Keeping your lawn looking lush and lovely doesn't have to be a major chore. Basic knowledge about when and how to water can limit both the amount of time and money you spend on your lawn's watering needs, while fundamental wisdom about grass and soil types and a willingness to adjust to weather pattern changes allows you to maintain a beautiful lawn with little effort. Follow the easy tips below to simplify your lawn watering tasks and enjoy the benefits of a healthy lawn.
1. Let Nature Take Its Course
Most grasses are hardy and can handle periods of dry weather without intervention. Keep an eye on the weather forecast and don't water if rain is expected within the next few days. Over-watering wastes time, money, and, of course, water. Too much water can be detrimental to your lawn, causing roots to rot while encouraging mosquitoes and other insects to use your lawn as a breeding ground. As a rule of thumb, you should only provide water when there are particularly long periods of dry weather or if you live in an area where the climate is unusually arid.
2. Know the Signs
It's important to be aware of the symptoms of a parched lawn. Grass that is stressed in dry conditions appears bluish-gray in color and begins to curl at the ends. Another way to test for signs of dehydration is to walk across the grass and observe how long it takes for the footprints to "spring back" or fade. If footprints can be seen after a few minutes, it's time for a good soaking.
3. Water Early in the Day
The best time to water is between the hours of 6:00 and 10:00 AM because that gives the lawn plenty of time to dry before it gets dark. The afternoon hours are the hottest time of the day and much of the water provided during this time could be lost to evaporation. Watering after 7:00 PM does not allow for ample drying time, and can promote the growth of fungus and mildew.
4. Pay Attention to the Soil
Knowing what kind of soil you have is key to knowing how much to water. In sandy soil, one inch of water typically penetrates 12 inches deep. Since sandy soil soaks water up so quickly, it needs relatively short watering periods. Conversely, clay soil absorbs slowly and tends to cause runoff if water is applied too rapidly. Clay soil does retain moisture for longer periods than sandy soil, however, and therefore needs fewer water sessions. Loam soil absorbs evenly without puddling. Unlike clay soil, there is usually very little runoff in loam-based soil and one inch of water will reach down to about seven inches below the surface.
5. Ensure Even Distribution
Even distribution is especially important when using a sprinkler system. The average lawn needs about one inch of water per week. In order to be certain the proper amount is dispensed evenly, space empty tuna cans or other similarly-sized containers throughout the yard and time how long it takes to fill them with one inch of water. (This usually takes between 15 and 30 minutes.) Also, check to make sure that all of the containers have approximately the same amount of water in them to indicate even distribution.
6. Allow Lawns to Go Dormant
In some situations, it's possible to let the lawn go into a dormant state. The grass will turn brown and stop growing until cooler, wetter weather arrives in the fall. Grass tends to be very resilient and can tolerate drought for up to two months. This is a good option for areas of the lawn that are not often used, such as the side of a house that no one accesses often. This is not a good choice for heavily trafficked areas or places where pets and children frequently play.
7. Don't Water Every Day
Be sure to water as infrequently as possible, but water deeply to encourage deeper root growth of about six to eight inches. Short, everyday sessions can cause shallow roots in grass which makes the lawn less robust over time.
8. Avoid Runoff
Whether you use a hose, or a drip or sprinkler system, it's important to avoid runoff. Continuing to soak a lawn after the water begins to run into the driveway or street wastes water and does nothing to contribute to a healthy lawn. If runoff occurs before the proper amount has been applied, simply stop for about 20 minutes and allow the water to soak in before continuing.
9. Tend to Problem Areas With a Hose
Some lawns have spots that tend to dry out more often than the rest of the yard. These areas usually appear in a sunny spot in a mostly shaded yard. It's best to water dry spots with a watering can or hose to avoid over-watering the rest of the lawn.
Now that you know how and when to water your lawn to keep it looking great, make maintenance even more simple by planting an easy-to-maintain lawn. With a little knowledge and planning, you'll have a beautiful yard without spending hours tending it.