Watering Tips (For Established Lawns)

Properly watering your lawn may be the most important process for your lawn maintenance routine, yet it is the most commonly misunderstood part of lawn maintenance.  With a properly watered lawn, everything else seems to fall into place.  Turf that has been watered correctly has a deeper root system, creating less requirements from you.  Less watering from you, fewer problems with weeds, pests, and diseases are benefits of watering appropriately.  Below are the keys to successful watering of your lawn.

Visually Inspect Your Lawn

A lawn that needs moisture tends to look duller in color.  The ground around it may be lighter in color or harder than normal.  Note how the turf responds to foot traffic.  Does it bounce back up fairly quickly or does it stay pushed down?  You can also check how much moisture is needed by digging 8” into the soil with a shovel.  If you see that water has penetrated down 6” then you know your turf is properly watered.   

How Much Water Does Your Lawn Need?

A healthy lawn requires about one inch of water per week (per 1000 sq. ft.)  One inch of water will penetrate the soil 6”.  625 gallons of water will put 1” over 1000 sq. ft.  One gallon per minute is equal to about 1440 gallons in a 24hr period.  This means that once you figure out how many gallons per minute your water system cranks out, you’ll know how long to water.

How To Figure Your Water Output

Most people have no idea as to how much water comes out of their sprinklers or hoses per minute.  This information is very important.  If you don’t know how long to water, you don’t know what your lawn needs.  Below are a few methods to figuring out if you are watering your lawn properly. 

·         The Can Method  Lay out several cans or containers to collect water within the coverage of your sprinkler.  Measure how long it takes to fill the containers with a quarter inch of water.  (i.e. 1/4” of water in 1 hr. means you’d reach your goal of 1” in 4 hrs.)

·          The Bucket Method  Simply fill a gallon bucket with your hose.  Time how long it takes to fill up a gallon of water.  If it takes 30 seconds to fill one gallon, then you are getting 2 gallons per minute.  You need about 625 gallons for a 1000 sq. ft. area; therefore, you need to run the sprinkler for 5.2 hrs. for that 1000 sq. ft. area per week.  [2 gallons/min = 120 gallons/hr.][625 gallons divided by 120 gallons/hr = 5.20833 hrs]

·         The Shovel Method  Grab a shovel and dig down into your turf about 8”.  Look for water penetration of 6”.  If you have 6”, then you are getting enough water.  If you have 3”of noticeable water penetration, for example, you are getting about .5” of water per week.  Not quite enough.  We also are assuming that the soil drains normally.

When To Water

Water in the morning hours if at all possible.  The goal is to allow the extra moisture to evaporate before evening hours.  Humid nights can be deadly to grass and is a recipe for fungus and disease.  If it isn’t possible to water in morning hours, you lawn will still appreciate water at night as opposed to none at all.

But how often do you water? 

Obviously, when it rains we skip watering for a couple days or longer.  A good rain can bring several inches in less than an hour.  When the weather is cooler, our requirements are less.  When weather is hot, grass needs a little more water.

Remember that it is best to water more deeply and less frequently.  We are after a healthy lawn.  A healthy lawn has a deep root system that crowds out weeds and supports itself through droughts, pests, and human activity.  A deep root system can only be created by providing enough water to penetrate the ground as deep as the roots will go.

Therefore, if it were possible to water 1” a day once a week we would.  Some of us do, but most of us need to split up watering on a couple days a week or more.  For the example above, we needed 5.2 hrs of watering a week to achieve our goal of 1”.  Suppose we couldn’t water for 5.2 hrs. in one day.  We would then try to break it up into two days out of the week or more if we have bigger areas to work with.