Most of us know that the lawn needs water. Just like plants and shrubs, you should give your lawn a drink, but how much should you give and what is the best way?
If your lawn is established then the rules for watering are very different to a newly seeded lawn or brand new turf that has just been laid
Should your lawn be watered every day?
It all depends really. In most cases, the answer is no. In a few situations, the answer is yes.
The only times you should be watering every day are when you have:
- New seed
- New turf
- A stressed lawn
How long to water the lawn?
Again this question can be quite generic. Assuming you are referring to a lawn that has been established for some time, you should be aiming to water each section (or zone) for around 20 minutes 3 times per week.
How long to water grass seed?
Grass seed requires a much different approach when it comes to watering. You can’t just set up a sprinkler and dump tonnes of water onto them hoping they will germinate. Oh no. It’s all about being gentle and delicate and nursing the seeds for the first few weeks of their life.
New grass seeds should be kept damp as much as possible for the first 2 to 4 weeks (until ALL of the seeds have come through). At this stage, you can then start to drop the frequency back down, and 2 weeks later attempt to water 3 times a week for 20 minutes in each area.
In the first few weeks little and often is key. We are talking about 5 minutes of water in each area. This needs to be done between 3 to 6 times per day depending on how hot it is. Early Spring is fine at 3 times a day while watering seeds going into Summer must be 5 to 6 times per day. Also during these first 2 weeks, it is preferable to be done by hand wherever possible.
I say this because most sprinklers do not allow for a fine mist setting, unlike a hose-end watering attachment. If you dump heavy droplets of water onto new seeds it will in many cases cause the seeds to be moved and washed away from where they were sown. Once the seeds germinate you end up with clumps of grass and gaps in between them. This can also be a problem that happens if we get a heavy downpour of rain. This can be minimised to a degree through aeration (where seeds fall down the aeration holes) and a heavy topdressing such as topsoil which has been well rollered in.
Alternatively, consider a good mulch or tackifier that will help further, as will a germination blanket.
How long to water new turf?
New turf is very similar to new grass seeds, however, you can go heavier in your application and use a lawn sprinkler if desired as there are no seeds to wash away at this stage.
What you are trying to do here is to get the turf to push down new grass roots. Once the turf has established roots (which can take weeks and months depending on the quality of the soil, amount of sunlight etc.) then you can slowly decrease the watering frequency from 3 to 5 times per day (5 minutes per area covered with the sprinkler) to 3 times per week (20 minutes per day in each area (or zone) covered by the sprinkler.
Is it better to water your lawn in the morning or at night?
Without a doubt, it is better to water in the morning. It is also better to water out of direct sunlight as well. So an early morning watering is better than an 11 am watering. This is simply down to water evaporating in the heat.
Morning watering will help your lawn through the day (as will an occasional cooling down quick spray/drink in the heat).
The problem with night time watering is this. I always say to customers “never put your lawn to sleep on a wet bed”. It’s because of the increased chances of disease.
Do you know what happens between your toes when feet get hot and sweaty? Fungal infections like athletes foot. It’s just the same with your lawn. Diseases love a hot, sticky and sweaty environment. Late in the day, there is often a lot of heat still around in the soil and with watering, you end up keeping the lawn wet all evening long. The perfect breeding ground for diseases / fungal infections.
In the same breath, if your lawn has a spongy thatch layer in it, this will also be a hive for fungal activity. All that thatch will be holding on to moisture for longer and with the heat, you get issues such as Red Thread fungus. Red thread is caused by high humidity or low fertility, hence which thatch is a perfect hot and humid environment. This yet another reason to make sure regular aeration and scarification are carried out to minimise disease issues.
Try to minimise how often you water during a late evening or overnight to once per week if you really have to. I personally try to water no later than 7 pm if I really have to. The rest of the time it is a morning watering.
Can you over water grass?
In short yes you can. Watering your lawn too much washes key nutrients right through the soil profile leaving lawns deficient in things like Nitrogen and Iron. Often a Yellowing of the lawn and even the tips of the lawn going Yellow indicate this. Usually applying a good feed along with a mild iron additive can help fix these issues. This is referred to as Chlorosis.
Lawn watering system ideas
So how are you going to put all of this together?
The cheapest option is a simple hosepipe connected to a water supply with an adjustable spray gun or attachment on the end.
The benefits are the price but the downsides are that you have to physically stand there and water your lawn effectively reaching all areas for the required amount of time.
The next option up is to purchase a sprinkler and connect it to your hosepipe.
Try to get the right type of sprinkler so that it can reach all parts of your lawn in one go (this is the most ideal option). You have sprinklers that spin round creating a circle of water flying out around it. Great for circular lawns. For rectangular lawns, an oscillating sprinkler that flips left and right, up and over makes the most sense.
If you want to tightly hit certain spots you can control the water flow with oscillating sprinklers and impact sprinklers. These are a must if you don’t want any water to hit objects around the lawn such as a neighbours car or an open window nearby.
If you cannot reach all areas of the lawn in one go then you have 2 options. Move the sprinkler to a new location after the required time, or use a tap splitter and connect a second hosepipe and second sprinkler so that all areas of the lawn are being connected. The downsides to adding in more sprinklers are that you will likely see a drop in water pressure.
Taking things to the next level you can introduce a programmable water timer and simply set it all up to come on automatically 3 to 6 times a day for 5 minutes.
This gives you a great hands-free way of automated watering so you can forget about it. Just don’t forget what time it is set to come on – in case you fancied a spot of sunbathing!
Moving on up again there are a number of more ingenious watering methods.
A moving automated watering vehicle. You lay your garden hose out strategically around the lawn. A vehicle slowly moves around the hosepipe watering all the areas around the garden automatically. A bit like a model railway setup!
An in-built watering system. You can pay a little and you can pay a lot for these. At the cheaper end you can lay pipes around the border perimeter of your lawn and insert nozzles into the border soil at regular intervals to fire water into the lawn area (and also into your plant and shrub beds if desired). Then when you get to the higher end the idea is the same but you bury pipework a few inches down in the lawn by creating channels. Then you can install pop-up sprinklers in your lawn. Combine these with timers and you are all good for a lifetime of automated stress-free watering!
So there you have it. Learning how to water your lawn doesn’t take long at all, but it is an important step to take if you want to enjoy a nice green lawn.
If you have any questions at all about watering I’d love to answer them. Lawn care is the offline business that I’ve been doing for 15+ years. I don’t ever proclaim to be “the best in the world” but what I can say is I do a pretty good job most of the time in making grass look good!