When is the Best Time to Water Your Lawn?

Homeowners with lawns often have the question of when is the best time to water their lawn? The answer may be different for everyone, and depends on myriad factors. Factors such as where you live, how much annual rainfall you receive, the type of grass you have, the method of watering or irrigation, as well as the flowers, plants and vegetables that you have in your lawn and garden, all play a crucial role in determining watering methods, among many other factors.

Watering your lawn at the right time and with the right amount is crucial to keeping it looking healthy and lush. So when is the best time to water your lawn? Is there a specific schedule you should follow, or does how often you water depend on other factors? Keep reading to learn more about when to water your lawn and how to determine the best watering schedule for your home and backyard.

The Best Time of Day to Water Your Lawn

When this question is asked, it is almost always in reference to the time of day they should water their lawn, so we will answer that specific question first. The best time of day to water your lawn is the early morning, and particularly anywhere from daybreak to about 9:00 am, or even 10:00 am in the winter months (as long as it’s not below freezing!)

The reason to water your lawn at this time of day is that there is less evaporation in the morning due to the relatively low height of the sun, the lower temperatures, and the lesser amount of wind. The grass therefore absorbs a higher amount of the water, wasting less water and allowing you to more easily estimate the amount of water your grass is getting.

Another reason to water your lawn in the morning is that if it rains, you can ascertain whether or not there’s enough water for them and eliminate the need to water again. This is particularly important for those who do not have a fixed irrigation system, and instead rely on buckets and hoses and such.

You don’t want to water your lawn at midday or in the afternoon. This is because the evaporation rate is much higher when the sun gets hotter, so you are essentially wasting water. Also, if it rains in the afternoon, your lawn won’t have had enough time to absorb what’s been applied to it, which can lead to runoff and puddles of water on your grass.

You also should not water your lawn at night, as there is a risk of fungal infestations or other diseases. You want your lawn to be dry when nightfall comes.

How Long to Water Your Lawn

Some folks are concerned about watering for an excessive amount of time, or they overdo it and water their lawn too much. The ideal amount of water in your lawn is about 1 to 1.5 inches per week.

If you want to exactly measure your watering speed, good experiment is to place a plastic container in your yard and set a timer to see how long it takes to get one inch of water. And while there can be some variations between different yards, on average you will find that about 30 minutes of watering will get you about .5 inches of water. Therefore, to get to 1-1.5 inches, a good idea would be 20 to 30 minutes of watering 2 to 3 times per week. Or, if you only water once or twice a week, do it for 45 minutes to an hour.

This solution works best for soil that is well-kept and healthy. Healthy soil has excellent drainage and the perfect amount of water retention at the root zone, where grass requires it most. Inadequately drained soil can cause itself to become waterlogged, while sandy soil that is lacking in organic matter will lead to the water draining away, leaving the dirt too dry.

How Often to Water Your Lawn

It may appear that you should water your lawn every day. Isn’t it true that the more water there is, the better? However, this is not the case. Every day watering can harm the roots of your grass, and can lead to a shallow root system that dries out quickly, causing your lawn to become weaker and less healthy overall.

However, on the other hand, if you water too seldom, the roots may dry out and the grass to fade. The secret to maintaining a healthy, green lawn is to water it approximately two to three times per week. As lawns require roughly 1 -1-1/2 inches of water every week, divide that up among two or three watering sessions of half an inch each time.

This intermittent but deep watering routine will allow your grass to develop deep roots that are strong and healthy and held firmly in the soil. This allows lawns to be more resilient to changing weather and develop healthier and disease resistant capabilities.

Different Seasons

Different seasons require varying levels of care from homeowners. For instance, in the summer months there is less time between rainfall events which means more frequent irrigation sessions are needed during these times while wintertime calls for fewer visits with the hose so as not to damage any plants underneath snow coverings. 

The weekly watering routine mentioned above – 2 to 3 times a week, 20-30 minutes at a time – is for the warmer months, such as late spring, over the summer, as well as early fall. When it’s really cold or the weather is rainy, you may only need to water your lawn once or twice a week to keep it in good shape, because there is naturally less water evaporation and a higher chance of precipitation. Also, be careful to not water it when it’s below freezing so your grass doesn’t freeze solid.

How to Tell if Your Lawn Has Been Watered Enough

So, how do you know when to stop watering? Or, if it has just rained, how do you know if your lawn has gotten enough water or if it needs some more?

There are some simple ways to easily figure out if your lawn is getting watered enough. First, check if your lawn looks healthy. If it seems to be in good shape, it’s probably correct. This means you should continue doing what you’re doing. Use your best judgment here, you know your own lawn better than anyone.

A screwdriver may also be used to test whether your grass has adequate amounts of water or not. If the screwdriver sinks into the ground up to its handle – approximately 6 or 7 inches – then your lawn is healthy and getting enough water. If it does not, you might want to water for longer or add another watering session.

If you notice mushrooms sprouting in your grass, this is likely a visual clue that you have overwatered. If this is the case, either decrease the amount of water you use each time or reduce your watering sessions.

Watering Different Grass Types

Make sure you’re paying attention to what type of grass you have, because different types of yards require different amounts of care and maintenance which will affect how often and how long each area needs watered.

Grasses like Zoysia and Bermuda grass are called warm season grasses – these grow healthy and thick in temperatures typically around 80 degrees or above. During the winter, their growth is limited by cold weather. They slow down when the temperature drops at dusk, but they still need moisture to thrive. You should continue to water them as long as the grass is growing and requires regular mowing. Fertilizing warm-season lawns in the fall is also not the best idea. You should wait until the growing season begins in the spring.

Grasses like Bluegrass, Fescue, and Ryegrass are known as cool-season grasses. These grasses actively grow mostly in the fall and are almost dormant throughout the hot months of the summer. However, these grasses still require 1 inch to 1.5 inches of water each week until frost ends their growing season. Fertilize cool-season grasses in the fall and water after fertilizing to wash the fertilizer off the blades of grass and deep into the soil.

Typical Mistakes When Watering Your Lawn

You should know now the basic tenets of lawn watering and how to best grow your lawn to ensure its health and fullness. But, there are still ways one can mess up. Try to avoid all of these common mistakes when it comes to taking care of your lawn’s watering needs.

Weather Patterns

One of the first things to check if you are planning on watering your lawn is the weather forecast. Look particularly for any rain that day, how much rain is expected, when in the day it is coming, and wether the sky will be cloudy or sunny throughout the day as well. One of the easiest ways to overwater is to set out a sprinkler in the morning only to have it pour all afternoon.

Also, depending on how much rain you’ve had lately, you might not need to water for a few days after a long period of rain, even if it is sunny and warm. So, always keep your weather app handy, as well as an eye on the horizon for any burgeoning thunderstorms.

Watering at the Wrong Time

When it comes to watering your lawn, timing is of vital importance. Be sure to only water first thing in the morning, no later the 9:00 or 10:00 am. Watering in the afternoon or evening will only cause your grass to lose the moisture it needs.

A water timer can come in really handy if you are forgetful or want to sleep in – just set the time, frequency, and duration of each watering session and you’re good to go.

Over-Watering or Under-Watering

As mentioned above, not only is overwatering a waste of water that can be avoided with a few watering sessions each week, but over-watering also contributes to many different types of problems like poor drainage, fungus growth or root rot, and can even lead to falling leaves.

As for under-watering, this is also a problem. If you are not watering your lawn enough during the summer months when grass is actively growing it will be stressed, get weaker, become less healthy, begin to thin out or get patchy looking, and have difficulty recovering from disease. This is a problem easily avoided by making a few small changes to your water schedule when your grass goes from actively growing in the spring and fall, to simply maintaining its health during summer months.

Sprinkler Choice and Usage

When it comes to using a sprinkler, make sure you have them placed at the right spots in your lawn, as well as the correct sprinkler type. Placing a sprinkler on the edge of a lawn results in a lot of wasted water, so be sure to put them as central as possible.

You can place a sprinkler timer on a central part of your lawn and water for a prescribed amount of time each watering session. This will allow you to focus on other tasks while respecting how much water is going where instead of you having to manually check up on the sprinklers every time.

As for what type of sprinkler you should use, a pulsating sprinkler is better than an oscillating one. Pulsating sprinklers water the yard by blasting the water out at a high speed horizontally over the lawn. This way the water is less likely to be affected by the wind direction or speed, and is less likely to evaporate before it can soak in.

An oscillating sprinkler on the other hand, while it is more fun for your kids to run through and jump over, allows the water to be carried by the wind too easily, so parts of your lawn might get overwatered while some get under-watered. The water can also evaporate before landing on the grass.

Ignoring Your Grass’ Needs

While pulsating sprinklers are better in terms of water waste, if you have a brand new lawn you might want to use an oscillating sprinkler. These are softer and less harsh for a growing lawn, and pulsating sprinklers can move the grass seed around with its high propulsion streams of water.

Conclusion

 An often-asked question is, “What’s the best time to water my lawn?” The answer is that there really isn’t a set time of day or season for watering your grass. Rather, it depends on how dry your soil and local weather conditions are. Another key factor in determining the best watering schedule is what type of grass you have.

With all the tips and tricks for watering your lawn, it can be hard to know when you should water. We hope this article has made things easier, as we’ve outlined a few key points that will help you determine if your yard needs a drink of H2O or not. Regardless of which option is right for your situation, make sure you are following all tips on how often and how much to water your lawn. However, you know your lawn best, so the best way you can treat it and make sure it is well watered is to pay attention to it and take note of how it looks and feels. Good luck with your watering and all your lawn care and gardening work!