How Long to Water Your Lawn

by | Lawn Tips

Watering your lawn is an integral part of any lawn care program. Knowing how long to water your lawn and using proper watering methods assures healthy, stress-free plants and grass that can better resist diseases and pests.

If you aren’t sure how long you should water your lawn, this article is for you—read on to learn everything you need to know.

How Do You Know Your Lawn Needs Watering?

When you notice any of these three signs, then it’s time to water your lawn:

  • Curled up leaves in the evening
  • Blue-gray color instead of green
  • Lawnmower tire tracks or footprints remain visible

These signs don’t mean that your grass is about to die. Certain grass varieties can turn brown and go dormant but remain alive for at least three weeks.

With such grass types, you can conserve water by allowing your grass to go dormant before watering. If it doesn’t rain for three to four weeks, water the lawn until the top five inches of soil becomes moist. This moisture will keep the grass alive, but it may not be sufficient to make the lawn green.

Understand Your Lawn’s Weekly Watering Needs

To water your lawn sufficiently without drowning it, you need to understand how many inches of water it requires per week. On average, lawns thrive with 1-1.5 inches of water per week. However, specific watering needs vary by season and grass type.

Cool-season grasses usually require more water than their warm-season counterparts. Cool-season grasses require more watering in spring and fall than in winter. Watering needs for warm-season grasses are higher between mid- to late spring and early fall.

Most cool-season grasses need 1½ -2 inches of water per week in the active season (between spring and fall) and ½ -inch weekly during the dormant season. On the other hand, warm-season grasses require ¼ to 1-inch of water per week in the active season and ⅛-inch weekly in the dormant season.

How Long Does It Take to Equal One Inch of Rain?

Generally, automatic sprinklers take one hour to water one inch of soil (the ideal amount per week). However, the specific duration varies depending on several factors, such as the type of sprinkler you’re using and your water pressure.

To determine your sprinkler’s watering ability, use a cleaned out tuna can. Place the can where the sprinkler hits the lawn and run the sprinkler. Time how long it takes to get the can ½ inch full.

If it takes 30 minutes, you’ll need to water your lawn for 20 minutes three times per week to get an inch of water in the soil. You’ll need to increase watering frequency to counter evaporation in hot weather.

Water Your Lawn in the Morning

The best time to water your lawn is in the early morning when the evaporation rate is low due to low temperatures and cool breezes. Watering in the morning also helps keep your yard cool during the hotter times of the day, easing stress on the grass.

If you can’t water in the morning, consider doing so in the evening, but don’t wait until it’s too late in the night. Watering late in the night means that your lawn will remain wet overnight, which increases the risk of fungal diseases.

How Do You Know Your Lawn Has Had Enough Water?

A few tricks can help you determine if your grass is getting enough water. If the lawn looks healthy, the chances are that it’s well-watered, and you should stick to your watering routine.

You can also determine if your lawn needs watering by inserting a screwdriver into the soil. If the screwdriver effortlessly sinks 6-7 inches, your lawn is getting sufficient water every week.

If your lawn looks unhealthy or the soil is too hard, consider changing your watering routine. If mushrooms are growing in your grass, it could be a result of overwatering. In that case, you should cut back watering until the mushrooms disappear.

To avoid overwatering your lawn, allow the surface (one inch of soil) to dry out before watering again. Allowing the surface to dry out helps kill any fungal disease, insect eggs, and newly germinated weed seeds. It also helps your grass develop deeper roots, making your lawn more drought-resistant.

How to Water on a Slope and Near Trees

If a part of your lawn is on a slope, be sure to use a low volume sprinkler, so the grass has enough time to absorb the water. If you apply the water too quickly, much of it will run down the slope instead of benefitting your lawn.

It could be best if you aerate the soil, as it improves water penetration on slopes. Experts recommend soil aeration as an annual routine for sloping lawns.

If a part of your lawn is near trees, you should realize that trees consume plenty of water daily, absorbing the soil moisture from the surface with their extensive network of fibrous roots. The grass surrounding the trees is usually the first to exhibit signs of dehydration.

When watering grass near large trees, you must increase watering frequency to prevent the grass from browning.

Common Lawn Watering Mistakes

In the quest for lush, beautiful lawns, we sometimes make mistakes when trying to water lawns properly. Below are some of the common mistakes that could harm your lawn.

Using the Wrong Sprinkler Type

It’s essential to use the appropriate sprinkler for your lawn. If you have a mature lawn, a pulsating sprinkler is a better option than the oscillating type. Pulsating sprinklers shoot out water horizontally, making them less susceptible to wind and evaporation.

That means the water will penetrate deeper into the soil. Oscillating sprinklers spray water upwards, resulting in uneven watering and more water lost in the air. Wind also affects an oscillating sprinkler’s effectiveness.

If you have a newly planted lawn, however, an oscillating sprinkler system is better. A pulsating system may be too harsh, and the intense water pressure could disperse and wash away the seeds. Therefore, it’s advisable to start with an oscillating system and change to a pulsating one when the grass matures.

Watering in Midday, When It’s Sunny

When you water when it’s hot, most of the water ends up evaporating before it reaches the roots. Stick to watering early in the morning, or early evening, when it’s cooler.

Watering the Leaves Instead of the Roots

Roots absorb most of the water that a plant needs, while the leaves absorb very little. When watering with a hose and nozzle, avoid showering the foliage. Aim the water at the roots, and wait until the water starts to run off rather than soak in.

Watering Every Day

Grass often doesn’t need daily watering. Twice a week is usually adequate, and only once if it rained recently. Generally, it’s advisable to do two proper waterings that effectively penetrate the soil to encourage in-depth root development instead of daily watering that may not go beyond an inch.

Call the Professionals

If you follow this guide diligently but still struggle to have a lush, green lawn free from diseases and pests, it’s advisable to work with Yard Smart professionals. Before you know it, they will have your yard looking vibrant and healthy.

Yard Smart is a renowned leader in residential and commercial lawn care. Call us at (647) 696-6168 to request your free estimate.

Matt Higgons

Matt Higgons

It’s been over 40 years since Matt Higgons started his first lawn mowing gig with his closest friend in high school. He used that money to pay for a business degree at St. Lawrence College in Kingston, Ontario and had big dreams of starting his own company. He never realized that the very business he would dedicate his life to, was the same one that helped him pay for that education.

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