When and How Long You Should Run Your Sprinklers

Lead Image
What You'll Need
Rain barrels
Empty cans
Measuring stick or ruler
Sprinkler system
Drip irrigation system

Automatic or manually operated sprinklers keep your lawn and garden looking colorful and healthy, even during the hottest days of summer. However, after installing your sprinklers, it is often hard to gauge how long and when you should leave them running to get the maximum benefit.

Determining Your Sprinkler Output

The most important thing to do is to determine how much water your sprinkler delivers per hour. To do this, set out several empty cans around your yard and run your sprinkler for 20 minutes. Measure the average depth in the cans and multiply this number by 3 to find out how many inches your sprinkler delivers in an hour.

Watering Your Lawn

How much you use your sprinklers depends on both your lawn's type of grass and the current season. Warm-season grasses do not require as much water through the summer as cool-season grasses.

"Check with your local Cooperative Extension Office for a watering guide for your region,” Susan Patterson, our expert gardening adviser, suggests.

In general, it is better to water less frequently but for a longer period to let the water soak in deep. You should run your sprinklers for as long as it takes to achieve 1 inch of water per week.

Times and Places

To most effectively keep your lawn healthy, try running your sprinklers in the morning when the air is cool and calm. If the grass is new, you should water it more than in already established areas. You should also water your grass more, but for shorter periods of time, in sloped patches to avoid runoff.


If you water too little at a time, the roots of your grass, flowers, and plants won't grow deep and strong. They will stay at the surface where the moisture is, and this weakens plants by removing their sturdy foundation. Grass that's short-rooted won't absorb enough moisture in the hottest part of summer, turning brown and dying.

Flower Beds and Landscapes Areas

The amount of water that your flower beds require to look their best is largely determined by what you have planted and where you live. Be sure that you are familiar with the water requirements of your plants.

If you live in a dry and hot region, you may want to consider drought-resistant plants. Like with your lawn, you should aim for 1 inch of water per week for your flower beds and landscaped areas during the warmest months of the year. Water young plants well until they are established.

Expert gardening advisor Susan Patterson adds, "To save money, create rain barrels and use this water for potted plants and small flower beds." In addition, for best results you can use drip irrigation for vegetable beds.