Lawn Care Tips

How to Water an Established Lawn

Don Schlup

There is more to watering your lawn than turning on your sprinkler system and forgetting it. To be a responsible steward of this precious resource (water), each of us must determine what the plant requires and then apply only what is needed. First let’s look at factors that cause needs to vary in the lawn ecosystem. It could be soil type, temperature, wind, or humidity. Each day is different. Adjustments must be made.

It is important to make sure the subsoil (top 4" to 6") is kept moist. This can be determined by inserting a 6-8" screw driver into the ground. If it goes in easily, you have established your subsoil moisture. Another simple method of determining whether the grass needs watering is to observe the dehydration sign given by the grass blades.

  • 1st Stage - Grass has a purplish tint.
  • 2nd Stage - Grass blades turn steel grey and footprints are left when walked upon.
  • 3rd Stage - Grass blades turn straw color.

It is impossible to establish a watering schedule that fits all. Each environment is different. Judgment must prevail. Generally early morning is a good time to water. Then water pressures are at their peak and there's less wind. It is best to water 2 or 3 times a week with applications of 1/2" to 3/4" rather than one watering of 1" to 1 1/2". Obviously watering must be adjusted during rainy periods.

To determine how much water is being applied, place several straight sided cans scattered around within the sprinkler spray for a given time. Measure the depth in each can and note the time taken. This will assist in determining how long to water. Good water management requires good observations and willingness to make immediate adjustments founded on good judgment. Each of us have the responsibility to manage this precious resource (water) properly. Water your lawns based on needs. Grass won't waste water, but people will!