How much water does my lawn need?
The answer? It actually depends.
Here again there are several variables in play for successful lawn maintenance. The type of grasses being grown, the type of soil involved and local climatic conditions will dictate the amount of water that will be needed for a lawn to thrive.
During the summer months warm season grasses (examples include Bermuda, Bahia, Zoysia, Buffalo) will require less water than the cooler season grasses (Rye, Fescues, Bluegrass). During the cool months the warm season grasses have little need for water as they are dormant and the cool season grasses will only require water if a severe drought is occurring.
Essentially, during the summer months the root zones for cool season grasses should be moist to a level of 8-10 inches where the moisture level for warm season grasses may only extend 6-8 inches. One can determine the degree of moisture in the ground by digging a small hole or by inserting a probe in the ground. In most soils, a large screwdriver can be easily inserted into the ground to the desired depth to insure the soil is moist. If it is difficult to insert the screwdriver, it indicates that the soil has dried out and needs water. One should conduct this test in the Spring and then insure that the same degree of moisture is maintained throughout the summer months.
Maintaining a consistent moisture level will insure healthy turf. Don't wait until the soil has completely dried out before beginning a watering program. Watering should begin as the warm months approach and remain consistent throughout the growing season. This will conserve water in the long run.
Watering should be scheduled every 2-3 days depending on the soil conditions, the amount of rain and the particular climate in the growing area. Watering should result in a thorough soaking (stop for about an hour and let the water soak in if run-off is occurring). Normally about 1/4 to 3/4 inch of water applied during each watering cycle will be sufficient to maintain the soil moisture to the desired depth. This moisture level should be tested periodically to insure that sufficient water in being applied. One can measure the amount of water being applied by simple placing a rain gage in the area being watered and monitoring the amount of time it takes to achieve 1/4 to 3/4 inch. Once the appropriate watering cycle is determined, it will require little or no monitoring.
If one has chosen a grass type that requires significant watering, it may be worthwhile to consider a grass type that requires less. There are both warm season and cool season grasses that that thrive on minimal amounts of water. A visit to the local golf course may provide a hint on the type of grass to grow in your particular area.