Watering Your Lawn

Wise watering practices not only conserve water but help to build a stronger, healthier lawn.  Constant over watering or frequent underwatering promotes shallow roots, a sure way to damage your lawn during times of stress.  These stressful times for your lawn include not only the hot summer months, but also the cold winter months when there is really nothing you can do for an unhealthy lawn.  The healthiest lawns have the healthiest roots. The best watering practices moisten the soil 4-6 inches deep; this is the extent of the root zone, and requires only about 1 inch of water.

When to water your lawn

Water your lawn at the first signs of moisture stress.  The easiest way to tell if moisture stress is present is to look for footprints on your lawn.  When you can see footprints on your lawn (meaning your lawn doesn't spring back up after you have walked across it) water your lawn.  Do not water again until you see footprints again.  Water when the sun will cause the least evaporation.  Watering in the early morning is best.  The next best practice is to water in the evening, but do it early enough so the grass is not wet overnight, which could enhance fungal growth.  Other signs include: a bluish gray color, wilted, folded, or curled leaves.

How much water do I need to moisten the soil 4-6 inches deep?

  • 1" for clay soils
  • 1/2" for sandy soils

How do I know when I've put out 1 inch of water?

This is easy! Put a few old cans out on the lawn next time you water.  When they fill up 1 inch - you're done.  Check how long that took. Next time you water just turn on the sprinklers for that amount of time.

How else can good watering practices help my lawn?

Overwatering may cause fertilizers to penetrate below the root zone.  This is not only a waste of water, but a waste of fertilizer too, both of which translate into a waste of money.  Also, this enhances the possibility that chemicals may penetrate groundwater.

Overwatering can cause runoff. Runoff occurs when the water falling on the soil exceeds the amount that can be absorbed at that time.  This can lead to fertilizer runoff, erosion, loss of newly sown seed, and water dollars washing down the street.  If the time it takes for you to put out 1 inch of water causes runoff, then divide that time in two and leave some time in between.  This is a good practice to follow on slopes where runoff obviously occurs more quickly.


When a plant goes dormant it doesn't die, it just takes a well deserved break from growing because life is just too tough at the moment.  Trees do it every winter.

Cool season lawns, like fescues and bluegrass, naturally go dormant in the heat of the summer.  If you practice good watering techniques your healthy lawn will go dormant in the summer and only needs watering every 3 weeks if there has been no rain.  That healthy lawn will bust out again in September as thick and green as ever.

Overwatering or watering improperly in the summer, when your cool season grass naturally goes dormant, increases the growth of those heat loving, actively growing weeds which you will be watering, and therefore weeding.  Also, it puts the plant in an unnecessary state of stress.  Also, it "tricks" the plant into "thinking" it has enough water and if water restrictions take effect, your grass will likely die.

So give your lawn a break for a month or two - let it go dormant - and someday when you get the opportunity to take off two months, maybe no one will bother you.