Grass Dying? You Need to Read This Watering Guide

Hose with a sprinkler attachment watering a garden and lawn

With great power comes great responsibility

Watering your lawn seems like a no-brainer, and on the surface, it is. Every human-being on earth knows all forms of life need proper nourishment from H2O , and your lawn is no different. But when on the topic of growing grass and keeping it healthy, it’s often times an overlooked task. Sure, you could argue that it’s such a basic and understood step that it’s not worth discussing, yet it’s not being done properly due to its simplistic premise. Watering is the catalyst to having the best-looking lawn in the neighborhood, so we need to highlight its importance.

In this guide, we are going to go in-depth on how to water your lawn to yield maximum results. Before we begin though, we need to look at the single-most important step and consideration before following through.

Step #1: Choose Your Watering Tool and/or Method

What’s going to be the primary method you use to water your lawn? There are many to choose from, but for the sake of covering the masses, we are going to look at the three most popular ones. Those specific tools/methods include:

Watering Hose

Man watering his lawn using a watering hose
Make sure not to leave your strong grip at home

Watering Hose Pros/Cons

ProsCons
Very inexpensiveIneffective at covering large areas
Provides the most direct form of contact Dragging the hose can be cumbersome
Easy to installLow quality hoses can easily be damaged
Easy to learnTime-consuming
Some customization options through industry advancesTough to track water usage

Ah, the good old watering hose. A household staple which has served many of us since its creation in the 8th century. The watering hose is the most basic form of watering your lawn, and allows the greatest amount of control since it requires full, manual use. It’s also very easy to use, and its initial cost is by far the lowest. When it comes to watering your lawn effectively however, it falls extremely short.

A watering hose is direct and better meant for single-targeted areas, which is why it’s well-suited for watering shrubs rather than grass. Homeowners needing to water large areas have their work cut out for them, and will need to put aside a lot of time and effort depending on how much they need to cover. In addition, the more areas you need to cover, the tougher it is to track how much water you’re using and if all areas are receiving the correct amount.

All in all, I don’t recommend using a watering hose if you can help it. But it’s still better than nothing at all.

Irrigation/Sprinkler System

Sprinkler head watering the lawn
The ultimate power for the ultimate investment

Irrigation and Sprinkler System Pros/Cons

ProsCons
By far the most time-saving methodInstallation is going to break the bank
Can cover the most areas in the least amount of timeIssues are a common occurrence
Allows easy time-tracking and water usage thanks to so many advanced optionsThe city may limit you on how far you can take installation
Heavy investing in R&D means more advancements in the futureUpkeep is a pain and can be expensive

If the watering hose is elementary, then irrigation is graduate school. An irrigation system is the ultimate watering system for homeowners, and is arguably a necessity if you want to keep your watering schedule as systematized as possible. An irrigation system is also essential for larger lawns, allowing you to cover those wide areas with relative ease and without physical effort.

As amazing as irrigation systems are, they aren’t without their own set of problems. For one, installing an irrigation system is outrageously expensive. You’ll be spending an average of $800.00 – $2,500.00 per station/zone depending on your landscape’s accessibility and the contractor’s experience. On top of that, its investment isn’t a “set it and forget it” ordeal to the point we would like it to be. Irrigation systems have a lot of set parts (sprinkler heads, pipes, timers, valves, etc.) and each part is susceptible to injury (some more than others, especially sprinkler heads). In addition, systems can sometimes malfunction and will require an irrigation or lawn care company to come out and diagnose its problem(s). 

Still, even with these setbacks, an irrigation system is an absolute must and investment if you have a big lawn and want to save yourself a lot of time and trouble. 

Oscillating Sprinkler 

Oscillating sprinkler watering the lawn
The middle option for watering your grass

Oscillating Sprinkler Pros/Cons

ProsCons
Can save you a lot of time over walking around with a garden hoseWhile set-up is easy, it’s tedious 
Set-up is easy enoughAutomation limited by number of spigots located around your home/building
Lots of different options and directions you can adjust for optimal coverageTough to gauge how much water you’re using 
Low money investment versus an irrigation systemYou need a watering hose in order to use it
Once set up, it’s automatedLots of traffic makes it difficult to keep it out for too long

An oscillating sprinkler is a very popular choice among people and have been used for decades when watering lawns. A lot of its popularity comes from the mid-level perks it provides compared to the other options. A watering hose is too slow and inefficient, and while an irrigation system is much more efficient than an oscillating sprinkler, they’re extremely expensive and require a large investment. An oscillating sprinkler is in the middle of these two options, and can help make the watering process smoother without spending too much money.

An oscillating system’s biggest issue comes from the fact that it’s a great choice only if certain requirements are met. For one, if your home/building does not have enough spigots around it, it really limits this method’s overall effectiveness. Some of this can be offset thanks to multi-hose valve attachments, but that still requires a little more money, and the water’s pressure can be limited since both oscillating sprinklers are receiving it from the same source. Another issue is the amount of foot traffic your home receives. If you have a lawn care company coming in to cut your grass, or if your kids want to play outside, you need to cut off the sprinklers to ensure they don’t get wet or the mower doesn’t run over the sprinkler(s). 

Still, an oscillating sprinkler is a good alternative if you cannot invest in an irrigation system quite yet. You can get an oscillating sprinkler for a fair price, and it’s a much better choice than simply using a water hose.

NOTE:  Variations of an oscillating sprinkler, such as a pulsating sprinkler, may have a few differences; but their pros, cons, and overall effectiveness can be considered interchangeable and similar to one another.

Phew! We finally got all of that out of the way, huh? Thanks for hanging in there! Regardless of whichever watering method you use, all of these next steps pertain to all of them. Now that you have chosen your weapon, let’s look into the steps and guidelines:

Step #2: Determine the Best Time of the Day

The best time of the day to water your lawn is based upon various factors. One factor you need to take into consideration is what season is it? We can go more in-depth and discuss more specifics such as climates/zones; however, we have found that when it comes to watering your lawn, we can afford to go a bit broader and just simply look at the current season without running even a 1% chance of less quality. Here is the breakdown:

Best times to water your lawn
Use this infographic as a reminder when determining the best times to water your lawn

As you can see, one important aspect all seasons (minus winter) have in common is that watering your lawn in the morning yields the best results. Air temperatures are lower during the morning time and there is dew on the ground. In addition, during the morning there are lower wind speeds, slowing evaporation down and allowing your grass more time to absorb the water.

Prolonging the water cycle to the afternoon and evening is not ideal for two inherent reasons. During the afternoon is when temperatures are at their peak, and in contrast to the morning time, this causes evaporation to speed up and run its process quicker. This reduces the amount of water your grass absorbs, potentially minimizing its proper nourishment. During the evening is when temperatures are the coolest, and as you may have already guessed, evaporation’s process is slowest during this time and cause the soil to remain in a moist state for a longer duration. Soil staying moist and not drying up for too long is dangerous, as it invites diseases and encourages fungal development.

Step #3: Figure Out How Much Water You Should Use

This step may take a few tests and trials until you get just the right amount. All grass types require around 1 inch of water in order to effectively penetrate the soil. The amount of time you need to spend watering to achieve a 1-inch depth depends on the amount of pressure your method is currently exerting. Track the time it takes to fully water your desired area(s), and track how much water was used as well. With an irrigation system this is easy thanks to the technology’s ingrained functionality, but there is an add-on tool, called a water meter, you could purchase if you are using a watering hose or oscillating sprinkler. Over time and through consistent tests, you’ll establish hard data which documents how much water it takes to properly cover your desired areas, as well as how long it takes to provide that amount of water.

In addition, you need to classify the type of grass you’re watering. Cool-season grasses (Fescue, Kentucky Bluegrass, Perennial Rye, etc.) require you to water more frequently due to innately being less drought resistant, while warm-season grasses (Centipede, Bermuda, Zoysia) require less frequency because they are more drought resistant. Cool-season grasses should be watered around three times a week, while warm-season grasses should be watered around two times a week.

Do NOT overly water your lawn, there is such thing as too much water and besides creating higher susceptibility to disease, it can potentially kill off your lawn in the worst-case scenario.

Step #4: Adjust Watering Times and Amounts Based Upon Certain Events

As with almost every set procedure, there are always instances when it is appropriate to go against the rule book. Here are common events and what action to take upon their occurrence:

  • If it had rained previously, or there is a high chance of rain in the forecast in the near future, refrain from watering the lawn until the rain runs its course. You do not want to waste water and water your lawn for no reason. For those using an irrigation system, make sure you have a rain sensor so the system does not come on during this time, or just manually turn off the system yourself
  • If you or your lawn care company recently applied fertilizer or lime, water the lawn as soon as possible shortly afterwards. Ideally you want to follow the rule book as closely as you possibly can, but even if the fertilizer/lime was applied in the peak of the afternoon, it’s still better to water your lawn to allow for the application to penetrate the soil, then to not do anything at all.
  • If you recently planted grass seed, the entire game is temporarily changed.

Let’s have a continuation of Step #4 because this next subject requires its own category.

[BONUS] Step #4A: Adjust Watering Times and Amounts If You Recently Seeded Your Lawn

When planting grass seed, one of the keys to proper germination is for the seedlings to receive enough water. But you need to be careful, because while the seedlings need water desperately, you have to be more cautious than ever to make sure they do not get drowned out by over watering.

The key here is to adjust your watering schedule so you are watering at higher frequencies, but in lower amounts. Here is the process broken down:

  1. Initial Phase: Water so you are only covering the top ½ of the soil, pretty much, half of what it was for established grass. You do this once the grass physically reaches 1-inch in height
  2. Growth Phase: Continue to keep the top 2 inches of soil moist (not soggy!) until the grass reaches a height of 3 inches. This will typically take around 2-3 weeks.
  3. Final Phase: Once the grass has reached a height of 3 inches, we move onto the last phase. During this phase, you want to change the watering schedule and aim to perform lower frequencies, but higher amounts. In other words, you want to go back to watering as if the grass was already established, cutting back the days.

Growing a beautiful lawn can be a daunting task, and finding the right watering schedule is just one part of the equation. Our guide on how to properly establish turf through using grass seeds provides you with a detailed, step-by-step process on how to get this done. That, combined with these watering strategies, will have your neighbors thinking a professional lawn care company is taking care of your lawn!

Step 5: Stay on the Offensive

The final step isn’t anything in particular but a reminder to stay on the offensive and be consistent. I know, this piece of advice is cliché and can relate to so many different things, but it’s not any less true for keeping a watering schedule. Watering your lawn a couple of times and/or praying for rain is not going to win you the gold (or green in this case). Instead, you need to stick to this guide’s step-by-step plan of attack and not skip days nor skip out on watering all appropriate areas throughout your lawn.

What are some unique roadblocks you’ve found when coming up with a consistent, watering schedule? Any questions regarding this guide? Feel free to ask us in the comments below! We would love to hear from you!

Are you too busy and you’d rather not deal with all of this? Give Lawn Appreciation a call or send us a message! We would be more than happy to set up a proper schedule for you to maximize your water’s output. The schedule would be adapted to your lawn’s unique landscape and current/future objectives.

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