How Much Should I Water My Lawn?
We’ve had a whirlwind of weather these last few weeks. After weeks of drought, we had nearly a week of cold and rain, and now we’re right in the middle of some crazy, uncomfortable, butt-sticks-to-everything heat. Spring may be super unpredictable up here, but summer is coming, and long, hot, sunny days are ahead. So before we truly head into the dog days, I wanted to share some insights into one of the most misunderstood aspects of growing grass: Water.
Just like us, our grass needs three primary things to survive - Food, water, and haircuts (that doesn't sound right, but I failed health class, so who knows). We've talked about feeding and we've talked about mowing, which means it's time to talk about irrigation.
Irrigation (which is really just a fancy name for watering) seems like it should be a no brainer, but there are actually a lot of myths and misconceptions around it. I'll give you the good stuff first, and then for you nerds who want to stay after class, I'll answer some common questions and get a little into the sciency stuff.
The Good Stuff
Water 2-3 times every week
1-1.5 inches of water for the whole week
Water 2 times every day
15 minutes every time
For at least the first 4 weeks of germination
Ok, class dismissed! Seriously, that's all you need to know. Just do that, and you'll be good. But if you still have questions, or just want to know more, then by all means... Read on, nerd!
(The Really Good Stuff)
Do I really need to water my lawn? We get so much rain up here!
Lawns need water, and our soil up here is pretty bad at water retention. So even though we live in an area that (thankfully) has plentiful water, our sandy, compacted soil has a hard time holding on to it. While your lawn can probably survive a drought spell, it's going to stress out and thin the root system, which is just an invitation for weeds, which will further stress the roots system, and then your lawn turns brown and you have to call us to add a bunch of crap to it to get it green again. Just water it.
Can I water it every day?
If watering twice a week is good for my lawn, then watering every day must be great for it, right?? I tried to pull the same logic with the "1 glass of red wine a night is good for your heart" thing. Four glasses a night is definitely not four times better for you.
So it's counterintuitive, but watering every day can actually be harming your lawn. It's all about that root system. When you water every day, the roots don't have to search for water, and you end up with a shallow root system. Giving a few days in between watering forces the roots to grow deeper looking for water. It's like a workout for your roots. And (we'll say it again) healthy roots = healthy lawn! Your root system is THE MOST important part of your lawn. That's why our name is GrassROOTS Lawn Specialists, and not GrassBLADES Lawn Specialists (we workshopped the name, it didn't perform well).
How do I know how much I'm watering? How long does it take to water an inch?
Ooh, I have a trick for this one! It's the tuna can trick (real thing, look it up). A tuna can is just about an inch deep. Set your sprinkler up and put an empty tuna can out in the spray. Set a timer and see how long it takes to fill it up!
I'll do the math here for you. So if it takes 30 minutes to fill your tuna can, then you'll want to water for 15 minutes twice a week, or 10 minutes three times a week. Make sense?
It rained this week, do I have to water my lawn?
It depends, how much did it rain? I went through a few different iterations of trying to measure the rain, like having containers outside to measure it, timing the rain and trying to find the average rainfall per minute and then doing lots of math, asking the grass if it had enough to drink, and then I realized that pretty much every weather app has rainfall measurements and I can just look up how much rain we got. I'm not always brilliant.
So look it up! If it rained a half inch one day, then water another half inch later in the week. If it rained over an inch in the week, then don't worry about it.
I have to water a new lawn HOW much now??
The exception to the watering guidelines here is for growing new grass from seed. Grass seed HAS to stay wet in order to germinate. If it dries out, it dies, and seed is not cheap. Hands down, the number one biggest mistake that we see in growing new grass is not keeping it wet enough. That's why for any rehab or new lawn installation that we do, we require an irrigation system. If you don't have one, we have plenty that we can loan out. They're on timers so you don't have to worry about remembering. It's a mess of octopus hoses all over the lawn, but it is just that important. Non-negotiable.
Once the root system has had a chance to get established, the watering schedule can get knocked down to the regular 2-3 times a week. Until then, it needs to be twice a day, every day, for at least first 4 weeks.
There, aren't you glad you stuck around? Now you know more things than you did when you woke up today!
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