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How and when should I water my lawn?

How and when should I water my lawn?

Water is an essential substance for life on Earth, and like all living things, your lawn requires it. Plants do best with optimal temperature and moisture during their growing seasons and following them. So whether you’ve recently bought your first house or want to make sure your ground sprinkler system is properly watering your established lawn, we’ll walk you through Lawn Hydration 101.

Why Isn’t Rain Water Enough For My Lawn?

If you understand your ecosystem at all, you might wonder why rainwater isn’t enough to keep your lawn’s hydration needs to be met. While most grasses are generally tough plants and show a lot of resiliency, rainwater is often not consistent enough for optimal grass health. Differences in rainfall can weaken grassroots or starve your lawn of nutrient absorption through the water.

Often, the hottest seasons of the year are also the driest, hitting your lawn with a one-two punch of damage and resource depletion. Many homeowners live in places where it is typical to receive little or no rain over several weeks, making it extremely difficult for lawns to survive, let alone reach their healthiest, greenest potential. On top of that, rainfall very often contributes too much or too little water for your lawn’s needs. Rainfall is sporadic and sometimes overwhelming, factors that you can help mitigate with proper lawn care.

When Should I Water My Lawn?

Since rainfall is so sporadic, what would ideal water coverage look like for your lawn? Well, those answers depend somewhat on where you live. Soil type, current weather conditions, and environmental conditions where you live will help you answer those questions, but typically healthy lawns should be watered every 3 to 4 days, or once or twice per week. This frequency allows the grass to build resiliency and deeper root systems between watering periods while delivering adequate nutrients from the water and soil.

The best time of day to water your lawn is in the early morning, just after the sun comes up. This is because sunlight causes faster evaporation rates and can also create damage from heat as it does so. For appropriate moisture levels, you’ll want to spend about a 30-minute time period covering the surface area of your lawn, allowing saturation without flooding. While most of us might not be willing to water our lawns first thing in the morning, it’s vital to absolutely avoid watering midday or throughout the afternoon, when the sun is highest in the sky and excessive evaporation often occurs. A second-best option for watering would be early evening. However, this can sometimes create perfect conditions for mold, mildew, and fungal growth to develop overnight, especially in warm summer months. Your lawn at night is damper with cooler temperatures and loses less water to evaporation, making it more susceptible to diseases of turf.

How Can I Be Sure I’m Watering Correctly?

Your grass needs about an inch of water to an inch and a half of water per week, and there are a couple of ways to determine how much it’s getting from rainfall. You can use a coffee can or other durable upright container and mark the inside with a ruler. Monitor your rainfall and how long it takes to reach those levels, then supplement accordingly. Watering too frequently creates better conditions for mosquitoes to breed and less resilient grasses with shallow root systems. Not watering often enough means putting your grass at risk of dormancy or death.

To determine how much you’re watering, you’ll need to take measurements the first time you water your lawn, using your newfound knowledge of best watering practices. If you’re using a standard garden hose to water, moisture will reach about 6 to 8 inches below the surface of the yard when you’ve applied an appropriate amount of water. You can measure this by watering in intervals of about 10-20 minutes, depending on soil type, soil health, and days between waterings, and then either digging into the lawn or using a tool (like a screwdriver, aeration tool, or another garden tool) to measure the moisture depth. Sandy soils and clay-like soils have varying densities, so they might take longer or shorter periods to water. Gauging the amount of time it takes you to reach adequate saturation should determine how long you water in future weeks.

If you have a ground sprinkler system already installed, ensure it’s spraying low and close to the lawn, not with a high upward arch. You can determine your flow rate through product descriptions. This can help you decide whether you’re watering enough or maybe watering too much. Divide the square footage of your lawn by .62 gallons of water, then divide by the flow rate. The solution is the number of minutes you’ll need to run your lawn sprinkler to adequately cover your lawn, which you can set with your flow timer.

Other Things To Consider

Water use restrictions for water irrigation systems and variation in soil type and location can mean that your lawn needs to adhere to a different watering schedule to be its healthiest. While our guidance is to water approximately every 3 to 4 days, this might need to be more frequent during a drought, with different soil types, or for different species of grass. Of course, that’s not always practical, ethical, or legal, depending on use restrictions and water resource availability. 

Remember that grasses are very resilient plants and that there are ways to stay ahead of damage to your healthy lawn through regular care and monitoring. If you see your lawn’s color fading or becoming less vibrant, it’s time to water. If you walk through your grass and your footprints remain indented afterward, this is an early indication that your lawn needs deeper watering. Brown spots in your grass and brittle grass are the result of prolonged dehydration.

A rain gauge is another handy tool in determining how often to water. Remember that even heavy rain doesn’t necessarily mean your lawn will receive the saturation it needs, particularly if you live in an area where sloping lawns are common. When watering your lawn, it is better to do so thoroughly than to water in short bursts. However, if water restrictions or other factors demand it, you can water twice as frequently at half the saturation.

Still have questions about watering or other lawn care questions? Green Roots Organic is your local lawn care expert dedicated to teaching homeowners how to properly care for their organic and semi-organic backyards. Contact us today for any and all of your lawn care questions, lawn care tips, or to check out our list of available services in your area.