The Q&A Archives: how much to water lawns?

Question: how much to water lawns?

Answer: General wisdom is to water your lawn deeply once or twice a week. Apply one to one and a half inches or water each time. Light, daily watering leaves too much water at or near the surface of the soil, and does not reach all of the roots where it is needed.

Deep watering allows moisture to reach the deepest roots. Allowing the soil to dry between watering will encourage the roots to go deeper to reach the moisture and nutrients it needs.

Daily, light watering will cause the roots of your grass to become dependent upon you to provide the water that it needs. So, train your lawn, before it trains you!

The amount of water to apply depends on the soil type and the wetness of the soil. The preferable method is to thoroughly wet the soil down to a depth of 5 inches. If the soil is initially very dry, it may take 1/2 inch of water to wet a sandy soil down to a depth of 5 inches, while 1-1/2 inches of water may be needed to wet a clayey soil down that far. Once the soil is thoroughly wet to a depth of 5 inches, any additional water will simply drain below the root zone. Occasional extraction of soil cores after normal irrigation can help give some idea of how deeply you are watering. Another easy method is to sink a shovel into the soil and spread the hole so you can see how far the water has penetrated. Then remove the shovel and press the soil into place with your foot.

Several aspects of lawn sprinkling are important. First, determine how uniform and how much water is applied in a normal irrigation. This can be done by placing a row of equal-sized, straight-sided cans in a line at one or two foot intervals from the sprinkler and out to the farthest point of watering. Following a normal sprinkling of known time, measure the amount of water collected in each can. Then determine the appropriate placement of sprinklers and length of time to water for a uniform distribution of the desired amount of water.

Second, remember that water should not be allowed to run off the surface or to form puddles, as these lead to poor distribution and efficiency of water. Occasionally, the rate at which water can enter the soil is less than the amount applied by the sprinkler after watering has continued for a time. If you notice water running off the surface or forming puddles but you still want to apply more water, turn the water off for 15 minutes, then resume watering until the desired amount has been added.

Best wishes with your lawn!

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