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When and How to Water Your Lawn

when and how to water your lawn When and How to Water Your Lawn

Let’s call it what it is: homeowners are obsessed with their lawns. So much so, in fact, that last year in America, nearly 30 billion dollars was spent on lawn care. This lawn craze is no recent obsession either. It is said that evidence of lawn care dates back to nearly the 12th and 13th centuries in England.

In addition to compulsive maintenance, the sense of status associated with full, green grass is as old as sod itself. Some even say the famous rivalry between Thomas Jefferson and John Adams began over whose lawn was most lush and sprawling.

This all sounds ridiculous, I know. But that doesn’t make our desire for beautiful, cleanly edges lawns go away. The bottom line is, a dried up and dying front yard can ruin curb appeal on even the most beautiful of homes.

So how do you ensure your yard is always up to the standards of the founding fathers? At a fundamental level, it starts with watering. In this article, we outline when and how to water your lawn so that it’s color persists even in the hottest months.


The first of the major questions we will work to answer with respect to watering your lawn is when? While this might not seem as important as how, with vegetation of any kind timing can be critical.

In the Morning

If you have an automatic sprinkler system, or even a manual sprinkler that you can set to a timer, you should do so as early in the morning as possible. You will hear some gardeners argue that watering in the evening is just as effective, and that as long as it is not midday, where the sun can evaporate much of the water before your grass has a chance to soak it up, that you are alright.

automatic sprinkler

The fact of the matter is that a wet lawn at night can lead to fungal problems if it happens consistently. It is the same reason your mother used to yell at you not to go outside in the winter with wet hair. When your grass’ soil is wet and the temperature drops as it does overnight, the grass is more susceptible to disease.

2-3 Times per Week

Rather than watering daily, it is best to give your grass a good soak only 2 or 3 times a week. If you water every day, your grass will develop a shallow root system, meaning they are closer to the surface and the sun. On especially hot days, these shallow roots can dry out quicker than deep root systems.

More in the Heat

Grass uses water as an internal coolant. Thus, when it is extremely hot out (90-100 degrees) for an extended period of time, the grass is using most of a morning watering as coolant stockpile. You can keep your grass alive even throughout the hottest summers by following a few simple tips.

  • Raising your mower height and keeping your grass a little longer will protect it from browning in the heat.
  • Water lightly each evening to cool off the grass in addition to your regular morning waterings. In the type of heat we are talking about, there is no need to worry about fungal disease.


1 Inch!

The ideal amount of water for your lawn is around an inch and a half a week. This is not a huge number and it is likely that grass enthusiasts who are not keeping track of rain in a rain gauge are over watering.

watering lawn

Obviously there are weeks where it does not rain at all. How do I tell if I am watering up to 1 inch. Rule of thumb is one hour equals one inch, however, every hose and sprinkler system is different. Low pressure water systems, like those on homes with well water, may take longer than others.

One trick is to place an empty tuna can on the grass where you are watering. Tuna cans are an inch deep so once your can is full, or halfway full depending on your goals for each watering session, you will know when to stop.

The Screwdriver Test

If you are watering every other morning, setting out your tuna can, taking extra care in the heat and yet still your lawn is browning, it may simply be that your yard needs more TLC than is typical.

One way to tell if you are still not watering enough is the screwdriver test. Grab a 6 inch long screwdriver (head type of no importance here). If you cannot easily push it into your lawn up to the handle, then you are not watering enough.

Even when you are doing everything right you could still be under watering and the screwdriver test is the surest way to know. This has mostly to do with the soil type on your property. Soil is generally comprised of some combination of clay and sand. If the soil tends to lean more towards sandy, then it may not retain moisture as well .


So there you have it! The full scope of considerations for when and how to water your lawn. Here are the highlights:

  • Water a couple times a week rather than every day
  • Try to hit the one inch mark
  • Run the screwdriver test to make sure
  • In extreme heat, cool your grass each night with a quick spray

Follow these basic principles and you’ll be that much closer to a front yard that looks like a putting green, feels like a cloud, and is the envy of the neighborhood.