Virtually every living thing needs water to survive, and your lawn is no different.
You may think that watering your lawn should be a simple and regular endeavor, but you would be wrong. In this article I’ll answer the question: how often should you water your lawn?
Too much water can be just as harmful as too little water.
A delicate balance exists in the middle. Here grass is watered enough to stimulate leaf growth while also encouraging root growth deeper into the earth.
There are several considerations to make when watering your lawn. These include the time of day that you decide to water to the type of grass your lawn is made up of.
We live in a vast world with different kinds of climates with varying weather patterns. It is impossible to convey a hard-and-fast rule of something like: water your lawn 3 times per week for 20 minutes each time.
What if you’re in an area or a season that gets a fair amount of rain?
What if your grass really doesn’t need that much water?
The truth is you can determine if your lawn needs to be watered that involve common sense. Don’t bother looking for a specific formula that works on all grasses in every location. It does not exist.
Hopefully this list will prove a helpful source so you can determine how often to water your lawn for ideal results.
Let’s get into it!
Know Your Grass Type
If you happen to know what type of grass your lawn is made of, this can help you. Different grasses have different levels of resilience to under-watering or over-watering.
Certain breeds of grass can be highly resistant to drought and can go for long periods without water. Others are not as resistant to drought and require more regular watering.
For example, fescue breeds of grass are meant for cool and wet weather areas. They can also be quite drought-resistant due to deep rooting systems once established. So if you are planning a trip this summer, your fescue lawn will probably be ok.
Bermuda grass does well in hot and dry areas and can go up to four weeks without a good watering. It’s even more drought-tolerant if the temperature has cooled, which helps it go into a dormant state.
New grass seed and new sod, regardless of breed, will need more regular watering to become well-established. Over-watering in this situation will quickly kill your brand new sod, so it’s still important to follow instructions from the provider, who will be precise depending on the type of grass and what stage of growth the sod is in. Watering is important because it predominantly helps the roots to grow deeper into the ground, which will help in the long run to keep the grass alive during dry periods. Well-established root systems are key to grass health and resilience.
Local & Seasonal Weather
Weather obviously plays a large role in how often to water your lawn. Whether it is hot and sunny, rainy, or cold will dictate the needs of your grass. Most lawns do best with about one inch of water per week, however this may be a bit different if you are in a particularly hot and dry climate or if you’re experiencing a lot of rain already.
Grasses can also become dormant under certain conditions. Dormancy is when the grass basically falls asleep; it is not dead grass despite the misconception due to its brown colour or a duller shade of green. In temperatures below 40 degrees or above 90 degrees Fahrenheit, grass can become dormant and stop growing. In these kinds of temperatures, it may not serve much purpose to water a lawn until it warms up or cools down.
Watering Lawns in Spring & Rainy Seasons
Rainy areas or rainy seasons like springtime are a great opportunity for planting new grass or sod. All of the moisture available is great for new lawns.
During this time of year it is easier to establish your lawn following the dormant period, stimulate root growth, and fill in any bald patches without having to be a slave to a watering schedule thanks to Mother Nature.
Watering Lawns in Hot & Dry Seasons
In hot and dry weather, a lawn may be best served with more frequent waterings. Above 90 degrees Fahrenheit, grass will often fall dormant anyways. You might be able to prevent that if you can keep your turf cool with sprinklers a few times a week. If your grass is browning, don’t worry. Your grass is not dead and should turn right back to green when it cools down after watering.
No matter the season, it is best to water in the morning before 10am to ensure that your lawn has enough time to absorb that moisture without the sun and heat evaporating it. Alternatively, but still less ideal, watering at dusk is another option that allows the moisture to soak in without lingering too long and potentially allowing mold to grow and kill your lawn.
How to Tell When it’s Time to Water Your Lawn
A lawn that has dried out and needs watering will often fall dormant and turn a duller shade of green or even brown. Before reaching the dormancy stage, some types of grass will even begin to wilt or bow when they are in need of watering.
A screwdriver or a hand spade are also good tools for assessing the moisture in your lawn.
If it is difficult to get your tool into the ground, then it is very likely too dry. Do this test intermittently while watering to ensure that it has reached deep into the soil. It’s best to saturate the soil with moisture to a depth of 6 to 8 inches when watering.
Irrigation Systems: Do You Need One?
In an ideal world, we’d all have in-ground sprinkler systems that could run on a timer so that we wouldn’t have to do much beyond planning the next watering.
They are one of the most effective systems and do an excellent job of evenly watering a lawn without wasting water. Most people don’t have this luxury and opt for a sprinkler such as a pulsating or impact sprinkler, oscillating sprinkler, or rotary sprinkler to help distribute water across a larger lawn. For a small or medium-sized lawn, hand watering with a sprinkler nozzle on your hose can be an effective alternative; it doesn’t require much setup and allows you better control.
About an inch of water evenly over the lawn is ideal. For easy measurement, place a clean and empty tuna can in the middle of the lawn while you water. Once the tuna can is full, you know you’ve hit an inch deep.
The Dangers of Over-Watering Your Lawn
Too much water is a bad thing for anything. Over-watering grass can result in rot and mold growing, especially if soil doesn’t have enough time to dry out sufficiently between waterings and gets cold and damp. It can also drown roots, which are the most important part of grass and quickly lead to the lawn dying.
Weeds tend to thrive in over-watered lawns, especially in the long term.
It’s best to err on the side of caution and put off watering if it has been particularly rainy or if the lawn hasn’t been exposed to a lot of heat and sunshine to cause evaporation.
No Need to Wet Your Plants
At the end of the day, under-watering your lawn is actually less harmful than over-watering. Most grass types are quite resilient to under-watering.
Your grass will certainly let you know when it needs watering if it’s been too long.
The results from watering when your grass has turned dull green or even brown are quite quick, versus the length of time it can take to fully treat rot or disease in an over-watered lawn.