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A healthy, well-maintained lawn is not just good for improving the aesthetic of your home. When done right, a well-manicured lawn keeps the house cool, provides an invigorating space for relaxation and exercise, and increases the overall sense of well-being of homeowners and their family.
However, if you want a lawn that takes care of you, first you have to put in the work to care for it, too. One of the most fundamental things you have to master is the science of watering your lawn.
This is an easy way to keep your grass and other plants nourished and will keep your landscape from looking tired and spent. Here’s how to water your lawn.
How Long To Water The Lawn
An overwatered lawn and an underwatered one are equally troubling and unhealthy. In fact, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says most lawns only require irrigation once every 4-8 days.
Watering your lawn for short periods of time on a daily basis will result in shallow-rooted plants. It is better to irrigate less often but for a longer period of time.
It is suggested that you water your turf deeply for an hour every week. Doing this will give you stronger plants that are rooted deeper into the soil.
Another good rule of thumb is to water more frequently in summer, when the soil tends to get dry. Instead of once every week, water for an hour every 4-6 days.
Still, this is not a strict rule, since caring for plants has always been intuitive. You have to watch your lawn closely for signs that it’s time to irrigate. For instance, if you step on the grass and it does not spring back, it means it already lacks substantial water.
Your irrigation schedule should also depend on the level of your soil’s fertility. Highly fertile soil requires less water, so 45 minutes of irrigation every 6 days might do the job.
How To Test The Soil For Water Content
After every irrigation cycle, moisture should reach about 6 inches below the surface, since this is the average length of a well-developed grass system. There are two popular ways to check this: the probe system and the can system.
The Probe System: Take a long but thin stick and mark it with measurements like a ruler. Plunge it deep into your soil after watering and make sure you can reach 6 inches deep without much resistance. While the stick should go all the way through that depth, the soil should not be mushy or too spongy. If the soil ends up too squishy, it’s a sign that you’re overwatering.
The Can System: If you have a sprinkler system, this is the way to go. Place two to four shallow cans at equidistant points in your lawn, then turn the irrigation system on. Take note of how long it takes for the cans to fill up to 2 inches of water — that’s how long your irrigation cycles should be.
Best Time To Water The Lawn
In irrigation, timing is crucial. You want to give the water a chance to completely seep through the landscape, before it completely evaporates.
The best time to water the lawn therefore is early morning, before temperatures begin to rise. That would be before 9 in the morning. The strong afternoon heat is terrible for most plants, and grass is not an exemption. You have to give your greens enough supply of water to weather the heat of the afternoon sun. Studies also show that there are lower winds in the morning, so water will not evaporate before it runs deep into the soil.
Now, the worst time to water the lawn is at night, when your leaves will no longer have enough time to dry. Wet leaves provide the best conditions for fungus to grow and populate, and you might have a fungal or bacterial infestation as early as the next morning.
Therefore, if you fail or forget to water early in the morning, you have to do it late in the afternoon, at least an hour before nightfall.
How To Water The Lawn With A Hose
While a sprinkler system is the best way to ensure deep and even irrigation, you can use an above-ground hose for smaller lawns, or before you get the chance to set up an in-ground irrigation system.
Watering using an above-ground hose might be trickier, but generally, the rules are the same. You have to make sure to water deeply and less frequently to achieve that 6-inch ideal moisture.
It is also imperative to use a hose that has a pressure controller. You have to mimic the same water pressure released by sprinklers, or risk uprooting younger grass and causing unwanted water-runoffs. It is labor-intensive and will take more of your time, but it’s the only way to avoid more trouble when doing manual irrigation.
Hose end sprinklers are also excellent choices for above-ground sprinkler systems, as they’ll give you a similar experience to a sprinkler system with less investment. Just ensure that you monitor the flow and coverage.
Best Way To Water The Lawn
As mentioned earlier, a sprinkler system is the best way to irrigate a lawn. Modern-day technology has allowed for programmable systems which allows you to set up your irrigation schedule ahead of time so you never have to worry about missing a cycle or messing up the amount of water your lawn needs.
Here’s how you do it:
Selecting the correct sprinkler and sprinkler heads for your kind of lawn and landscape is already half the job. You have a choice between two main types of sprinklers: rotor or spray.
Spray sprinkler heads distribute water like shower or rain and are dependent mostly on gravity. On the other hand, rotor sprinkler heads use a spinning or rotating motion to distribute water over an area.
Either way, the important thing is that you plot and install sprinkler heads in such a way that all areas of your lawn will be covered, and water distribution will be equal. You might need professional help for this, especially if you have a large lawn, or one with a unique or irregular shape or layout.
A sprinkler system is only as good as its controller. Most controllers come with a preinstalled rain gauge, which will automatically shut the system down in the event of rainfall. This will prevent your lawn from being overwatered.
While that in itself is a major advancement, there are more modern controllers now that can track not just rain, but also temperatures, sunlight, and other elemental conditions and will adjust your irrigation schedule accordingly.
A smart sprinkler system complete with a controller will make your watering system more efficient, and will save you hundreds of gallons of water every year.
Aside from completely programmable smart controllers, a basic water timer will help you save water and money on home expenses — without being expensive in itself. There are mechanical and digital water timers you can hook up to your water source to ensure that only the right amount of water goes to your soil.
Mechanical timers are the least expensive, but also the least complex. You simply connect it to your water source and twist the dial, so the water will shut off when the timer has wound down.
Digital timers will have to be attached directly on the sprinklers, allowing you to set each sprinkler’s operation time and schedule.
For maximum convenience and the option to go fully remote-controlled, a smart water timer, although pricier, will give you enough peace of mind even when vacationing far from home. A smart timer will take into account any sudden changes in temperature and humidity and will automatically adjust the timing and duration of irrigation, real time.
Keeping your lawn well irrigated will maintain its lush, green, freshness for a perfectly manicured lawn.
With an effective irrigation system will give you a well-nourished and healthy lawn, which will in turn take care of your home and your family.
To learn more about different types of irrigation, check our detailed guide here.