, we can add organics to the soil and build it up and compost teas. We can do all this, but if other parts aren't done, this is really not that valuable. You know, we can't own our own, take a, a living organism and make it green when we're there once every five weeks. It just doesn't happen.

And the two biggest parts...So it's kind of a three piece deal, right? You've got the feeding and the growth and the weed control and the soil biology, that all that, that's one. That's, that's the company you hire. Then over here, the second one–think of a triangle–the second little, little corner is the maintenance: the mowing, the weed whacking around the edges, you know, the edging, the blowing off, you know, those types of parts. That, that's the second part. And the third part really is the irrigation, is the watering. So as you know, that triangle, the company you hire, they only can help with the one thing. But without everything, those three corners working, you know, synced up, it's not going to be that ultimate result. You're not going to maximize the money and you may not be happy. Because sometimes people think, "I hire you to make my lawn green. Why isn't it green?" And depending on where you are, like especially here in Utah, irrigation is everything. And so yeah, I can feed and treat and, and work at the biology all night and all day, but without those other two pieces really dialed in, I can't make, I really can't make a ton of improvement that I want to make. And that frustrates me. And so that's not a good fit.

And so let's talk a little bit about the other pieces because this part you're already hiring out if you're using a company. If you're not, then yeah, we're talking about fertilizing, we're talking about, you know, feeding the soil, the things I've mentioned. But then the other part with the mowing, one thing I see is a lot of companies, people will hire companies and they'll mow too low, they'll scalp the lawn. Or they're just constantly running heavy machinery when the lawn's a little wet. The timing's wrong and they damaged and they stressed the lawn out. I've seen it. And then peak of summer, 99 degrees, the lawn is brown and dormant and people are out mowing on top, just adding more stress, right? And so those really aren't good practices. And those are all working against what we're trying to do. Not only are they not helping, they're actually counteracting. And so that's, that's where you got to have that sync up. You know, ideally you want to mow higher. I actually recommend going up quite a bit, three and a half to four inches. And I know some people will freak out at that. But hear me out. 

Let me tell you some of the benefits that we're looking at when you can move it up. And just so you know, what I'm sharing today is backed up by many universities. But the one that I liked the most was put out by the Michigan State University Extension and they love three and a half to four inches and, and I've always loved that as well. So here's some of the reasons why. You know, when you mow low, you're going to scalp the lawn. When they cut it too low, they scalp it, that's really harmful and adds a lot of stress to the lawn. So when your blades are up, the chances of scalping are significantly less. It also allows you to clip like 20-30% of the leaf blade each time you mow, which is kind of the ideal proportion for it to be beneficial, to regenerate. You know, there's a lot of benefits to that. It helps to establish the larger root system, which the result of that is it's more drought tolerant, right? When the summer comes, it survives well because the root system has just been flourishing. It helps with broadleaf weed and even crab grass control. And people are like, what are you talking about? It's because when you can grow higher, it shades that soil surface, keeping it a lower temperature. And as you know, the higher that temperature gets in the soil, the more chances and the more rapidly those weeds are going to germinate. And it also helps to kind of fight off grubs because of that larger root mass, you know. And one last thought on that is, because it helps minimize the weeds and the grubs, the best part of that is you're not using as much weed controls and you're not having to use as many insecticides on the lawn, which also benefits the microbiology down below the soil.

So yeah. So raise those blades up, keep them sharp, make sure they're sharpened routinely so that they're not just ripping. And the other thing is make sure they're cleaned. A lot of people don't clean their blades. You may have a company that they'll come and mow and they'll mow 30 lawns in a day and those blades don't get cleaned for months. The problem is some, that can be a carrier for some diseases, some fungus that will attack the lawn. Spores, they will attach to those blades and you will spread it to the next property. A client could get, you know, a fungus issue and say, "Hey, I'm hiring you guys. Why do I have fungus?" Well, it's because of this, you know, and so again, we got to work lockstep with the mowing companies. 

Okay, let's talk about the third corner in our little triangle, which is irrigation. So here in Utah we have great rainfall or snow throughout the spring, usually throughout May, you know, there's all kinds of snow and rain and just we get plenty of spring moisture and then June it starts to dry up, but homeowners who have, who take care of their landscapes, they'll have some type of irrigation. So they'll run those in June, but come July, August, we don't see a single drop often in July or August. And so, and June as well, often so you could go two to three months without it. And so we subsidize it with our irrigation. And again, that's, that's part of the problem too. Every lawn is going to be a little bit different as far as how much water it needs. It's going to, you know, the soil type, the soil structure, those are all the components that are going to define what does it really need.

But some kind of important things that I like... You know, obviously it's a big concern here in Utah because we are in a drought area. And so the state has really come down and they've created something called Slow the Flow. And that is a program, and I've actually met the director and I've been to some of the things, but basically you can sign up and for free, they'll come out and they'll run tests for your sprinklers basically to make sure are they set up and efficient. You know, did you install yourself and put the wrong kind of heads in so that it's not being utilized? Are the timer's off, you know, those types of things and they'll help you and they'll guide you. So that's a great tool that I, I recommend and I love that, that our state's doing that.

But really that's the first part is making sure that your irrigation, you have the right heads, you know, you have the right, and that they're in the right places. I have on my property, a spot that browns out every year because the head that's supposed to hit this area is buried behind a huge rock. I mean a big boulder. And so the boulder gets plenty of water. Again, total waste and drives me loony. I'm trying to get it fixed. But that spot browns out because it's not getting hit. 

So one of the smartest things is again, you can utilize these programs, have them come out, they can give you a better plan if it's not, you know, effective. And then you can maybe redo or make the changes necessary. This is everything here. You've got to keep that lawn wet and again at every property it's going to be different what I mean by wet, but you know, on average, you know, maybe an inch a week, it really is gonna depend, you know, on, you know, is it a shady area? You can put less. Is it a sunny area? It might need more. But just this idea of, this is such a crucial part. You know, we can fertilize it and mow right. But if it's not being watered properly, the food's not going to go where it needs to go. It's just going to dry out. It's, we, you know, we're a mile high up in the sky here, you know, our elevation. So that plays into it. 

What I'm trying to say in all this is your expectations...You can have a great lawn. You can have a great landscape. But first, make sure you understand these three corners of this triangle, you know, the irrigation, the feeding, food source, and then the mowing and make sure they're all sync together and make sure they're all working together.

You know, from my company when we're out and we see in the summer, on a client, a spot that looks like it's going to be drought, you know, we try to notify them. "Hey," (we send them an email), "just so you know you know"–or we take a picture–"this is what we saw." You know, "Can you go ahead and check your sprinklers?" And there's this whole thing. 

But if everyone works together, then yeah, you can have a great lawn, a great property. But if not, and you're just doing one of the three things, that's, that's where it gets hard. And so as simple as this all sounds, you'd be surprised how many times I get that phone call, "Hey, you guys came out, but it's not as green as it should be." And then I come to find out, "Oh, our sprinklers have been off for a month," you know, and it's like, well, okay. Or "Oh yeah, it hasn't been mowed in two months and we've got weeds everywhere." You know? And so it can be very frustrating and so anyway, that's what led to this, this episode. 

So hopefully this helps. I know this was a pretty simple one, but I guess it needs to be heard cause it's always coming in. Anyway, have a great day.

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