ST. PAUL (WCCO) – The sound of sprinklers yards is a sure sign that summer is nearing.

Water is soaking the green grass below, too often not as well as it should be.

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A University of Minnesota Extension study of homes with irrigation systems found 75 percent of them had at least one broken sprinkler. A quarter of them had five broken sprinklers.

That can lead to leaks, which wastes water and money. Experts suggest checking your sprinkler system yearly for those problems, because replacing the parts is cheaper than running excess water.

And rather than keeping a specific watering schedule, only do so if it hasn’t rained for several days or even a week. Experts say withholding water allows grass root systems to grow deeper into the ground, which didn’t happen as much during the short spring season.

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“Most of us talk about your lawn needing an inch of moisture per week, forgetting the fact that it rains four inches in June, rains four inches in July and rains four inches in August. Irrigation is meant to be a supplement to natural rainfall. It should not be the basis of all your lawn receives,” said Sam Bauer, U of M Extension educator and turf grass expert.

“Leaks are really where we waste a lot of water. But definitely try to get it away that ‘light and frequent’ irrigation cycle. I think your lawn will really thank you for it and ultimately you conserve water in the long run,” Bauer said.

Bauer says about half an inch of water is enough to keep your lawns hydrated for three to four days, sometimes a full week. A way to measure how much water your sprinklers put out involves an empty tin can, like for cat food or fruit. Put the can in your yard while the sprinklers are running and periodically check it to see how long the can takes to fill up with half an inch of water.

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Here is more information on the U of M Extension study.

Jeff Wagner