Lawn Watering 101: How To Water Your Yard Effectively

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Close up of a lawn sprinkler out and spraying on the green grass


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Lawn & Garden


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One of the cardinal rules of lawn maintenance is adequate watering. For it to be lush green and gorgeous, your grass has to receive the right amount of water.

The outcomes could be unattractive and harmful if you do not hydrate the lawn adequately. So, understanding how long you should water your lawn is a must if you have a lawn in your house!

A general rule of thumb is to water the lawn for 20 minutes twice or thrice weekly. However, it depends on many factors, like if it rained and how much.

If you are new to lawn maintenance, you need to understand lawn watering in detail, including how long to water, when to water, if you have watered enough, what are the typical lawn watering mistakes, etc.

Stick around till the end to learn all of these in detail!

Close up of a lawn sprinkler out and spraying on the green grass

How Long To Water Your Lawn

Lawns should be watered for about 20 minutes , three times per week. Now, this is just a general estimate. Calculating your time limits would be best by considering the related factors.

So, there are several things that you need to know beforehand. These factors determine how long you should water your lawn and why.

The General Rule

Every lawn needs about 1-1.5 inches of water every seven days. It is for a healthy lawn that has good fertile soil, a good amount of compost, and doesn’t get dry very often.

A healthy lawn with good soil quality will have a sound drainage system. 

It is essential to know that watering for 20 minutes, 2-3 times a week, can yield one inch of water. If you do not know how to calculate this level (one inch), there is an easy way out.

For this purpose, you can use a plastic bottle and mark it at two points. Put a mark at one inch and another at half inches from the bottom.

Next, keep it in one corner of your lawn. Then, start watering. You must notice when the water level reaches the half-inch mark. Say it takes 30 minutes to get to this level. So, water for an hour is required to reach the one-inch mark.

It won’t be ideal to feed your lawn all that water in one day. Therefore, break it down into two or three days (three days being perfect).

Hence, the best idea would be to water for a rough 20 minutes three times per week. But if you want 1.5 inches of water level, do the maths!

Different Types Of Lawns

This covers a large area of discussion. Your lawn can be big or small, the weather in that area may be too hot or too cold, it could be a rainy season or a drought, and so on. 

Also, the method of watering and the type of grass have an essential role in deciding how long you should water your lawn. So, let’s get to know these facts in detail.

Area & Plants

If you own a vast lawn or say the yard belongs to the premises of extensive infrastructure, the measurements are not the same. You can’t water an Oak tree or a Ficus the exact amount you water a Rose plant.

So, get your measurements ready first. Of course, the general rule of thumb applies to all lawn sizes. Only the time required to water the lawn may differ.  

Rainy Season Or Drought

Perhaps your lawn is geographically in an area where it rains heavily throughout or most of the year.

If you live in Florida or Washington, you can relate to this big time! On the contrary, states like Nevada and Utah have the driest days. The annual precipitation in Nevada is barely 10 inches!

Of course, if it rains too much, you don’t have to water your lawns similarly. Now, this needs a specific calculation. Firstly, you must measure the height of rainwater clogging your property.

You can use a weather station or a rain gauge for this. You can subtract this amount from your lawn watering needs if it’s half an inch of rainfall. 

So, you have to water a half inch every week. Adjust your sprinkler or hose pipe setting to this time range. You can try watering for 10 minutes three times a week.

However, if there’s a drought, you need to water more. You can again measure the water level in the same way. You will notice that reaching that one-inch mark now takes longer!

So, adjust as per your needs.

Warm Season Grass Or Cold Season Grass

Warm season grasses include bermuda and St. Augustine turf. Most importantly, these need less watering than the cold season ones. They grow best in hot weather and can resist dry conditions pretty well.

On the contrary, cool-season grasses like fine Fescue, Perennial Ryegrass, and Kentucky Bluegrass can withstand cold weather.

They do not handle droughts very well though, and go into dormancy during dry periods.

But they spring back into life whenever the rain hits again. That is, they need good watering in droughts. They grow fast in the fall.

Method Of Watering

What equipment you use to water your lawn also affects the watering time. Several modern tools have made watering so much easier now.

The jet’s speed and force from these devices can affect your lawn watering times. These are mostly irrigation sprinklers, and they have a wide variety.

Oscillating Sprinklers have weak water force and can be suitable for a new lawn bed. They have a pretty good area of coverage but will work slowly.

Then, there are hose-end sprinklers which are the most conventional ones. You can find them in nearly every household. However, now it has many modifications on the market.

Pulsating Sprinklers are not great for newly seeded lawns. They have a powerful force of water and hit the yard at high speed.

Moreover, the in-ground sprinklers are the most expensive ones. They can water just the right amount. These sprinklers have automated systems that can stop the watering when done.

When To Water The Lawn?

The best time to water your lawn is in the early part of the morning. The purpose is to water when the evaporation rate is low, and the chances of contracting diseases are minimal. 

The early part of the morning means from 6 am to 10 am. It is the most convenient period because watering during this period can help the grass stay hydrated the whole day.

And the lawn can tolerate even the hottest temperatures at noon. So, the stress on the lawn reduces.

Most lawn owners water in the early morning. Usually, it is good exercise before breakfast. However, if you own an automated sprinkler, just turn on the correct settings and let the sprinkler do its job.

Other Times To Water

Now, if you can not manage to water in the morning, there is always a second chance. You can water the lawn late afternoon, between 4 pm and 6 pm. But the second best choice is never equivalent to the best one! 

Also, some people would think, then why not water at night? It could keep the grass wet all night and keep the lawn hydrated!

Keeping your lawn moist for that long can lead to many fungal infections and other problems. Overall, it would be a very unhealthy practice.

Besides, your purpose is to keep the soil and the grass moist, not soggy. So, watering in the early part of the morning allows the water to evaporate little by little throughout the day. 

Watering Frequency

You should water infrequently and deeply. You do not need to water your plants daily. Do it in a way that allows the root system to grow better.

Furthermore, a shallow root system will produce weak and soft grasses. If just tugging at your grass root pulls out the whole sapling, it is a sign that the grass is weak.

So, infrequent and deep watering is the best thing to do. It will produce solid roots, and you will have a healthy lawn.

What Happens If You Water Longer Than Required? 

Overwatering your lawn can impair the grass’s ability to absorb oxygen and remove all essential nutrients from the soil. It may also promote the growth of fungi.

Overwatering is never a good idea. You should only water your plants according to their needs. You should always stick to the limits, even on your lawn. Here’s why-

Choking Out Oxygen

When the lawn is dripped in water, and the grass is full to the brim, the leaves can barely breathe through the water.

Lawn grasses are not aquatic plants. Hence, they are not adapted to survive in wet conditions. 

In this situation, the cells cannot exchange oxygen via the electron transport chains in the mitochondria.

Eventually, it leads to the failure of ATP production, and the cells start to die. Eventually, this affects the whole thing, and the grass dies.

Your lawn needs oxygen to breathe besides the water. Aeration is inevitable for the grass to live!

Washing Away All Nutrients 

It is never a good sign if the water has clogged in places. Excessive watering is not suitable for your lawn. The excess water will wash away all the crucial ingredients of the soil. 

Good, healthy soil is one of the first prerequisites for a good lawn. If the watering removes half the nutrients, the grass won’t grow well and will become undernourished.

It can adversely affect your yard.

Fungal Infections

The lawn grasses are very prone to contracting fungi. There are harmful fungi that can destroy an entire lawn.

These love to stay in wet and moist areas. So, when you overwater your yard, the fungi find their way into your yard and prey on those leaves.

Naturally, your grasses start to discolor, and the lawn ultimately dies at one point. In a nutshell, fungal infections are deadly, and one of the prime reasons is overwatering.

How To Tell If The Lawn Has Been Watered Enough?

A few signs can help you understand if your lawn has been getting enough water. The color and shapes of the grasses, the step test, the screwdriver test, etc., to name a few.

Your lawn may be giving you a few signs to show it is not getting adequate watering. So, let’s get to the end of this!

Color of Lawn

This is pretty much easy. Because it is the first thing you would notice; Unless you are blind, you can spot the difference between your old green, beautiful lawn and the current greyish-toned dead field.

The color of your grasses has a lot to tell. If the tip of the grass is still green, there may be a faint chance that you can save your lawn. But if the grass has discolored completely, nothing is left to do.

The Shape of Lawn Grass

In this regard, seeing anything different than the usual standard shape signifies that the grass needs water. Generally, curled or bent grasses are thirsty grasses.

Lawns that have these kinds of grasses need watering more. So, pay keen attention to the shape of your grass to figure out what’s affecting them.

The Step Test

It is a straightforward yet significant test. Just walk over the lawn and notice the condition of the grasses. They have a lot to say!

If the grasses you just walked over have regained their previous shape and position, the lawn is well hydrated. So, simply stick to your watering routine and do what you do.

However, if the grasses do not return to their original positions or simply remain bent down, they may require water. In this case, you should water your lawn more often.

The Screwdriver Test

To be fair, this is one of the most traditional moisture testing methods. It helps in drought areas where it becomes hard to identify a dead lawn. 

So, for this purpose, you need a screwdriver or a knife, the shaft of which is longer than 6 inches. So, insert the screwdriver or the blade deep into the soil. Usually, screwdrivers are the best choice for this experiment.

Your lawn is well watered if it goes 6 inches or beyond. But if the screwdriver feels resistance way before going 6 inches deep or cannot reach that depth, it is high time you watered your lawn.


Mushrooms are fungi. If you find mushrooms on your lawn or the grasses, it may be a sign that you are overwatering that lawn.

Fungi love wet and moist places. So, it would be best if you cut down on your watering. Water less frequently than you are doing or until you don’t see any more mushrooms.

Overwatering is not going to help your lawn.

Lawn Watering Tips And Mistakes

Watering a lawn may seem like a luxury to some people, but it is the bare minimum you can do for your property.

Your lawn needs water to thrive. Besides, there are some common mistakes that people make when watering.

A few tips may help you overcome these mistakes and do better. So, let’s learn these tips and errors in detail.

  • If it’s hot weather, do not use low-speed sprinklers. The water can evaporate even before it hits the target grass. So, using sprinklers is never a good idea in hot weather. 
  • Also, it is not wise to use sprinklers when it rains. It may lead to waterlogging. To combat this situation, you may use sprinklers that have sensors to detect rain.
  • Before using your watering devices, make sure they are in order. Check if there is no leakage or malfunction. Or you may end up watering other people’s lawns despite your own.
  • After calculating the time required for watering, do not water any minute less. Your lawn needs the right amount of water to grow and bloom. And do not go overboard as well.
  • Do not opt for a grass type that is not well-suited to your geographical weather. For example, you can’t expect perennial ryegrass to grow well in Nevada. They cannot handle dry conditions well.
  • Most importantly, do not complicate things by changing your watering routine. It would be best to water at the right time for the proper duration.
  • Trimming grasses very short is quite dangerous, as is mowing the lawn in droughts. Refrain from such practices. 
  • You don’t have to water every day. It may only lead to overwatering and its dire consequences. 
  • During summer, try watering four times a week if the temperature hits above 90-100 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Just watering is never enough. Do regular pest control, fertilization, weed control, etc.
  • Keep an eye out for the weather. If it is going to rain, make adjustments to your sprinkler.
  • Also, make sure the water supply is adequate in your area. If there is a shortage in water supply, there may be restrictions on watering your lawn. Check out these beforehand. 

Is Watering After Fertilizing Necessary for a Healthy Yard?

When it comes to maintaining a healthy yard, following watering after fertilizing tips is crucial. Watering right after applying fertilizer helps in activating the nutrients and moving them into the soil where the roots can access them. This practice is essential for promoting healthy and vibrant grass and plants.

Final Thoughts

Your lawn is a reflection of your maintenance. If you have watered the grass well, it will reward you with a vibrant green lawn.

But if the watering is inadequate, the outcome may not be satisfactory. So, water it as much as it requires.

Now, if you’ve been wondering how long should you water your lawn, now you know the answer! 

You must have to for 20 minutes 3 times a week. Only then will you have a brilliant green lawn!

Thanks for reading the entire article with patience!