The Complete Guide to Watering Your Lawn
The right amount of water, at the right time, is a must for a healthy, lush, green lawn. Most lawns need at least an inch of water each week, beyond any rainwater they receive. When and how you water also determines how great your lawn looks. A few waterings each week are better than daily watering and are better than one long and deep watering just once a week.
Watering Your Lawn: The Essentials
One of the major causes behind most lawn problems is improper watering, according to Consumer Reports. Watering your lawn involves more than just making sure you give it an adequate amount of water each week. When you water and how much water you provide during each session also plays a role in how healthy your lawn will be.
When you don't give your lawn enough water, weeds that thrive in dried conditions, such as crabgrass, can thrive. When your over-water your lawn, you not only waste water, but you also increase your lawn's risk for fungal infections and other diseases.
How Much Water Your Lawn Needs
An established lawn typically needs between 1 inch and 1.5 inches of water per week. The exact amount your lawn will need depends on your location and climate conditions. If you're in a humid area, such as the northeast in the summertime, you can usually get away with giving your lawn just an inch of water weekly.
But if you're in the west, where drought conditions are common, you will want to provide your lawn with up to 1.5 inches each week. Depending on weather conditions, the amount of water you give your lawn might vary from week to week. After a dry week, you'll want to give your lawn more water, even if you live in a humid or rainy area.
The video from the Lawn Care Nut shows you how to water your lawn and how to figure out how much water you're giving it. He recommends investing in a low-cost rain gauge, which is essentially plastic cup you push into the grass. As you water the lawn, the cup collects water and gives you an idea of how many inches you've given the grass during a watering session.
When Your Lawn Needs Water
Is it better to give your lawn all of its water for the week at once or to stagger watering throughout the week? A solution somewhere in the middle is usually ideal. Instead of watering your lawn daily or drenching it once a week, you want to water it between two and three times weekly.
Each time you water, give the lawn about a half inch of water. There are two reasons for watering deeply and infrequently each week, according to Dummies. For one thing, you want to give your lawn enough water to encourage deep root development. The deeper your grass' roots, the better able the lawn is to retain and use moisture.
Watering too deeply, by dousing the lawn with a full inch or inch and a half of water all at once, can lead to waste. The roots only reach about eight inches deep in the soil, max. Any water that seeps beyond those eight inches won't be used by the grass.
Watering daily is a no go because it doesn't give your lawn time to dry out a bit between waterings. The wetter your lawn, the more likely it is to develop fungal infections and other diseases.
You can tell that the lawn has dried out enough to need to a new dose of water because it will change color. Dry grass tends to be blue-green in color while wet grass is bright green. The drier your grass is, the easier it is to see your footprints on the lawn.
Watering your lawn at the appropriate time of day will allow it to make the most of the water you give it. Usually, early morning, before things heat up, or in the evening, once things have cooled down, are the best time to water your lawn.
The Rules for New Lawns
The rules for watering a lawn are a bit different when you've recently sown grass seed or have baby grass growing. Grass seed and fledgling lawns need more water than established lawns, since they are either in the process of sprouting or are still developing healthy root systems.
As the video above from The Grass People shows, you want to keep the soil moist to a depth of about one inch after you've seeded a lawn and as the seeds turn into grass. Not all seeds sprout at the same time, so if you ease up on watering too soon, you can end up with bare patches on your lawn.
The Rain Water Issue
Rainwater can give your lawn a much needed drink from time to time, but in many areas, rainwater alone isn't enough to keep a lawn well-hydrated. For example, in drought-prone areas of the US, a lawn won't get anywhere near an inch of water each week from rain.
In 2014, the state of California had an average annual rainfall of 23 inches, or less than a half in per week on average, as the LA Times reported.
Of course, some parts of the country have the opposite problem. As the Chicago Tribune noted, it's also possible for a lawn to get more water than it needs from rain, leading to problems such as grubs and drooping grass. You can use the rain gauge to see how much rainwater is falling on your lawn. But if you're in the midst of a rainy spell, there's not much you can do to protect your lawn from too much water.
Types of Lawn Watering Systems
There are two main categories of lawn watering systems: drip or soaker systems and overhead spray systems. You also have the option of hand watering your lawn, which might be the best choice if you live in a drought-prone area and there are numerous restrictions on when and how much water you can give your plants.
Sprinkler systems, either built into the ground or attached a to a hose, are among the most common lawn watering system. They mimic rain, in that water falls on the lawn from overhead. Although sprinklers are popular, a major drawback of them is that they often cause water to fall on non-lawn areas, such as the sidewalk or driveway.
Drip irrigation systems or soaker hoses lie directly on the lawn, sending water right to the soil. The water is less likely to evaporate when you use a soaker or drip system.
Mistakes to Avoid
Here are the most common lawn watering mistakes and how you can avoid them:
- Watering in the middle of a hot day. Water only in the morning or evening, to reduce evaporation and to help your lawn benefit from the water.
- Setting your sprinklers to auto-pilot. Watering your lawn is more art than science. If you put the sprinklers or watering system on auto-pilot and forget it, you might end up watering when the lawn needs it least.
- Choosing the wrong grass for your area. Some varieties of grass are better suited for the wetter, cooler summer of the Northeast, some prefer the conditions in the hot and dry Southwest. Growing the wrong type of grass for your region is just asking for trouble.
- Cutting the grass too short. The taller your lawn, the less water it will need. This is particularly helpful in times of drought.
Good Watering Goes Hand-in-Hand with Other Healthy Lawn Practices
A healthy lawn starts with a good watering practice. If you're ready to learn more about watering your lawn and about other healthy lawn practices, we've got plenty of information for you. Check out our other articles on the topic, located over on the sidebar.
Did you know?
The typical family in the U.S. uses about 116 gallons of water per day for outdoor purposes.
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Source for fact: EPA