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How Much Should I Water?

by Steve on 05/31/15

As we head into the warmer weather, this question comes up quite a bit. There are a number of variables to consider (soil type, turf type, shade vs. sun, etc.). Let's look at some general suggestions that should get good results in most lawns.

First, what are your expectations? Do you want the lawn to look green and lush all summer or are you ok with some turf browning? Many people who do not have sprinkler systems simply do not water in the summer months. They realize that the turf will become discolored but also understand that the rain and cooler weather will eventually come and the turf will bounce back.

For those who choose to water, here are some simple tips. First, know how much water you are applying each time you water the lawn. Take a few empty tuna or cat food cans (any shallow container) and put them in a central area of the lawn. Then water the lawn for 20 minutes, measure the depth of the water in the cans, and you will have a watering rate.

In general, 1 to 1.5 inches of water per week will keep the lawn healthy. (This includes any rainfall). Preferably, you would like to water heavily a few times per week. So, if during my 20 minute watering test I found out that the watering rate was 1/2 inch per 20 minutes, I could water 3 times a week and apply 1.5 inches of total water to the lawn.

Another question is, "When should I start watering?" A simple test is when you walk on the lawn and your footprints don't bounce back within a short period of time. Obviously, discoloration in the sunny areas is also a common sign. Again, your personal preferences will indicate when and whether you will water. (One additional note. If possible, water early in the morning. This helps reduce evaporation and potential disease problems).

Don't forget, mowing is also a huge factor on how the lawn looks. Mowing short removes the most colorful part of the grass blade and also reduces the amount of shade that the soil gets from the grass. This puts the lawn under a lot more stress and can cause a variety of problems. Mowing tall (3 inches plus) is the best thing you can do. Yes, unfortunately it means you will have to mow more often but you will also have a much nicer looking lawn.     

Mowing with a dull blade will also cast a brownish tint to the lawn. This is because the blades are being ripped rather than cut. Just pull a few blades from your lawn. If they are jagged and brown at the tips, might be time to sharpen the blade.

To summarize:

  • Water at the first sign of discoloration if possible
  • Water 1.5 inches per week (includes rain)
  • Mow tall to maximize color and provide shade to the soil
  • Keep the mowing blade sharp
  • Water early in the morning.

Lastly, if you are still unsure on what to do, just call us (317-565-2582). We want your lawn to look great and will do anything we can to help it get there.