Bio Green Outdoor Services, LLC Lawn Care & Sprinkler Learning Center (703) 450-0034

Turfgrasses and other plants in your landscape need water for growth and development. In the Northern Virginia area, lawns are not watered sufficiently or at the right frequency when homeowners rely exclusively on natural rainfall to keep their lawns healthy. In most cases, irrigation of some kind is necessary. Proper watering practices improve the quality of your lawn, provide important environmental benefits, and save you money. It may be hard to believe, but most homeowners tend to over-water their lawns and actually waste water by not following a few simple best practices for irrigation.

The healthiest lawns are cultivated when watered heavily and at infrequent intervals. On  average, a lawn needs about one inch of water per week to penetrate the root zone–either by rainfall or in combination with irrigation. The key is to set up a watering program specifically tailored to your lawn that will allow that one inch of water to penetrate deep into the root zone. The best way to check either a hose-attached sprinkler or an automatic sprinkler system for the precipitation rate (how long it takes to distribute 1” of water) and distribution (how uniformly the water is distributed) is to set out a series of cans. Water for 30 minutes and measure the amount of water that accumulates in each can. Use this information to set up your watering program.

Generally speaking, most watering systems apply water faster than it can be absorbed by the soil. Interrupt watering when puddles or runoff occurs and allow water to penetrate the soil before resuming. Sloped areas are particularly prone to runoff. Hilly or sloped areas may require water three times in a single morning, but for a shorter duration. Different varieties of soil will absorb water at different rates. Annual core aeration will help clay soils absorb water better. Effective core aeration involves pulling a 2 ½ to 3” plug, ½-3/4” in diameter, every 3-4”. In addition to helping water infiltrate the soil more easily, core aeration also promotes root growth, which decreases future watering needs.

Most lawns have areas that dry out faster due to southern exposure, competition (mature tree roots), edges (pavement heats up surrounding soil) or low carrying capacity (thin, rocky soil). A good watering program must be tailored to fit these needs. The best time to water your lawn is early in the morning, when there is generally less wind and heat. This prevents evaporation, promotes greater soil penetration and less runoff. Avoid watering in the evening (especially during periods of high humidity). Watering in humid conditions promotes disease growth because grass blades are slow to dry.

Watering Tips for Newly Seeded Lawns

For best germination results, water lightly every other day until uniform germination. After uniform germination, water daily for another two weeks. Some seed takes longer to absorb water due to the depth at which it was implanted, the temperature of surrounding soil and air and the amount of available sunlight. Be cautious, however, because too much water can cause poor germination and seedling disease. As a new lawn begins to grow, decrease the frequency of watering and increase the amount of water used per watering. After six weeks, treat the new grass as an established lawn, but take special care watering during its first summer. Young turf will still have a shallow root system and can be highly susceptible to drought stress and pest problems.

Quickly Check for Dry Grass

  1. Can you leave footprints in your grass? Well-watered turf will spring back.
  2. Can you easily push a probe or screwdriver into the ground? This is also good way to check for large rocks close to the surface.
  3. Is the color of the grass changing?  Drought stress starts as “smokey” green and advances to yellow and then brown. Compare to shaded areas of your lawn or low spots.
  4. Has growth drastically reduced? Healthy, well-watered turf will grow consistently in proper conditions.
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