General Lawn Care Guidelines:

  • Tall fescue, Bluegrass and Perennial Rye require the most water – 1 1/2″ – 2″ per week.
  • Hybrid Bermuda (such as Tifway,) St. Augustine, and Zoysia grass require less than the above, but more than Common Bermuda -1″ -1/2″ per week.
  • Common Bermuda and Centipede grass requires less than Hybrid Bermuda or Zoysia- about 1″ per week

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While your lawn needs approximately 1 to 2” of water per week during the growing season, it needs at least ½” of water per week during the winter or dormant season. This helps insulate the grass during cold weather and protect against freeze damage. And if you’ve had a lot of snow, just remember that one inch of snow equals only one tenth of an inch of water. We know it’s inconvenient to water in the winter, but a dry, cold, windy winter can damage your turf if temperatures fall too low.aeration

If  you have automatic sprinklers be sure you check them from time to time to make sure you’re getting complete coverage and that a sprinkler head isn’t misdirected and possibly flooding an area by pointing downward.

Water early in the morning, if possible, to avoid evaporation during the heat of the day, or the development of fungus and diseases from being wet at night. However, watering at any time is immeasurably better than not watering at all!

WATERING in detail

Ideally, your lawn needs to be watered when it needs water. A set schedule may be easiest for most of us, but sometimes just doesn’t fit the needs of the grass. Likewise, while we can recommend what works for most lawns, it may not work for all.

Signs that your grass needs water are wilting, a bluish-grey appearance, or “footprints” left when you walk through your lawn. Grass wilts when the loss of water from the plant (evaporation through the leaf, called transpiration) exceeds that taken up from the root system. (Kind of like us–when we’re out in the heat and sweat a lot, we need water or we’ll definitely wilt!)
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The  type of soil in your lawn affects your lawn’s watering needs. Coarse, sandy soil absorbs water faster, but retains less water than fine soil like loam and clay. It will take less water to reach a 6” depth in sandy soil, but you will need to water more often. On the other hand, a heavy clay soil will absorb water slowly, and you want to be careful that you don’t have water running down the street. You may have to water twice in one day to reach the 6” depth.

Water pressure is an important factor, which is why we recommend using tuna cans above to actually measure how long it takes to accumulate an inch of water. Water pressure can vary from house to house.

Cultural practices on your lawn, like mowing and fertilization, will also affect watering needs. A lush, vigorously-growing lawn will actually use more water than a poorly performing lawn.

Windy weather will dry out your soil and your lawn. In periods of high wind, you may need to increase your watering.

If your lawn is sloped, you will need to water the top of the hill much more than the bottom.

If you have fescue, rye or other cool-season grass, you may follow the same guidelines outlined here, but you may also have to water lightly every day if temperatures are in the nineties or above. “Shade” grass is not really sun intolerant—it is heat intolerant. A fescue lawn in full sun will do fine in moderate temperatures. During the hot summer, when temperatures soar, a daily light watering early to mid-afternoon will help cool off the grass. You will still need to do your deep watering twice per week or more frequently if you notice it wilting between waterings.

If you have newly-seeded grass, you will need to keep it moist throughout the germination period. Water it lightly just to a depth of about 1”. Do not overwater or your seed will wash away or clump up in puddles. If the seeded area is bare, you may want to lightly cover it with grass clippings until it germinates. If it dries out, it will die.cross-section

If you have newly-sodded grass, water lightly twice per day until it is rooted down.

Be sure your lawn has good drainage. If you frequently have standing water, you may need to aerate your lawn or in severe cases, consider digging swales or putting in a French drain system, or bringing in topsoil to raise the lawn higher.

What if you can’t water? During the summer, your water bill may get too large, or we may have periods of water-rationing during drought, or maybe you just can’t get out and water. Bermuda lawns may begin to go dormant. This is the grass’ protective strategy. It will prematurely turn brown and go into drought-induced dormancy. It’s not dead, it’s just resting in sleep-mode. When the fall rains come, it should green back up again. This isn’t the healthiest thing for the grass, but it will usually survive just fine. Fertilization, even when it’s brown (the root system is still active,) will help it to be healthier when the fall rains come. If you have a fescue or bluegrass lawn, it MUST have water, or you will lose most of it.

If you have to cut back on watering, leave your lawn a little higher than normal, rather than mowing it short, to help it with the heat stress.