Watering is essential to all life...too little water and
we die, too much water and we drown. The same is true of the
grass in our lawns. Water makes up 70% to 80% of the weight
of grasses and the clippings alone are nearly 90% water. While
most people are concerned about not watering their lawns enough,
the fact is, more lawns are damaged by overwatering.
When To Water
It is essential to begin watering new turfgrass sod with
a half hour after it is installed or placed on the soil. Apply
at least 1 inch (2.5cm) of water so that the soil beneath
the turf is very wet. Ideally, the soil 6 inches (15cm) below
the surface will be moist.
Watering Tip #1
Pull back a corner of the turf and push a screwdriver or other
sharp tool into the soil. It should push in easily and have
moisture along the first 6 inches (15cm), or you need to apply
Watering Tip #2
Make certain the entire lawn is receiving water. Corners and
edges are particularly vulnerable to drying out and are easily
missed by many sprinklers. These sections dry out faster than
the center portion of a new lawn. Areas new building also
dry out faster and may require more water.
Watering Tip #3
Runoff may occur on some solid or sloped areas before the
soil is adequately moist. To conserve water and ensure even
irrigation, turn-off the water if runoff begins. Wait 30 minutes
to an hour and restart watering, repeat as needed. For the
next two weeks (or until the turf is well rooted), keep the
soil below the turf moist with daily (or more frequent) waterings
of approximately one-quarter inch (0.6 cm) each. Increased
watering may be required during hot, dry or windy periods.
Watering Tip #4
As the roots of the turf begin to penetrate the soil, it will
be difficult to pull back the corner to check beneath the
turf to see if water is penetrating the soil, but you can
still use a sharp tool to check moisture depth by pushing
it through the turf and into the soil.
Watering Tip #5
Water as early in the morning as possible to take advantage
of the grass's normal growing cycle. Morning is ideal because
of lower wind speeds and less water is lost to evaporation.
Watering in the evening is discouraged because water remaining
on the grass can promote disease and fungus.
Watering Tip #6
Infrequently and deep watering is preferred to frequent and
shallow watering. Roots will only grow as deep as their most
frequent available water supply. Deeply rooted grass has a
larger "soil-water bank" to draw moisture from and
this helps the grass survive drought conditions and hot weather
that dries out the upper soil layer. During the remainder
of the growing season, most lawns will do very well with a
maximum of one inch of water a week from either irrigation
Soil conditions may dictate irrigation be applied in two
settings, approximately two to three days apart. This amount
of water is all that is required for healthy grass, providing
it is applied evenly and wets the underlying soil to a depth
of 6 inches (15cm).
How To Water
Proper watering techniques are important. Here are
several helpful suggestions:
Avoid hand watering because it cannot provide uniformity.
The only possible exception to this guideline would be the
need to water the surface of the grass to cool it, or to provide
additional water near buildings or other heat-reflecting surfaces.
Understand each sprinkler has its advantages and disadvantages.
Proper use is determined by the type of sprinkler you select.
In-Ground Systems require professional
installation, routine adjustments and proper maintenance
to be effective. The greatest mistake made in most in-ground
systems is the "set it and forget it" philosophy
that fails to account for changing seasonal water requirements
to maximize turf growth or allows the system to operate
following an adequate rain. Another frequent problem is
when sprinkler heads get out of alignment and apply water
to the sidewalk, street or house-siding, rather than to
Hose-End Sprinklers range in complexity,
cost and durability, but are portable and can provide uniform
and consistent coverage when properly placed and maintained.
During the growing/watering season, perform routine maintenance
to check for blocked outlets, leaking or missing gaskets
and misaligned sprinkler heads.
Water uniformity can be accomplished by
simply using 4 to 6 empty flat bottom cans (tuna fish, cat
food, etc.), a ruler and a watch.
Step #1 Arrange cans at random distances
from any sprinkler.
Step #2 Run the sprinkler for a specific
amount of time, or until there is at least a 1/2 inch of water
(1.3cm) in on can.
Step #3 Measure the amount of water in each
can. Some variations is expected, but a difference of 25-30%
or more between any two cans will require adjusting or relocating
Watering difficult areas such as slopes and under trees requires
special attention to achieve maximum coverage and uniformity.
For Slopes refer to Watering Tip #3 above. For areas under
and near trees you need to know the specific water requirements
for trees as well as grass. Despite having deep "anchor"
roots, trees take-up moisture and nutrients from the top six
inches of the soil and compete with the grass for moisture.
Watering sufficiently for the grass may, in some cases, result
in the over-watering of some varieties of trees or too little
water for other varieties.
A common solution is not to plant grass under the dripline
of trees, but rather use that area for perennial ground covers,
flower beds or mulch beds.
How Much To Water
The amount of water your lawn requires and
receives will determine its overall health, beauty and its
ability to withstand use and drought. Keep in mind that too
much water can ruin a lawn just as fast as too little water.
One inch (2.5 cm) a week is a watering "rule
of thumb" (by rain or watering) suggested for most lawns;
however, this will vary between different turf species and
even among cultivars within a specie, seasonal changes and
different soil types.
Look at your lawn to determine its water
needs. Grass in need of water will have a gray-blue cast,
rather than a blue-green or green color. Also, footprints
will still appear after a half-hour or more on a lawn in need
of water, while on a well watered lawn, footprints will completely
disappear within a few minutes. Inspecting your lawn frequently
will help you determine its water requirements and avoid either
over or under watering.
Water timers can help provide consistency
and even be pre-programmed to turn on or off. Some timers
measure the amount of time water flows through the device,
while others measure the number of gallons used. Read the
directions with the timer to determine proper operation.