A freshly cut back lawn

Lawn Watering 101

Having issues with your lawn? Does it feel like you’re stepping on a sponge surface or is it hard as a rock? Are you noticing more weeds, fungi, or disease symptoms in your yard?

You might be overwatering your lawn. In this article, we’ll cover frequently asked questions about the when, how, and why of lawn watering, so you can take action and get your lawn back to looking its best!

How Often Should I Water My Lawn?

Rather than asking, “How often should I water my lawn?,” it’s best to ask, “How much water does my lawn need?” Try not to focus on a strict lawn watering schedule—every other day watering restrictions does not mean you should water that often. Instead, look at your soil and how much rainfall you get each week. Next, adjust your lawn watering accordingly.

Lawns typically need at least 1 inch of water per week. In Minnesota, we often get that amount from rainfall, which is why it’s not unusual for homeowners to overwater their lawns. But this can actually cause problems instead of preventing them. You should only water once a week—twice at most—and only if it hasn’t rained—generally during the hot summer months. 

Anticipating rain events is helpful. If we aren’t expecting rain for a week in August, watering deeply and infrequently before the dry spell is wise.

How Long Should I Water My Lawn?

Since the goal is to give your lawn 1 inch of water in one or two bursts, you need to water more each time. Again, how long that is will depend on the quality of your soil (is it more clay or sand?) and whether or not you’ve had rainfall already.

You want to water long enough to allow the water to penetrate six inches into the soil. This is the depth of a healthy grass root system. It also trains your roots to chase the water down and become stronger, healthier and more drought resistant.

If you have an irrigation system, it’s good practice to run it from the “off” position. Run the system manually, as needed, for extended periods of time. Deeply and infrequently is the best way to water your lawn.

 There are a few ways to test how long you should water your lawn:

  • Screwdriver Test: Puncture the ground with a screwdriver that’s at least six inches long. Did it go in easily the entire way? If not, the ground is too dry.
  • Shovel Test: This involves digging out six inches of dirt and checking to see if the soil is moist.
  • Tuna Can Test: Put out an empty tuna can, which is about an inch tall, and make sure it fills up each week between the rain and your watering. This is a quick trick to ensure you’re hitting the 1” mark, but we’d still recommend checking the soil itself periodically to know that the water actually penetrated. A tuna can will help determine how long your irrigation system takes to reach 1″.

As mentioned, it’s good practice to water deeply and infrequently, but you should not water to the point where water is running off of your property. In that case, you might need to water a little less.

When Is the Best Time to Water My Lawn?

Watering your lawn in the morning, generally before 10 a.m. is highly recommended.

This provides two important benefits:

  1. The cooler air means less evaporation right away, giving the water time to penetrate the soil.
  2. The water cools the grass throughout the day, so there’s less stress on the grass during the hottest hours of the day.

Watering at night, particularly past 6 p.m., can actually work against you. Wet grass overnight is a breeding ground for fungus, weeds, insects, and other lawn issues.

Need Help with Your Lawn Care?

If you’re experiencing lawn issues, then changing your watering habits might help solve the problem. A soil test can also help by determining your soil composition, nutritional imbalances and pH level.

At Organic Lawns by Lunseth, we offer water conservation services, including grass species, rain sensors and other irrigation technologies to help promote drought tolerance, improve lawns, and benefit your landscape and surrounding communities.

To learn more about our services, including core aeration, which when performed in the fall or early spring helps oxygen, nutrients and water penetrate deeper into the soil, contact us today!