How and When to Water Your Grass
Early morning, afternoon, or night? Find out the best time to water your lawn to achieve optimal health and appearance. Also, learn other important facts about lawn watering.
If you’re aiming for the most impressive lawn in your neighborhood, don’t be overwhelmed by watering schedules. The ideal time to irrigate your grass is early in the morning, before the sun gets too intense.
Irrigating in the morning benefits your lawn because it allows the water to reach the roots before high temperatures lead to excessive evaporation. In addition, it enables the blades of grass to dry throughout the day, minimizing the risk of lawn diseases that can thrive in damp conditions overnight.
Besides knowing when to water, it’s also crucial to understand other aspects of lawn care to effectively irrigate. This includes recognizing the different grass varieties, as well as determining the amount and frequency of water your lawn requires.
How much water is enough water?
A typical lawn requires around 1 to 1-1/2 inches of water weekly. Usually, 1 inch suffices, and exceeding 1-1/2 inches is not advisable. Providing too much water can be as detrimental as not watering enough. In the absence of rain, it’s the homeowner’s responsibility to ensure the lawn gets the full amount of water needed. Otherwise, supplemental watering will be necessary to make up for any shortfall due to lack of rainfall.
How long does it take for optimal watering?
It usually takes around an hour for your sprinkler to deliver the 1 inch of water your lawn needs each week. To confirm this, you can conduct what’s known as the “tuna-can test.” Place an empty tuna can, which is about an inch deep, near the sprinkler and time how long it takes to fill. If it fills in an hour, then that’s the right watering duration. You can also divide it into two sessions if you prefer.
The key is not how long you water the surface, but ensuring the roots receive the required amount of water. Everyone’s situation varies due to several factors, including:
• The size of your lawn
• The type of soil you have (for instance, sandy soil tends to dry out faster)
• Whether you use a manual sprinkler or an automated irrigation system
• Current weather conditions
• The specific grass variety you have
For instance, water may drain too quickly through sandy soil, not giving the roots enough time to absorb the moisture they need. In such cases, you might have to adjust your watering schedule to provide a bit more water.
How frequently should you water?
You have the option to water for half an hour two times a week or for a full hour once a week. Watering too frequently encourages shallow root growth, while less frequent irrigation promotes deeper root penetration as they search for water. A deeper root system helps your lawn become more resistant to heat stress and less susceptible to pests.
Tip: Installing an automated watering system takes the hassle out of remembering when to water your lawn. Simply choose the timer setting that suits you, and the system will handle the watering automatically.
How do you know if your lawn needs water?
There are several general tips you can follow to assess whether your lawn is adequately watered:
• As you stroll over your grass, observe how the blades react to your steps. If they remain flat under your feet, it’s a sign that your lawn needs water. However, if they bounce back quickly, no additional watering is needed.
• Use a digging tool to go about 6 to 8 inches deep into the soil. Gently wiggle the tool to open a small gap, allowing you to inspect and feel the root zone. This area should be uniformly moist; if it’s dry, it’s time to water. If it’s waterlogged, you’ve overdone it.
• The overall condition of your grass often serves as a reliable gauge for your watering effectiveness. Lush, green grass indicates you’re on the right track. If the lawn starts to dry out before the hottest part of the summer arrives, you may be watering insufficiently. If your lawn starts showing signs of fungus, you might be overwatering.
Cool-season vs. warm-season grasses
Generally, grasses that thrive in cooler seasons require more water than those that flourish in warmer seasons. For example, Kentucky bluegrass usually needs more water than zoysia grass, given the same conditions.
However, there are exceptions. Tall fescue is a cool-season grass that’s fairly resistant to drought, while centipede grass, a warm-season variety, is less drought-tolerant due to its shallow roots.
Don’t worry too much if your cool-season grass occasionally turns brown in the summer due to inadequate watering. It’s likely not dead but rather in a dormant state, and it should rejuvenate come fall.