Like you, your lawn requires water to survive. It’s that simple, really - but there are a few important best practices to know before firing up the ol’ sprinkler system.
The first step is to know how much water your sprinklers disperse. Generally, sprinklers disperse between 0.2-0.4 inches per 15 minutes, but this can vary a great deal. Buying a rain gauge will give the best return on investment for your lawn and allow you to track precipitation. Alternatively, using a flat can, like a tuna or cat food can, will be helpful. Simply place the can on your lawn, run the sprinklers for 15 minutes, and then measure the water accumulation with a ruler.
The next step is knowing if you have a warm or cool season grass type. Generally, cool season grasses have thinner blades and grow bunches. Warm types are usually thicker bladed and nearly all warm season grasses produce stolons. Of course, with anything gardening related, there are exceptions. If you’re unsure about your grass type, we’d be happy to help identify the variety your growing.
Now that we know your sprinklers volume and grass type, we can start creating a good watering schedule. The amount of water will vary throughout the year, and below are guidelines:
It is best to only water twice a week. Deep and infrequent watering will promote good root growth. Watering daily will make your grass weaker, more vulnerable to disease, and the weeds and moss will love it.
Special note for clay heavy soils: Clay soils cannot absorb large amounts of water quickly and excess will run off into the gutter. To work around this, you’ll want to use a technique called “soaker cycles” Rather than running the sprinkler for a continuous amount of time, you’ll want to water in intervals. On for 5 minutes, off for 40, on for 5, off for 40, etc. Repeat this until the target water volume is achieved. This is easy to program on sprinkler systems that have multiple zones. You can adjust the on/off cycles as needed so long as there isn’t any runoff.
Depending on your part of the country, watering in the evening or morning is best. Morning watering’s are best for disease avoidance, evening watering’s are better for reducing water requirements.
These are just guidelines and good starting points; you’ll have to listen to your grass and adjust your irrigation routine accordingly. Is the grass dehydrated and not springing back after walking on it? Increase water volume. Is the lawn squishy after walking on it? You might need to decrease water volume. With enough practice and observation, you’ll become a grass whisperer.
Keep in mind this guide is for healthy, established lawns. Infant lawns or lawns with disease will have different irrigation requirements.