Green Tips: Watering Your Lawn and Garden in the Summer

vstep background 300x167 Green Tips: Watering Your Lawn and Garden in the Summer

We all want a healthy lawn, but when the summer heat strikes, it may be hard to know how to achieve that end when it comes to proper watering.  We’ve all heard that ‘less can be more,’ but in lawn care, that adage has a different meaning.  Grass is, as a rule, a cool weather crop.  There are many varieties of grass that respond differently to heat, drought, and certain times of the year, and I will go into that at another time.  Today though I want to give you a few rules of thumb on how to assist your lawn through hot weather.

  1. Set your expectations realistically. Not every lawn can be a green carpet through the summer. There are varieties of grass that will go dormant in the summer sun (as part of their regular life cycle) no matter how often you water the area.  Most homeowners have lawns that were designed with a mixture of grass seeds in them, and none of these varieties of grass respond exactly the same as the others.  Often, when brown blades of grass are mixed in with green grassy areas it is simply what is known as “shedding.”  And as turf grass grows and spreads, it sheds it’s older blades. Decide for yourself whether the lawn is exhibiting signs of normal seasonal change, or if there is a greater problem in your lawn.
  2. Avoid watering your lawn in the summer between the hours of 10am and 5pm.  Each droplet of water on your lawn during peak sun hours can act like a magnifying glass on the grass, and fry the leaf tissue of the plant.  We all know what happens to ants under magnifying glasses, make sure you don’t do the same to your lawn.
  3. Remember that if you are running a sprinkler system, or an oscilating sprinkler from a hose, that much of the water you are applying will not make it into the soil, or stay there long, due to the evaporation effect present in hot weather.  Watering a section of lawn for anything less than 30 minutes of continuous spray, or sprinkling, is only hurting the grass, encouraging root systems to grow nearest the surface of the soil where they are the most vulnerable.  (In shady areas, grass will not need as much watering, so use your judgement when deciding if an area needs more water.)  Set a timer, to alert you as to when you will need to move your mobile sprinkler, if you need to water more than one section of grass.
  4. The ideal depth of saturation in soil for root growth is in the ballpark of 4-6 inches.  Generally speaking, this is a textbook recommended depth, but not a realistic number to keep in mind when watering your lawn with a goal of achieving it in one day, or even one week.  True moist soil will take a few weeks of repeated watering, although, as I hinted at one above, less can be more.  A few deep waterings, of 30 minutes per patch of grass, are better than daily sprinkles that do not penetrate the soil well, or daily waterings of one hour stretches at a time that create a runny soup of the soil, bogging the area down, or washing the soil’s nutrients down the road with the run-off water.
  5. For people with sprinkler systems, or those in the “Green business” I recommend tackling tough open areas (especially around new construction), exposed to a lot of sun with two waterings a day. One shift should be in the early morning, and one in the early evening (to allow for evaporation).  These shift waterings can both be about 30 minutes long, taking into account water loss from sprinkler heads, and the amount of ground each sprinkler head is covering.

Your thoughts:  Do you have any techniques you’ve successfully used to keep your lawn green and lush?

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  1. Jocie says:

    Its funny, before I bought a house, I could not have cared less about grass. Now, I’ll be walking in the evening, pointing out who has the best grass in our neighborhood. Last summer, I was a little obsessed with watering the lawn. I had heard about not watering between 10 am and 5 pm, and that was helpful. I also recently learned that its better to water in the morning so that excess water (in the evening) does not create mold/mildew problems. I also heard that watering the grass with about 1″ of water, once a week will produce best results. I can’t say that I’ve tried this just because I’ve been too lazy this summer. Thanks for the great post, Gardenista!

  2. Chris says:

    Great info, Green Gardenista! :) With a front yard as small as mine, and with a shade tree smack in the middle of it, it’s good to know that a little water will go a long way – something I will pass on to my neighbor who spends what seems like hours each morning an evening watering the same size and similarly shaded lawn! They could even save some water!

  3. Interesting post! thanks for guiding me through this. I will surely follow your tips. Keep posting!


  4. Donald Baggett says:

    For the past two years I have had trouble with parts of my lawn turning brown & dieing out. An area between the sidewalk and street (which gets direct sunlight on the north side of the house) and an area doing the same thing on the south side which only gets afternoon sun. The grass is great until half way through the summer
    (this happened last year also) then everything just dies out. This year I tried watering two times a day, every other day, once in the morning at 6:30 and later in the day about 6:00 for 10-15 minutes per station on my sprinkler system. I am not knowing if I need to sprinkle more or less. I have regular yard maintenance done with the needed fertilizer and I mow every 3-4 days. Please help !

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