Watering your lawn isn’t rocket science, right?
It is mostly common sense, I’ll admit.
However, there are definitely right and wrong ways to go about watering a lawn.
I’m going to explain what you should be doing to promote a lush, healthy lawn, and what watering practices you’d do best to avoid.
- How to Water Your Grass
- Tips and Tricks for Proper Lawn Watering
- What You Need to Ace Your Watering Technique
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A Quick Overview
- Watering a lawn is best done with a sprinkler, early in the morning, about twice per week.
- You want about 1-2 inches of water per week to keep a cool-season lawn happy through the warmer months.
- Watering using a soaker hose, or any hose not attached to a sprinkler, is not ideal.
- Watering every day or during the day when the sun is hot, is also not ideal.
- You can (and should) water less when your grass has already gone dormant during a drought.
Let’s look at these points in a bit more detail…
How to Water Your Grass
Firstly, it’s important to remember that drinking water is a precious commodity that shouldn’t be taken for granted. The natural environment is under immense stress due to the sheer number of humans sharing Mother Earth, each wanting to carve out their own little, lush oasis.
While watering a lawn may seem important, for the most part, it is unnecessary for the survival of your lawn. Cool season grasses will often go dormant, turning yellow, in the heat of summer, only to recover come spring. This is a natural process, designed by nature, to conserve water.
If having a lush, green lawn is important to you, or your lawn has been dormant for more than six weeks and is in danger of dying, be sure to check water restrictions in your area before using the municipal supply, and water mindfully.
If you live in an area prone to hot, dry summers, you might consider reseeding your lawn with a drought-resistant, warm-season grass that will happily stay green with minimal to no watering.
With this in mind, let’s take a closer look at how to water effectively and mindfully.
Invest in a Sprinkler
The first step to watering your lawn is to invest in a sprinkler.
Sprinklers allow for an even distribution of water across your lawn, akin to rain.
While soaker hoses are great for targeting trees, shrubs and vegetables, they’re not appropriate for lawns as they can’t achieve the same even distribution. In case you’re wondering, you can read more about this here.
Sprinkler heads attached to your hose pipe can help you achieve that even scatter of water, as well as saving you time standing with your thumb over the end of your hose.
An alternative to sprinkler heads is an impact sprinkler on a tripod. This cool device adds extra height to reach greater distances, which is great if you’re blessed with a large garden.
With these impact sprinklers, you can adjust the sprinkling pattern to get the most out of your water usage too. The tripod is an added benefit and means you can adjust the legs to make it stable on uneven ground.
Water Your Lawn in the Morning
The best time to water your lawn is first thing in the morning.
Once the sun is high and temperatures start rising, a significant amount of water is lost to evaporation before it even reaches the ground, meaning you have to water more and for longer before enough water has reached the roots.
Watering foliage under the heat of the sun is also bad practice as you can end up scalding the leaves.
In addition, watering in the morning gives your grass a chance to dry out completely before nightfall. This is an important way of preventing fungal diseases that flourish in damp grass.
Water Deeply and Less Frequently
Watering your lawn for longer but only twice per week is better than doing a shallow water every day.
For grass to be at peak health it needs to develop a deep root system – this is what gives your lawn its strength and ability to withstand stressful conditions.
By watering every day for a short time you’re not only wasting water and time, but you’re also not giving your grass the chance to establish a deep-root system.
Shallow watering creates shallow roots, as roots will only grow as far as they need in order to find water.
For a healthy and resilient lawn, you want to encourage the roots to grow deeper in order to find water deeper in the ground. This is because once soil temperatures rise in the summer, soil close to the surface will quickly dry out, leaving shallow roots with no moisture to survive on.
Your Grass Needs 1 to 1.5” of Water per Week
Heat stress in the summer is a common occurrence for cool-season grasses. (Note: heat stress is actually just lack of water rather than too much heat.)
Most cool-season grasses will respond by going dormant and taking on a yellowed appearance. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing – it’s your grass’s way of surviving. However, staying dormant for too long can make it hard to recover.
Therefore, it’s important to give your lawn a few drinks throughout the summer to help carry it through, so that it doesn’t die completely. You don’t have to bring it back to an entirely green state, but just give it a helping hand so that it can bounce back in the spring.
In fact, watering a dormant lawn enough to bring it out of dormancy may do more harm than good, as the grass may try to grow again and experience more stress. Only water your lawn enough to bring it out of dormancy if you have enough water to continue watering for the rest of the season and there are no shortages or restrictions in your region.
If you’re interested in reading more about this, I have an in-depth article on lawn heat stress that will help.
If water restrictions don’t apply in your region and you’re aiming to maintain a green lawn for the duration of summer, you’ll need to aim for two good waterings per week.
As a general rule of thumb, watering for about 20-30 minutes each session is probably best to get that optimal 1” – 1.5” of water.
You can either set up a rain gauge to accurately measure how much water your lawn has received, or you can simply place a tuna can on the lawn and stop watering when it’s full.
Alternatively, if year-round green is what you are aiming for, consider re-seeding your lawn with a mixture of drought-resistant warm season grasses and perennial ryegrass. You can read more about this here.
Check Your Soil and Grass Types
Different soil and grass types require different amounts of water.
Clay soils retain moisture due to their density and lack of drainage, so will only require around a ½” per watering session. On the other hand, if you have sand-based soil, you can give your water a full inch due to its good drainage and low density.
Grass types are also a super important factor in watering your lawn.
Cool season grasses like ryegrass and bluegrass require more watering as they are designed to grow in wetter conditions.
If you have a warm season grass, these can be watered less, or even not at all, as warm season grasses are often drought-resistant and capable of withstanding the heat.
Consider Harvesting Rainwater
An excellent way to sustainably water your lawn through the dry months is to make use of rainwater barrels. Harvesting rainwater from your roof is surprisingly easy and is the only truly sustainable way of watering your garden.
This video explains everything you need to know to get started.
Tips and Tricks for Proper Lawn Watering
Aside from the basics above, there are a few more tips and tricks that can be helpful to have up your sleeve.
- If you have localized dry spots in your lawn and you have no idea why, you might have a hydrophobic soil issue. If this is the case, you can use wetting agents in your soil to reduce the repellence in the soil and also help to maintain water consumption in that area.
- If you struggle to know whether you’ve watered your lawn enough, the goal is for the water to reach 6” down into the soil. A great way to test this is to stick a screwdriver into the soil and if you can’t get it 6” deep, then you most likely need to water more.
- Don’t let your water run off the turf! Soils that are super dry and compact struggle to absorb water and this can cause run-off. To avoid this, you should make sure that your lawn is properly aerated so that the water has a good chance to be absorbed quickly. However, run-off can also be caused by OVER watering when the soil can’t absorb any more water. If you step on your grass and your shoes are soaked, you’ve watered your lawn too much. If you’ve watered to this degree, you likely won’t need to water again for the rest of the season.
- Check the pH level of your water. Water is considered to be neutral, however, different water supplies can be more acidic or alkaline. This change in pH can cause major disruptions in your grass’s health and can inhibit its growing capabilities.
- If you have a newly laid lawn, you should water it more often. A new lawn hasn’t got its deep root system established and will take up to 12 months to develop these roots, so more frequent watering will promote growth.
- Another nifty tip you can use to check if your lawn needs to be watered is to tread firmly on the grass. If the grass doesn’t spring back and stays flat, this is an indication your grass is thirsty and needs to be watered. If the grass springs back, then it doesn’t need to be watered yet.
What You Need to Ace Your Watering Technique
If you don’t already have an irrigation system set up, there will likely be some gear you need to acquire.
The first obvious essential is a hose.
There are a wide variety of hoses available on the market, from metal hoses, to expandable garden hoses – the sky is your limit. There is no real right or wrong here as your choice will come down to budget and preference. But it’s worth exploring the options.
Next up is the sprinkler.
The style of sprinkler you buy will depend on whether you want to run a permanent setup with hoses under your lawn, or use a portable sprinkler that you can move from place to place. There are also different sizes of sprinklers that spray water over varying amounts of grass.
Last but not least, it’s useful to have somewhere to house your hose. Using a hose reel cart with wheels is a practical and easy option to both keep your hose tidy and off the ground, and move it easily from place to place.
If you feel overwhelmed with choosing the best hose reel cart for you, read our guide on the best home for your hose.
Can I water my lawn at night?
In the summer when temperatures remain warm overnight, you are probably safe to water your lawn at night.
However, in general, it’s best practice to avoid watering your lawn at night because grass that stays damp for an extended period of time is more prone to developing fungal diseases.
Is it better to water in the morning or the evening?
It is much better to water your grass in the early morning, before the sun gets hot and counters your watering efforts with evaporation.
It also means that the grass won’t be sitting damp for too long and be at risk of fungal diseases, as when that hot sun does rise, it will dry up any excess moisture that hasn’t reached the roots.
To avoid fungus and disease, it is best to let the soil fully dry out between watering sessions, and watering in the morning is the best way of achieving this.
How often does grass need to be watered?
How often you should water grass depends on the weather or season, grass types and soil types.
In the warm months, you want to aim for a total of 1 – 1.5 inches of water, twice per week, to maintain a healthy lawn (provided there are no water shortages in your region).
Will watering dead grass bring it back to life?
There is a difference between ‘dead’ grass and ‘dormant’ grass, and whilst they may look very alike, they are not the same.
Dormant grass looks dry and dead, but it is actually just utilizing a survival mechanism to cope with stress. When watered it will usually return to its green state.
Dead grass, unfortunately, will not be revived when watered, so you’ll have to lay down new grass seed and nurture it from there.
If you’d like more guidance on how to do this, I have a great guide on how to fix a dead lawn that will be helpful.
At what temperature should you stop watering grass?
Don’t water your lawn if temperatures are below 40˚F.
You also don’t need to water during the cooler months if there has been some rain and there is some moisture in the soil. Only water during cooler months if temperatures are above 40 ˚F, there has been no rain for a number of weeks, and the soil is noticeably dry.
How long should you water your lawn?
The best advice is to water for longer time periods, less frequently. Watering your lawn 2-3 times a week for about 30 minutes (depending on the flow rate of your sprinkler) is a much better choice than watering your lawn more often but for less time.
As mentioned above, deep watering makes for deep, strong roots. By watering your grass so that it reaches 6” below ground level, you’re preparing your lawn to be more drought tolerant.
So, there you go. Hopefully, now you’re feeling pretty confident about how to water your lawn according to season, grass type and soil type – all of which are super important factors for maintaining a healthy lawn!
What do you guys think? Are there any other nifty tips and tricks that could be added to this guide?
Until next time!