Watering a lawn should be a pretty straightforward process, right? You simply turn on the sprinkler or set the clock on your irrigation system and you’re done. And while that is the general notion, it’s far too easy to underestimate or overestimate the amount of water your lawn needs. What we’d like to share with you are some general “best practices” regarding your lawn’s watering needs to help you maintain that green lawn all season long.
First off, the best-kept secret of watering your lawn is to let mother nature do as much of the work as possible. If rain is in the forecast, turn off the sprinkler systems and wind up the hose. The average lawn needs 1 to 1.5 inches of water per week — preferably in two separate waterings. Hydrated grass blades will “spring” back after you step on them. Dehydrated grass will lay flat. A stressed lawn will begin to brown at a mostly even rate (with some exceptions). Once a lawn starts browning due to minimal watering, it’s a game of catch-up that can be rather difficult to overcome.
So as we enter the summer months and our rain chances get less and less, it’s time to get the sprinkler out (or adjust that irrigation clock) to keep your lawn looking it’s best. What needs to happen next is determining how much water from your sprinkler gets you to the 1-1.5” of rainfall (the average lawn requirements in our area). And here’s the simplest way to get started:
Take a shallow bowl (an old pie pan is perfect) and place it in your yard while the sprinkler is running. Let it run until your collection pan has one inch of water in it. If it takes 20 minutes, great. If it takes 2 hours, fine. Now you know. So if there is no rain in a given week, let the sprinkler run the full amount of time to deliver the correct amount of water. If we get some rain, but you’re not sure how much, supplement with your sprinkler or irrigation system by simply cutting the full watering time by half. Grass is happiest and healthiest when it is thirsty, but not parched.
Now that you’ve determined how long it takes to get the correct amount of water (per week) to allow your lawn to thrive this season, there’s one final detail: deep and infrequent. Several short waterings aren’t as effective as fewer long waterings. That’s because the first few minutes that you run your sprinkler results in runoff, and it takes a while for the water to penetrate deeply. The deeper the water goes, the healthier your lawn will be. Deep penetration encourages the roots to grow deeper to reach the water, and deep root growth is essential for overall lawn health. Shallow watering encourages the roots to remain shallow, and that just isn’t healthy. If your lawn is established but feels soft and mushy and seems to grow slower than your neighbor’s lawn, you might be over watering. An over-watered lawn is more prone to weeds, crab grass, and insect infestation as well. If this sounds familiar, try cutting back on your watering schedule. Lastly, the time of day is very important for lawn health. Watering in the early morning is ideal, while watering at night is not recommended as this is when fungus can attack.
These are a few simple tips that we hope get you started in the right direction regarding your lawns health and watering. In short, lawns prefer less moisture than more moisture, but can’t live without water either. If mother nature is providing adequate rain, then let it be. If it gets dry, drag out the sprinkler to keep your lawn healthy as things heat up.