This Is the Best Time of Day to Water Your Lawn

Bring out the best in your turf grass with these tips for when to turn on the sprinklers—and when to let your lawn go dormant.

In spring, vibrant green lawns effortlessly blanket the landscape without requiring much beyond a regular mowing. But when summer arrives, and you get a long stretch of hot, dry weather, your grass transitions from a lush green carpet to one with large brownish patches. 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 not only need to irrigate your lawn, but to 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, between 4:00 to 8:00 a.m. The combination of cooler temperatures and minimal winds allows water to soak deeply into the soil without much 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, since evaporation is rapid and strong winds are more common. The winds may not only increase evaporation, but carry water onto driveways, patios, or streets, which quickly adds up to a whole lot of waste.

Another benefit to watering so early in the day is that turf grass blades will dry more quickly 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

Increase the benefit of early morning watering by delivering the water not on a schedule, but as the grass needs it. 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 your walk across 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 one to one and a half inches of water once every seven to 10 days is usually enough for a healthy, green lawn. Keep in mind, factors like soil type, turf type, and prevailing weather conditions will greatly influence how much and how often 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 four- to six-week drought with little lasting impact. If water use is restricted, or cost-prohibitive for you, your lawn can go dormant without harm. Resist the urge to sprinkle it lightly 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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