Most people think that a lack of water will damage the lawn, when actually overwatering may cause more damage! Letting your well-established lawn go dormant in the heat of summer or other dry periods is another strategy to consider. Turf grass will naturally go dormant as part of a survival mechanism during prolonged dry conditions. Your lawn can survive in this state for about four weeks without substantial thinning once it recovers. However, you will want to consider a thorough watering about once every four to five weeks. Try and avoid foot or lawnmower traffic when your lawn is dormant. Your lawn will green up again after a soaking rain. Learn more in Manage your Lawn during Drought.
Watering Frequency & Amount
If you chose to water your lawn, using a regular schedule probably isn’t the way to go. This can lead to overwatering, which can leach vital nutrients away from the root zone and promote disease. Additionally, brief daily watering discourages deep root growth that is essential for healthy turf grass. Instead, water your lawn based upon its appearance. Lawns that appear bluish-green or where footprints remain after walking across them could use watering. Watering more frequently has no benefit. If you have an automatic sprinkler system, you should set it for a single cycle then turn it off until the lawn needs watering again. When the lawn does require water, it’s best to do a deep soaking (1 – 1 1/2 inches) in the morning between 5am-9am to encourage deep root growth for a more drought tolerant lawn. Avoid watering in the evening to reduce chances of fungal infection. You can easily measure the amount of water applied with a rain gauge or even a tuna can.
A tuna can is useful for measuring how much water you add to your lawn. | Photo credit: Janice Milanovich, Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant
A variety of high efficiency irrigation systems are readily available to the public. Even a ‘do-it-yourselfer’ can find many options at a home center, ranging from drip irrigation to misters. These systems allow the property owner to have greater control over the volume of water applied and the timing. Inspect your irrigation system annually to make sure it is functioning properly or fix issues such as leaks or broken sprinkler heads.