Given the weather we are experiencing in west central Indiana, I thought it would be beneficial to briefly discuss how to best water your lawn. The main two questions I am asked are: when should I water and how much should I water. Let’s take a look at these questions, so you have the best tips for watering your lawn.
When Should I Water?
The time you choose for watering is important. However, when it is as hot and dry as it has been these last several weeks, watering any time that is convenient for you is better than not watering at all. But if you’re able, it is always best to water very early in the morning (around 4 or 5 am). Here’s why.
The first reason is fairly obvious – watering during darker, cooler hours allows water to penetrate the soil with minimal drying, which maximizes the effect of the water you use. Watering during midday heat means you’ll have to use more water for the same effect.
So, why not water in the evening, when the sun’s drying effect won’t happen for many hours? This answer is less apparent. The longer the grass blades stay wet, the higher the risk of your grass will become diseased. If your lawn is already struggling from some disease, this could make it worse. Watering in the early morning will allow the grass to dry out after a short period of darker, cooler soak-in time, thus reducing the risk of disease to your grass plants.
How Much Should I Water?
Determining how much you should water will depend on what you are trying to accomplish. Do you want to keep your grass green, or just keep it alive when it’s hot and dry?
If you want to keep your lawn green, 1½ to 2 inches of water per week will be needed. If the temperatures are mild, 1½ inches should be sufficient. When the weather is hot, like we have been seeing, you will want to water 2 inches.
It is best to water deeply and infrequently. Aim for 2-3 waterings weekly, splitting your 1½ – 2 inch goal between these waterings. This will allow the water to soak deeply into the soil, training the grass roots to chase the water down deeper. This encourages a deeper, healthier root system rather than a shallow root system.
If you are simply looking to keep the turf alive, ½ inch per week will be sufficient. You can have a healthy brown lawn, but it still needs regular moisture for respiration. Apply the same rules above – water deeply and infrequently. You can water once per week at ½ inch, and it will keep your lawn alive during drought.
My Lawn is Browning – What Can I Do Now?
Unfortunately, we are past the optimum time to start watering to maintain a green color in the lawn, since we have seen dry weather move in unusually early. But, although we are well past the first signs of drought stress in some areas (indicated by a blue-to-dark-gray color in the leaf blades of the grass), even if you aren’t watering to keep your lawn green, you may need to water to keep it alive. Any time we hit the two-week mark with no rain, the possibility of die-back starts – and you definitely want to be watering at this point to keep your grass alive.
The extreme heat we have been having is very stressful on the turf, and I have been making the appropriate adjustments nutrient-wise during my lawn visits. However, it is crucial that lawns get some moisture each week to keep them healthy for a strong recovery once things cool down. So during this dry spell, mow only when it is absolutely necessary, and get the sprinkler out at least once or twice a week.
Your lawn will thank you for it!