This Is the Best Time of Day to Water Your Lawn

Your turf grass appreciates extra moisture when there's been no rain. Maximize the benefits of irrigation with these tips for when to turn on the sprinklers.

In spring, it seems like vibrant green lawns effortlessly blanket the landscape without requiring much beyond a regular mowing. But when summer comes along and you get a long stretch of hot, dry weather, your grass transitions from a lush green carpet to one that has large brownish patches all over it. It may even be a little crispy in some places. Water is the missing ingredient. Once moisture returns, healthy green foliage usually will start growing again. If you want to keep it looking lush and green through summer, you'll likely need to irrigate your lawn, and time it just right to maximize the results of your efforts.

automatic sprinkler lawn system
Marty Baldwin

Start Watering Early

The very best time to water turf is early morning; think 4 to 8 a.m. Cool temperatures coupled with minimal winds allows the water to soak deeply into the soil without losing much moisture to evaporation. Also, during this window, there's not as much demand for water on municipal systems, which can impact pressure. Watering at midday is less efficient because not only is evaporation rapid, but strong winds are more common. Those winds may carry water onto driveways, patios, or streets, which quickly adds up to a whole lot of wasted moisture.

Another benefit to watering so early in the day is that turf grass blades will dry more quickly after morning watering as the sun rises, reducing the chances of diseases taking hold. Watering in the evening when dew is prevalent sets the scene for fungal growth on blades that will remain wet overnight. If those fungi take hold and start killing your grass, no amount of watering will help.

Water Deeply and Infrequently

Maximize the benefit of early morning watering by delivering the water not on a schedule, but as the grass needs it instead. Rather than watering for 15 minutes a day, water when the lawn shows signs of drought stress. A blue-gray color and footprints remaining after walking on the turf are both sure signs the lawn needs water.

Aim to water lawn grass deeply and infrequently to encourage deep root growth. Lawns with deep root systems are able to mine 12 inches or more into the soil to gather their own water and nutrients. Delivering 1 to 1 ½ inches of water once every 7 to 10 days is usually enough for a lush and healthy lawn. Keep in mind, factors like soil type, turf type, and prevailing weather conditions will greatly influence how much and when you need to water. Look to the grass for cues.

Dormancy Is a Good Option

Most types of turf grass can weather extended dry periods easily. They do this by going dormant above ground. While your lawn may take on a dead-looking appearance during drought, your grass's root systems are generally healthy and strong in dormancy. A lawn can weather a 4- to 6-week drought with little lasting impact. If water use is restricted or cost-prohibitive for you, your lawn can go dormant without harming it. Resist the urge to sprinkle it with a light watering from time to time. Light watering is wasteful and ineffective for turf. Trust that it will green up when the weather pattern changes.

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