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How to Water Your Lawn Effectively

Lawn sprinkler with cans placed on the lawn to measure the water

Grass is thirsty. Most lawn grasses need a constant supply of moisture around their roots to grow well, especially during summer droughts. The best way to keep your lawn green and lush throughout the growing season is to keep it well watered. But it's not just water that keeps your grass moist. The quality of your soil can affect water retention. Topdressing your lawn with compost each year adds organic matter to the soil, which is great at holding moisture. A lawn soil high in organic matter will require less watering.

Water at the Right Time of Day

The time of day you water your lawn makes a difference. If you water during a hot, sunny afternoon, you can lose up to 30 percent of that water to evaporation. It's best to water while the air temperatures are still cool, so more water gets to your lawn grass roots. The best time is the early morning, before the heat of the day hits. While the evening is another good time, you will run the risk of starting lawn diseases. Water will sit on the grass blades all evening, creating the perfect environment for fungal diseases.

Water Before Grass Is Stressed

Start watering before your lawn shows signs of browning and stress. If you have a small lawn, you can simply use a hose with a watering nozzle to water the lawn deeply by hand once or twice a week. For most homeowners, it's best to use sprinklers on the lawn. In-ground, pop up sprinklers are the simplest types. These are buried in the ground and turned on by a timer, so you don't have to move any hoses or even remember to water. However, this system does require professional installation. Oscillating sprinklers are a less expensive and simpler solution. Hook your oscillating sprinkler up to a hose and move it around the lawn to ensure all areas get equally watered. Place it to avoid watering walkways, driveways and sidewalks, which will only waste the water. Run the sprinklers so your lawn grass gets 1 to 2 in. of water a week. Water so the moisture soaks at least 6 in. into the soil.

Measure How Much Water You Are Applying

To determine how long to run the sprinklers to get 1 to 2 in. of water, set up 8 to 10 empty cat food or tuna cans around the sprinkler. Run the sprinklers until there is about 2 in. of water in most of the cans. Record how long you ran the sprinklers and that's how long you'll need to run them each week. It's best to water every three or four days, splitting up the waterings to deliver 1 to 2 in. in total.

To find out if you are providing enough water, you can buy a rain gauge or simply mark one inch in depth on an empty tuna can, then place it in your yard where you are going to water. Water your lawn for 20 minutes and check the accumulated amount in the can. Then you can accurately adjust your watering. Depending on your soil type, you may want to use this amount over a few waterings instead of one. Water runs more quickly through light or sandy soil, so more frequent light waterings is better for your lawn.

Watering Trees and Shrubs

How and When to Water Your Trees and Shrubs

Water only early in the morning to prevent evaporation. In most cases, mature trees and shrubs do not need watering, but it is good to give them a soaking every so often in the hot, dry summer months. In droughts, even mature trees can experience water stress. Soak your trees well if you notice they are wilting, the leaves are changing colors or have premature leaf fall.

New trees and shrubs establish strong roots reaching to the water, hence watering deeply. Shallow roots dry out and make the tree or shrub unstable. Whether you use sprinklers, soakers, basins, furrows, or a drip system, the idea is to avoid runoff. Stay under the drip line (the extent of the branches), water slowly over a long period of time, and let the water soak in.

Shrubs only need extra watering for about a year after you plant them. The first summer is crucial, so be sure to water them well. Once your shrubs are established, you only have to water them if you live in dry areas or during a drought.

Watering Fruit Trees

Fruit trees require more water than most other trees, typically about two gallons of water per square feet of root space once a week or about two to four gallons a week. Location, amount of rain, and soil type can affect your watering. Especially in dry areas or during hot summer months, if you are unsure, dig in a few inches to check if the soil is moist. In these conditions you likely will have to water your tree more often.

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