9 Essential Lawn-Watering Tips for Greener, Healthier Grass

Ginny Bartolone
Written by Ginny Bartolone
Reviewed by Tara Dudley
Updated April 7, 2022
Beautifully landscaped residential neighborhood lawns
Photo: Joe_Potato / iStock / Getty Images Plus / Getty Images

Make sure the grass is greener on your side of the fence

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We all know that neighbor who's constantly watering their lawn no matter the weather, time of day, or day of the week. But how much do you really need to water your lawn and is there a clear right and wrong way to do it? Absolutely. Check out these top tips on how to water a healthy lawn the right way so it stays lush and green while still looking out for the environment.

1. Start With the Lawn Care Basics

Before you get down in the dirt and learn what makes your lawn unique, let's start with some basic parameters. 

How Much to Water Your Lawn

The general—and we mean general—rule of thumb is to water your lawn twice a week. Most lawns enjoy between 1.5 and 3 inches of water split between the two waterings—enough to soak into the top 6 to 8 inches of turf. Keep in mind that precipitation will contribute to the final count as well.

How Long to Water Your Grass

How long you’ll need to water your grass depends on several factors:

  • What device you’re using to deliver water to your lawn

  • How thick your grass is

  • The type of soil under your grass

While rain generally distributes water over your lawn quickly and evenly, different sprinkler systems and or hand-held hoses take different amounts of time to distribute water. How long you’ll water your grass depends on whether you have a single or multi-head sprinkler system or are manually watering your lawn with a hose. 

The thickness of your grass and how absorbent the soil underneath your lawn is will also impact how quickly water is absorbed and how long you should water. Generally, most sprinkler systems will deliver the appropriate amount of water within 30 minutes, though watering time can vary. 

Test Your Lawn's Moisture

You can measure how far the water's sunk into the ground by loosening a small area with a screwdriver. If the screwdriver drives right into the ground with no give, it's as dry as a bone and needs water. You can also step your foot onto your grass and check if the grass bounces right back. If not, it's quite thirsty.

How on earth can you measure how much water you're spraying all over your lawn? Well, there are a few tips depending on your watering methods. Let's take a look.

How to Water With a Hose

In the early trial-and-error phase, begin with a relatively dry lawn. Spray an even mist across the lawn in a back-and-forth motion. After a single pass with your hose, use that screwdriver to check your progress. You can also place metal cans throughout your lawn and wait to reach the three-fourth to 1.5 inches mark—half of the weekly amount.

Once you get a sense of how long it takes to reach the 6 to 8 inches into the earth, you won't have to measure each time.

How to Water With a Sprinkler Systems

If you're using an irrigation system, use the output numbers included with your model to reach the right weekly level. You can also install a flow timer on your sprinkler system to measure the exact gallons needed for your square footage. When in doubt, chat with a local sprinkler specialist to find the right setting for your lawn—particularly all the details below.

2. Keep a Watering Schedule

An automatic sprinklers watering lawn system
Photo: MariuszBlach / iStock / Getty Images Plus / Getty Images

Avoid over or underwatering your lawn by making it a habit as predictable as walking the dog or grabbing groceries. For weeks without soaking rain, split the full water amount between two sessions several days apart. Make note if a storm rolls through and skip the second watering unless your lawn is particularly parched.

And now for the popular question: What is the best time to water my lawn? In a perfect world, between 6 a.m. and 9 a.m. is your best bet. This allows the water to soak into the ground before the sun dries it up and allows it to dry enough so it doesn't encourage disease to form. 

You can also water in the early evening, but make sure the sun stays up long enough to keep it from pooling in the dirt. Excess water can lead to disease or attract pests.

3. Get to Know Your Grass

Here is where efficiency and water conservation truly step in. If you select grass appropriate for your region, you can avoid extra care for species that don't belong there. 

Check the EPA watering guide to check if cool or warm-season grasses are best for your lawn and which love a bit more or less water. Choosing the right grass varieties will also help with weed control, disease, and pests.

4. Test Your Soil

Let's say you give an even soaking with the hose and water just pools on top of your lawn instead of soaking into the ground. You may have a high clay content or impacted soil. When it comes to clay, break up watering into two rounds to allow the water some time to sink. If you have impacted soil, consider bringing in a landscaper for aeration services.

"Slowly adding in soil amendments such as compost or organic material over time to your lawn will also help break up the clay content,” says Tara Dudley, owner of Plant Life Designs. “Talk to your local landscaper for more information on this."

You may also want to fertilize your lawn, depending on the type of grass you have and its needs. If your lawn is dead and you need to revive it, you’ll want to fertilize as one of the last steps.

5. Adjust for Sunlight

The shady areas of your lawn will naturally need less water than those in constant sunlight. Keep this in mind if you're noticing sun-specific patchiness in the color and consistency of your blades.

6. Adapt With the Seasons

Lawn care changes with the season whether you're up in Massachusetts or down in Texas. For example, winter dormancy requires less watering than the summer growing season. Increase watering your lawn in times without rain—but keep an eye on municipal or water management district restrictions in your area.

7. Keep the Hills in Mind

Have you noticed that the grass is always greener at the bottom of the hill? Slope can play a large role in how much water ends up in each area. Water your hilly lawn in phases and pay attention to how much slides down the hill before rehydrating that area.

8. Treat New Lawns With Care

A man mowing grass on a sunny day
Photo: The Good Brigade / DigitalVision / Getty Images

Watering your newly seeded lawn is a whole other kettle of fish. New sod requires daily watering for at least two to three weeks until it’s taken root.

9. Avoid Waste

Caring for a lawn comes with the crucial caveat that a water-efficient landscape is best for the environment. In addition to the tips above, choosing native grasses and creating a watering schedule help to make sure your watering strategies are eco-conscious. Do not let sprinklers waste water on your driveway or sidewalks, for example. 

You can adjust the design of your watering plan with the helpful eye of a lawn irrigation team whether you have a sprinkler or prefer to break out the trusty hose.

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