5 Tips for Watering Your Lawn
Most people take the “set it and forget it” approach when it comes to watering their lawns. It’s easy to turn on your sprinkler and let it run for a while, but this habit is actually quite wasteful, not to mention harmful to your lawn. On the other hand, you may not be watering your lawn enough, which can also be destructive in its own right.
Whether you’re overwatering or under-watering, you can be doing more bad than good when it comes to the health of your grass. Read on for some tips and tricks.
Rain is, and always will be, the best source of irrigation for your lawn. Rainfall has a different pH and contains nutrients that you can’t duplicate from your sprinklers using the municipal water supply. Whenever possible, let nature do the work. If you get more than a half an inch of rain, you can safely turn your sprinklers off for a few days. Bonus; you're also saving water.
There’s a reason why lawn care people get excited for the lawns and gardens when it rains. The water from your sprinklers will always be supplemental to nature!
In general, your lawn needs about 1 inch per week of water. Although in mid summer, lawns need up to 1.5 inches of rain per week, but that doesn’t mean you should water your lawn every day. Watering your lawn every day, or even every other day, is actually doing more harm than good. It trains your lawn that water will always be close to the surface, which makes the root system vulnerable to the scorching summer heat.
The best frequency to water is to focus on doing it deeply and infrequently. Water your lawn once per week in the spring and fall, and up to (but no more than) 2-3 times per week during the hot summer months.
This infrequent watering will help keep the roots stretching deep looking for water and encourage the grass to establish strong root systems. Deep roots are the best possible heat and drought stress resistance for your lawn.
Amount of Water
Each time you water your lawn, make sure to get at least half an inch of water onto your lawn. Any less won’t have much of an impact, and will not train the roots to keep driving deep in search of water.
How can you measure this? Use a rain gauge to make sure your sprinklers are optimized to output the right amount. Make sure to empty your rain gauges once a week, and feel free to move it around the lawn to identify trouble spots.
You can buy a ten pack of rain gauges here. Or you can just use a coffee cup and a ruler to measure. It doesn't have to be complicated!
Time of Day
The best time to water your lawn is between 4-8 AM. Why this time? Because you want the leaf blades to remain dry for as long as possible to prevent disease and fungus. And if you water your lawn at night or even in the late afternoon, the leaf blade will stay wet for long periods overnight and will not dry out.
So, why not 10AM or some time in the late morning / early afternoon? Because you want to the water to actually get down to the root zone. Sunlight will cause a lot of the water to evaporate before it ever makes its way down to the roots, so you’ll end up wasting a lot of the water.
The early morning is the best possible time to irrigate your lawn, giving the grass all day and night to dry out again.
There’s one exception to this rule; if you’re in a watering ban and you’re restricted to watering at night or another time that’s not optimal, then you should take opportunity to water whenever you can, and don’t be overly picky about timing. Watering at night is not ideal, but it's still better than not watering at all.
Different Areas Have Different Water Needs
You might not know this, but not all areas of your lawn need the same amount of water.
A heavily shaded area requires less water than an area that receives full sun because there's less evaporation, and the soil temps don't get as hot.
A slope requires more water than a low lying area, since gravity will cause water to run off the slope, and pool in low lying areas. You may want to adjust the 1 -1.5 inch per week rule accordingly in these areas.
A good way to optimize your watering and adjust for different areas of your lawn is to keep an eye on the color. If your lawn starts to turn from green to a bluish grey, it's the first sign of drought stress. Get some water down quickly to bring it back or you'll risk more issues.
Following these simple tips may be just what you need to grow that deep green, healthy grass you’ve been wanting all along!
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