Water is an essential component of all plant life, but especially important to growing a healthy, green lawn. No lawn is the same, so it’s important to water your lawn on a consistent schedule that is tailored according to your specific climate, soil condition, and grass type. This will provide your lawn with the necessary hydration it needs to grow strong and healthy all year long.
In order to tailor a watering schedule to your lawn’s specific needs, you should first consider these factors:
The region you live in is a determining factor in your lawn watering schedule. If your lawn is located in a dry climate, your first instinct may be to overwater your lawn to ensure proper hydration. It’s best, however, to water less frequently in a dry climate to train your lawn to endure times of drought. This will also encourage deeper root systems that will absorb moisture better. If the area you live in has water restrictions, remember that most healthy and well-managed lawns can go dormant for up to four weeks without major damage.
Even though all grass types need water, the amount of water and frequency for each type can vary. Warm-season grasses, such as Bermudagrass, don’t require as much water as cool-season grasses, such as Kentucky Bluegrass. Over time, certain species of grass evolved to be more drought-resistant than others. Jonathan Green Black Beauty® tall fescue was developed to grow highly heat and drought-resistant lawns while still maintaining a deep dark green color. Our tall fescue can grow roots up to four feet deep, allowing the grass to access water even during times of drought.
Having healthy, balanced, and porous soil is very important for optimal grass growth. When watering, keep in mind that when soil is compacted, water cannot travel down to the roots and your grass will struggle.
Depending on your soil type, you may need to adjust your watering schedule. For example, clay soils have the ability to hold water longer and need to be watered slowly and less frequently, to ensure better absorption. Loamy soils, on the other hand, are a mixture of sand, clay, and silt. This combination allows the soil to hold water but drain away any excess moisture due to the sand components. A good method to ensure your water is reaching down into the soil properly is the screwdriver test. This test measures that the depth of watering is sufficient for your specific soil type.
- Get a screwdriver that is at least 6 – 10 inches long.
- Find the greenest part of your lawn and push the screwdriver with moderate pressure into the soil.
- The depth that you can push the screwdriver into the ground before you need to exert excess pressure is your watering depth.
- Repeat this test in various areas of your lawn to make sure your entire lawn is absorbing at least 6 inches of water.
- If the screwdriver cannot be pushed at least 6 inches into the soil, then you need to adjust your watering schedule to less frequent, longer soakings. This will increase your watering depth.
Note, if your soil is very compacted, you may want to take additional steps to increase soil porosity. Apply Love Your Soil® twice a year until you can insert the screwdriver easily into your lawn without force. Once you’ve taken climate, grass type, and soil condition into account, you can begin the process of watering your lawn consistently and properly to ensure maximum health and growth.
Now that we’ve covered how to care for your specific property, you can find the answers to the most common lawn watering questions below:
How Much Water Does My Lawn Need?
One of the most common questions when it comes to lawn watering is, “How much water does my lawn need?” On average, lawns need about 1-1.5 inches of water per week, including rainfall.
To determine how many inches of rainfall your lawn receives each week, use a rain gauge. This inexpensive tool can be found at most garden centers and home improvement stores. Place a rain gauge in your lawn and after rainfall, observe how much water has accumulated. Once you have an idea of how much rain your lawn is getting, you can decide if you need to increase or decrease your watering schedule accordingly.
How Often Should I Water My Lawn?
In order to have a green lawn you can be proud of, keep your lawn on a proper watering schedule. Less frequent, longer soakings will allow the water to penetrate into the soil, resulting in deeper roots and healthier grass. Watering your lawn three times a week and 15 – 20 minutes per zone during the growing season (March-October) should be sufficient for most cool-season lawns.
Newly seeded lawns should be watered more frequently, with light soakings two to three times a day to encourage germination. This is best done in the early morning, late morning, and early afternoon. Care must be taken to keep the soil moist for the first few weeks after planting seed. If the seedlings dry out, they will likely not germinate and grow.
What is the Best Time to Water My Lawn?
Water in the early morning, between the hours of 5 am and 10 am to ensure water is absorbed without evaporation from the heat of the sun. Avoid watering your lawn at night, as it will not dry thoroughly, causing the moisture to settle on the leaves and promote fungus that can cause widespread damage to the lawn.
How Long Should I Water My Lawn?
Depending on the size of your lawn and your sprinkler system setup, you may need to adjust your watering time to ensure enough water is reaching every section of your lawn. Each sprinkler system is set up differently, so your lawn may look hydrated in some spots and dull in others. Watch for signs that your lawn needs water, such as dry patches, browning or gray spots, and grass that doesn’t bounce back immediately once you’ve stepped on it.
Conduct a tuna can test to calibrate your sprinkler system and measure how many inches of water each zone of your lawn is getting:
Tuna Can Test
1. Empty and rinse out 4 – 6 tuna cans (you will need one for each sprinkler zone)
2. Use a permanent marker to mark on the inside of each can at ½ inch from the bottom.
3. Place empty cans in various spots on your lawn (one in each sprinkler zone).
4. Turn on the sprinkler system for 15 minutes.
5. Check that each can is filled to the ½ inch mark (if it is below the line, turn on sprinklers until the line is reached).
Now you know how long your sprinklers need to run in order to give your lawn ½ inch of water. Lawns need about 1 – 1.5 inches of water per week depending on how hot it is, including rainfall. Schedule your sprinklers accordingly.
Watering your lawn requires more technique and lawn care knowledge than meets the eye. Proper lawn watering is not one-size-fits-all. It’s important to keep these factors in mind when cultivating the right routine that suits your lawn’s specific needs. By doing this and being mindful not to give your lawn too much or too little water, you will set your lawn up for success throughout every season!