When and how often should I water my lawn?
July 27, 2005 11:08 AM   Subscribe

In in New Jersey. How often should I be watering my lawn, and what time of the day should I do it?

Should I do it everyday if it gets really hot? Should I be checking the weather forecast and do it only if it's not going to rain tomorrow or the day after? RustyBrook said you shouldn't do it at night because it causes fungus to attack the roots. Is that correct? I have to drag my sprinkler to different parts of my lawn to water it, so I really don't do it regularly. When I do water my lawn, I do it after sunset so that water isn't wasted due to evaporation.
posted by exhilaration to Home & Garden (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Water first thing in the morning to avoid fungus. Water at least one inch of water at a time and let the surface dry out in between waterings - this gets the water down to the deep roots and promotes root growth. Deep roots protect the grass against drought. The appearance of the grass will change when it needs watering. For instance, footprints show more easily. Once or twice a week watering should suffice to keep it green even in the current heat, although the grass will survive on much less if it is otherwise healthy. We have no water shortage in NJ this year so water without guilt, except for how it affects your pocket book.
posted by caddis at 11:26 AM on July 27, 2005

These folks are maniacs, and can tell you more than you want to know.

You could also explore buffalo grass or blue grama, if you feel like putting in a new lawn.
posted by craniac at 11:48 AM on July 27, 2005

Whatever you plan to do, however, mid-summer is really not the time to change... converting your lawn to a more water-wise programme is best done first-thing in the Spring, so the roots actually have time to do their thing.

A few pointers: Caddis already mentioned deep watering (a good deal of water, infrequently) to promote deep root growth, and to use less water. He also mentioned first thing in the morning (to avoid fungus)... which is smart. It's not a problem here in the dry west, but back-east I imagine watering late at night may leave the leaves and soil too damp. But whatever you do, don't water during sunlight hours... the sun evaporates way too much water, and the beading water can act as a magnifying glass — actually burning the leaves.

Finally, if you're looking to conserve water, please consider an installed system — a drip irrigation system being ideal.
posted by silusGROK at 11:58 AM on July 27, 2005

The above suggestions are great. If you have a few bucks to spend, consider a timer to water for you. Just set it, check that it's working once or twice, and then forget about it. Use a splitter off of your faucet so you can water both areas at once (if you have sufficient pressure). Try to avoid leaving the hose in the lawn for too long--it'll kill the grass under it. Try laying it along the egde of your garden beds or house and then through the long for a short distance.

Water for 2 hours or so and then check how deep the water is getting. Dig up a patch of lawn to do this. Dig down until the soil is dry. Then replace the patch and water it in. Adjust your watering time accordingly.

And don't trust the rain. Only a long, gentle rain can really water deeply.
posted by recurve at 1:19 PM on July 27, 2005

Best answer: Wow... 2 hours?

I don't know much about it, but I will say these things: Water at night or pre-dawn, whenever it's convenient for your schedule, and don't worry about fungus. I think that fear is exaggerated. The key is that you aren't watering when the sun is going to vaporize all the water before it gets down into the ground (where the roots are, where the water needs to be to help at all).
posted by knave at 2:28 PM on July 27, 2005

See if your local water company publishes recommendations.
For example, my local company will give you one of these and they publish watering guides in the paper to let you know how much to water that week based on the weather.
posted by madajb at 2:45 PM on July 27, 2005

Read Organic Lawn Care For the Cheap and Lazy (from a previous AskMefi)

It echoes most of what caddis and others have said.

I have an automated system but have tried to measure it's performance by putting out multiple little plastic tubs throughout the lawn. I've found that the amount of water varies widely over different parts of the lawn, and yet it does take over an hour to get 1 inch of water.

I'm watering about once a week or less in the 100 degree dry heat of Utah and the lawn is a bit brownish but still seems pretty healthy.

The other main key is to mow often so that you're never chopping off a large percentage of the grass at any one time and this keeps it healthier.

You don't want to water too often as this helps the weeds survive with their shallow roots. You want the top inches of the soil to dry out in between watering. Somewhat counter-intuitively, he recommends turning on your sprinklers during or after you get rain in order to get a deep-watering in when it happens to rain.
posted by jacobsee at 3:07 PM on July 27, 2005

The City of Toronto Water Dept. has some tips which are probably tranferable to Jersey.
posted by winston at 1:43 PM on July 28, 2005

Response by poster: Thanks everyone.
posted by exhilaration at 2:50 PM on July 28, 2005

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