How to Water Your Lawn Properly and Effectively
Watering your lawn sounds simple although there are a lot of things to consider when watering your lawn effectively. Get watering tips and take care of your lawn with Scotts.
It seems like such a simple task, but there is more to it than meets the eye. Watering the lawn takes balance. Too much or too little can damage the grass, encourage certain diseases, and lead to weed and pest infestations.
Use these tips to learn the right amount of water to keep your lawn healthy and beautiful all season long.
Types of Grass Grown in Canada
First, let's take a quick look at the type of grass on your lawn. Canadian homes typically include a mix of cool-season grasses blended for sunny or shady yards or customized for your lawn’s specific needs. Here's what you are likely growing out back:
- Kentucky bluegrass (Poa pratensis) – This deep, green grass grows well from seed, making it a popular choice in the north. However, its shallow roots require frequent waterings and well-draining soil.
- Canada bluegrass (Poa compressa) – This northern-grown bluegrass is hardy, low-maintenance, and grows almost anywhere, including rocky soil.
- Ryegrass (Lolium perenne) – This is the shiny grass you see in your yard and a top pick for playgrounds and ballparks. Ryegrass is strong enough to sustain dry spells, summer heat, and winter weather, but it's not happy in extreme temperatures.
- Tall Fescue (Festuca arundinacea) – This type of grass grows in bunches. It has a deep root system that can hang tough in high temperatures and drought. Fescue appreciates a deep watering.
The Best Time of Day to Water Your Lawn
In the spring and summer, afternoon heat can evaporate up to 30% of the water as it jets out of the sprinklers. And watering in the late evening doesn't give the grass enough time to dry, leaving it vulnerable to fungal disease. So what is the best time to water the grass?
- The #1 best time to water is before 10 a.m. In the morning, temperatures are cooler, and winds are calmer. As a result, the water has time to soak into the soil, and the grass roots can absorb it before it evaporates.
- The #2 best time to water is 4-6 p.m. You won't lose as much water to evaporation as you would in the afternoon, and the grass has time to dry before sunset.
Tips for Watering the Lawn Properly
Make sure your grass gets 2.5 cm of water each week.
Whether it comes from rain or watering, this amount ideally happens at one time to encourage the roots to go deeper into the soil, making it more drought tolerant.
Let the grass dry between waterings.
More water is not better for your lawn. Overwatering can lead to fungal disease, weeds, and pests.
Stick to weekly watering.
In the spring and summer, you may find yourself watering flowers, veggies, and landscape plants every day. Don't put your lawn on the same schedule. Frequent, shorter waterings will leave you with shallow roots and more vulnerable grass.
Buy or DIY a rain gauge.
You can purchase one at a gardening store or mark 2.5 cm on a can or cup that you already have. Place the rain gauge within range of your sprinkler system and time how long it takes for the water line to reach 2.5 cm. Once you have this information, you can add a timer to your sprinkler system that will shut it off automatically.
Try the screwdriver test.
The water you add to your lawn should go at least 15 cm into the soil. To check this, shove a long screwdriver into the ground after you water. If it goes to that depth easily, the soil is in good shape. If not, it needs more water.
Check the soil.
If puddling occurs while you water, use shorter cycles to give the ground time to catch up—for example, 10 minutes on, 10 minutes off—until you meet the time it takes to reach 2.5 cm.
Top dress your lawn in the fall.
Golf pros taught us this trick. A thin layer of nutrient-rich compost holds onto moisture, so your lawn will require less watering.
How Often to Water Newly Planted Grass
When watering a newly seeded lawn, keep the top layer of soil consistently moist but not soggy. Mist the seeded area one or more times a day.
Then, once the seeds start to germinate, make sure the top 5 cm of soil is moist until the grass reaches around 8 cm. After that, you can water deeply two times a week, which will encourage the roots to grow down farther.
Signs of an Overwatered Lawn
Adding too much water to your lawn prevents the grass from accessing the other elements it needs to survive. It also keeps the grass from growing deeper roots because water is so available higher in the ground. Look for these signs to determine if you're watering too much:
- Mini streams of water running off your lawn
- A lawn that squishes when you step on it
- Thatch or weeds crowding out the grass
- Discoloration from fungus
- Insect infestation
Not Watering Your Lawn at All
We want your grass to look as good as it can for as long as possible, but it's worth noting that you don't necessarily have to water your lawn.
Whether it's a personal choice, drought advisory, or water-use ban, you can let the grass go dormant. Lawns are resilient, and a properly cared-for lawn can survive for up to 6 weeks without water. Then, once the rain comes, your yard will recover.
Watering in Sunny vs. Shady Areas
The amount of sun your grass receives has an impact on how much water it needs. For shady lawns, you'll still water deeply but you’ll do so less often. Sunny areas require more frequent, deep waterings.
Water early in the day, so the water has time to absorb or evaporate. Be sure not to water a little at a time. This encourages shallow grass roots, but deeper roots lead to a strong, healthy lawn.
You can also buy grass seed that is formulated to thrive in shade, partial shade, or full sun.
Watering Grass Each Season
Whether you see red-winged blackbirds flying overhead or prairie crocus starting to bloom, signs of spring are always welcome after a harsh Canadian winter.
Spring grass should be watered as early as possible when it comes out of its dormant state. In rainy climates and coastal areas, Mother Nature may do the work for you; otherwise, it's up to you to make sure it gets 2.5 cm a week. Be careful not to water too much, though. Overwatering can lead to pests and disease.
When summer arrives, you’ll continue with weekly, deep waterings, but as the heat rises, you may need to water more frequently.
- How do you know if your grass needs a drink?
- The grass has a grayish cast or appears to be dull green.
- If you can see your footprints when you walk across your yard, it's time to water. Well-hydrated grass springs back quickly.
As temperatures start to cool and days become shorter, lawn watering often falls by the wayside, but it's not time to stop just yet.
Canada's cool-season grass grows throughout the autumn months, but much of the work happens below the surface. Grass roots are busy absorbing nutrients and recovering from a summer of heat, sun, and footprints. So give them a boost by watering 2.5 cm per week until the ground freezes. Of course, in Canada, that can be as early as August if you live in Whitehorse and as late as November if you're on Vancouver Island.
Fall is also the perfect time to overseed your lawn and repair bare patches with overseeding mix and starting fertilizer products. But, again, follow the watering instructions on the product label to get the best results.
In most places, you can take a break from watering once the ground freezes. Once that happens, water won’t be absorbed into the soil or reach the grass roots.
Use the winter months to service your lawnmower, trimmer, and other tools, so everything is in tip-top shape for the spring.
Using Sprinklers and Irrigation Systems
There are hundreds of watering tools online and at gardening stores. Here's a quick guide to different types of sprinklers and irrigation systems:
- A hose with a nozzle or wand is fine for watering a small patch of grass. Anything larger is too time-consuming, and it's hard to tell when you've watered enough.
- Pulsating sprinklers shoot water horizontally at a high velocity so the wind won't affect your watering.
- Permanent or built-in irrigation systems have high upfront costs and require trenches. But if you can afford it, this is hands-down the easiest way to water your lawn.
- Drip irrigation is a good solution for garden plants if water is scarce, but it's not practical for your lawn.