Tips for Watering Your Lawn

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May 22, 2008

Lawn sprinkler.Your lawn requires more water to maintain than any other part of your garden. Its overall health depends on how much water it receives. So how do you know how much to water and how often? Here are the basics to watering your lawn.


When to Water

The best time of day to water your lawn is early in the morning or early in the evening. This is because temperatures are lower and there is generally less wind, so less water is lost to evaporation, allowing water to penetrate more deeply into the soil.

How Much to Water

Severe drought can kill a lawn, but so can too much water. In general, most established lawns need between 1 to 1 1/2 inches of water per week either by rainfall or in combination with irrigation. This 1-inch of water will soak into the soil 4 to 6 inches and reach the roots. Turf species and soil type both play a role in determining how much water your lawn needs. For example, sandy soils need to be watered more often than clay soils, but it takes less water to wet them to a 4-inch depth. Seasonal conditions also play a role in how much water grass needs. All types of grass require less water in cooler weather.

How Often to Water

Water your lawn as soon as it starts to dry out. You can tell that your lawn is getting dry when the grass starts to develop a blue-gray tint and doesn't bounce back within a few seconds after walking on it. You can also use a screwdriver to probe your soil. If it goes in easily 4 to 6 inches deep, the soil is wet enough. If you meet a lot of resistance, it's probably time to water again.

Determining Frequency

Your lawn will be healthier if you water it only when it really needs watering. Watering heavily and infrequently is a much better way to develop a deep-reaching root system than watering lightly and frequently. Deep roots utilize moisture farther down in the soil and are more resistant to drought.

Calculating Rates

An easy way to calculate the amount of water your lawn is receiving is to place a rain gauge at the mid-point between the irrigation system and its outermost wet perimeter. Turn on the sprinkler for 30 minutes and then use the scale on the rain gauge to determine how much water your lawn has received.

Example: If it takes 30 minutes to fill your rain gauge to 1/2 inch, you need to run your sprinkler for 1 hour to apply 1 inch of water. If you notice water running off, split the watering session in half. Soaker hoses are also helpful on slopes where run-off tends to be more of a problem.

Soak rates vary according to soil type. To figure out approximately how long you need your system to run, use this helpful chart created by the Better Lawn and Turf Institute as a guide to how long it will take water to soak into your soil to a depth of 4 to 6 inches.

Soil Type Depth of InfiltrationSoak Time
Per Hour Time for 1 inch of Water to Soak In.
Sand 2.0 inches 1/2 hour
Sandy Loam 1.0 inches 1 hour
Loam 0.5 inches 2 hours
Silt Loam 0.4 inches 2 hours 15 minutes
Clay Loam 0.3 inches 3 hours 20 minutes
Clay 0.2 inches 5 hours


Source: Better Lawn and Turf Institute

Summer Dormancy

Dormancy is nature's way of protecting your lawn from mid-summer heat and drought. Grass blades turn brown and your lawn suddenly appears to be on its way out. This dormant state doesn't usually lead to the death of your lawn unless it is extended for a prolonged period of time, or your lawn was unhealthy to begin with. Under "normal" circumstances, when the weather breaks and adequate moisture returns, your grass will turn green again and resume growth.You can help prevent summer dormancy from occurring by doing the following:

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More Solutions

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July 6, 2009

Thrifty watering is the way to go, especially during Colorado's dry summers. Here are my tips:

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November 14, 2004

When bathing your pets, do it outside on the lawn or near plants that need watering.

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June 20, 2005

Set a timer and water your garden at the same time your sprinklers water your lawn.

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7 Questions

Ask a QuestionHere are the questions asked by community members. Read on to see the answers provided by the ThriftyFun community or ask a new question.

May 26, 2010

When I wash clothes, I use cold water and let the wash water drain into the washtub with the plug in. Then when doing another load, I bail the water back into the machine. It saves soap and water, keeps my sump pump from running all the time, and keeps my septic tank from filling up

By Mary from Bad Axe, MI


May 27, 20100 found this helpful

I do the same thing. In the winter and early spring, when the temp was above freezing, I used hot soapy wash water to clean the salt and flithy black road dirt off the sidewalk & driveway apron out front.


It works even when below freezing if it's sunny and early in the day.
If I use bleach (not often) I let it go through the regular indoor drain to clean it out.
Recently I used soapy water from the washer to clean an oil spot off the driveway. I use biodegradable Seventh Generation detergent, so it's safe for the lawn.
I also used the hot soapy water to melt ice jams from the street plows at the apron of the driveway.
I just point the washer hose into a bucket or gallon jugs and carry it out to the sidewalk or driveway, repeatedly. Good exercise, but I keep fantasizing about a long hose from the washer to the driveway apron.

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May 28, 20100 found this helpful

I have done that, works like a charm, now I run my wash water out on the lawn, it kills the weeds in my Bermuda grass. I use the rinse water to water flowers, wash the dog, etc.


I put a long hose on the washer water outlet, so I can move the water around my yard.

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January 22, 20110 found this helpful

My mother had a sud-saver set up also. As I got interested in being more conserving, I found ways to use the grey water from my washer, without an automatic sud-saver. My home is old and I drain the washer water into a concrete utility sink. When I hear the water running, I catch it in a plastic wash basin and dump it into two 5 gallon buckets. If it's rinse water, I pour it into the washer and do a load. If it's soapy wash water, I use it to flush my basement commode. I also use the water from my de-humidifier for the same purpose.

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July 12, 2011

I need a lawn sprinkler that will water a narrow piece of my yard next to the street. I need it to be able just to water about a 32 inch wide area without watering the street. Any ideas?

By Peggy C


July 12, 20110 found this helpful

Look for "soaker hose", which is porous, round hose. If you only turn your faucet on partially, it weeps; if you turn more pressure on, it will spritz. If you experiment with the pressure, you should be able to get your grass strip nicely. The other alternative, would be to get a few five gallon buckets, drill holes in the sides at the bottom, and put them on the strip, fill with the hose, and let them water the strip.

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July 26, 2007

Our well is very low this year due to a lack of rain. We are trying to keep the lawn alive. We put shower water on it and so forth in addition to once in awhile using the sprinklers. Would the lawn be healthier if I fertilize it or would that simply stress it out? I know I would need to water in the fertilizer.

Hardiness Zone: 8a

Rae Ann from California


Keep Your Lawn Longer

When we had a drought here one summer gardening experts gave the following advice: let your grass grow several inches tall, it keeps water from evaporating. Fertilizing your lawn will make the grass grow tall but it will also grow so quickly so you will have to cut it all the time.

By Joan

If you want to fertilize, use something natural, like corn gluten meal. Be aware that this will make everything grow, including weeds, so it's wise to do it when the weed population is low. It's much healthier for the lawn, does not contain blastingly large amounts of nitrogen, and so will make your lawn healthier. We let the lawn grow until it starts to look like it needs a haircut, and then set the mower height to the second to the highest setting (every mower is different). The mowings go faster, and by the end of the year, all we've done is something like 2 extra mowings. We let the clippings fall back on the lawn.

My DH was a lawn perfectionist until I made him go with me to a seminar put on by our city about conserving water via lawn care. By the end of the meeting, he agreed to do a "We'll try it and see." Been doing it this was for more years than I can recall. This has certainly cut back on our watering. You might also call your local plant nursery and ask if there is a low water requiring grass - buy a couple of squares, try them out and see. I was given some that had been hanging out in the back of a truck and they didn't grow - by the time I got them the grass was half dead. Am going to do it again but get fresh mats this time.

By Holly

Let It Get Brown

I don't mean any disrespect, however, I feel the availability of water is more important than a good looking lawn. I, too, have a well that is low. I'm scrimping in every aspect. I can live without green grass, but not water.

By Jane Smith

I would not put any fertilizer on the lawn as it could burn and stress the grass. I would do nothing. The grass will turn brown and look dead but it will come back when it rains again.

By Dean

Use Grey Wash Water

I live in the desert and it gets really hot here. We have a well that we use for drinking water and we are very conserving with the water. My husband hooked up a hose for the washing machine and as soon as the hot wash is over, we hook the hose up to the inside drain and run all the rinse water outside to the yard. We have plenty of water for the plants and the trees by doing that and we're still saving water. Of course, sometimes I have to run the hose out through a window to the back yard but so what, it works wonderful and the neighbors are doing the same thing now for their lawns. It helps to keep a nice green yard and the city is saving money, so am I.

By Louise


By Elizabeth (Guest Post)
August 21, 20070 found this helpful

This is for Louise. We had an 8 year drought in San Jose, CA (Silicon Valley). We also did a version of this to save our 28 rose bushes as well as a new lawn from the previous year. A tip for you, get an outdoor dual hose fitting and just fit one old short hose to one and the outdoor longer one to the second side. Then all you have to do is turn the little switch when doing laundry instead of changing hoses. We did this for 10 years, even after the drought. Good luck.

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