Do Lawn Polymers actually save 50% on watering?
I live in Colorado Springs, CO and have a company that aerates my lawn in the Spring and Fall each year. They are offering lawn polymers as an addition to my regular double aeration, fertilization, and soil conditioning treatment for $100.00 (discounted from their usual $150) which they claim will reduce watering needs by 50% over the Summer. My total turf area is not more than 4000 sqft. We have water restrictions going into effect April 1st and the pitch sounds enticing as I'm doubtful 2x a week will be enough to keep my lawn green during the heat of the summer. After reading your article, I called them to ask about what kind of polymer they are selling. The gal who answered the phone wasn't sure but indicated they import them and she could find out what they are made of and who makes them. She did say however that they recommend adding them 2x a year when aeration is done to get more polymers into the soil and increase their effectiveness. Are these actually worth the $100? Unless the 1990's study by the CSU Extension has changed, the article on the PlantTalk Colorado website suggests they are not worth the money. The company making the claims has a website at www.garyslawns.com If polymers are not justified, is there anything else I can do to enhance the moisture holding ability of the lawn following aeration that would be more helpful and cost effective?
El Paso County Colorado
Excellent question. The short answer is: no, we do not recommend polymers because their use does not allow for reduced irrigation on lawns. Polymers (if the right ones are used...) MAY be beneficial on very coarse, sandy soils, or when trying to grow grass on gravelly soils or decomposed granite. Further, IF polymers were useful for reducing irrigation requirements on lawns, very little of the polymer will get into aeration holes (as is the way that lawn care companies sometimes suggest introducing them into lawns).
As far as caring for your lawn with watering restrictions, I have attached something I wrote for managing lawns this spring with watering restrictions. That will be revised as we enter the growing season and see what further (if any) restrictions there will be on lawn watering. You can also visit my turf website for updates and other turf management information.
The twice weekly watering SHOULD BE the goal of every homeowner, whether or not watering restrictions are in place. The lawn may not always be perfectly green, but it will be generally healthier and more stress tolerant than a lawn watered every day or every other day. So, I don't see the twice weekly watering as a real "restriction".