Updated On

October 24, 2023

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    Taking care of your lawn can be a daunting task. Lawn needs will vary depending on your location, the grass type, and the lawn’s overall health. When it comes to watering, homeowners need to be sure of the proper time of day to water and the length of watering times. Developing a watering schedule can take a bit of trial and error and a few adjustments for weather, but once you have it down, an established lawn will thrive.

    If you feel like getting the lawn watering schedule perfect is a bit too much of a process for you, TruGreen can help. TruGreen is one of the best lawn care services in the industry and can help you get your sprinkler system dialed in. Our guide will provide the best time and length to water your lawn and recommendations for a lawn care service if that is a better fit for your needs.

    Best Time of Day to Water Your Lawn

    The best time of day to water your lawn is in the early morning. Set your irrigation system to be finished with watering by around 7 am. This is typically when the first light comes up and when evaporation could take away from what your grass needs.

    Early in the morning, the grass is cooler and darker and will absorb water much better. As the day goes on, evaporation and even wind can take away from the lawn and spread water in areas that you do not need it.

    Many homeowners find that the best time to water grass is in the 4 am to 6 am range.

    How Long to Water Your Lawn

    The best time of day to water your lawn is relatively easy to determine, regardless of your lawn type. However, the amount of time needed to water your lawn takes a bit more consideration.

    Most lawns are going to need about 1 to 1.5 inches of water to have enough to develop healthy roots and green grass blades. Underwatering and overwatering are problems that can deteriorate a healthy lawn. Here are some methods to calculate how long you should water your lawn.

    Calculating How Long You Should Water 

    When you have a sprinkler system, it is much easier to calculate a proper watering schedule. However, with some math and homemade testers, you can still ensure the correct watering lengths without the sprinkler system.

    Test the Soil: 

    The easiest way to know if your lawn is getting enough water is to make sure the soil is wet. Take a screwdriver and attempt to place it about six inches deep into your soil. If you can only go an inch or two, the grass is not getting enough water. If, however, the screwdriver sinks in with too much ease, you have been watering too much. Pick a screwdriver you will always use to test and put a line on it about six inches up.

    Use the Tuna Can Method:

    Place tuna cans in several areas around your property where they can collect water from your sprinkler system. When this can gets approximately one inch of water, you have found the perfect length of time to water your lawn. Remember that the lawn needs 1 to 1.5 inches per week, so these times can be split up into a few watering sessions.

    Simple Math Equation: 

    To get a more mathematical concrete solution, you must know the square footage of your lawn. Multiply the square footage of your lawn by 0.62 gallons and then divide by the sprinkler flow rate. The .62 gallons will provide one inch of water per every square foot of turf.

    Use a Flow or Water Timer: 

    With a sprinkler system, the sprinkler heads all have a customizable flow rate. Set the flow rate to .62 gallons, and the timing to get a green lawn should happen quite naturally. Sometimes your watering sessions will seem like they are providing too much water when using a water timer. If you need to water during several different windows in the morning hours, that is completely acceptable. Water from 5:00 am to 5:10 and then again from 5:25 to 5:35, just to ensure that the grass gets the water it needs.

    Read our article to learn how to winterize your sprinkler setup.

    How Much to Water Your Lawn

    The basic rule of thumb is that your lawn needs 1 to 1.5 inches of water per week. However, if you have new grass with a shallow root system or a mature and established lawn, more or less water may be needed.

    Newly Seeded Lawns

    A lawn is considered newly seeded during its entire first year of life. This will include anything from traditional seeds like rye or fescue to sod like zoysia or St. Augustine. The most critical part of newly seeded lawns is never to let them dry out; keep the top inch to inch and a half of soil moist.

    If you overwater a new lawn and find the grass is soggy, you are setting yourself up for a fungus problem. Water your lawn properly to keep mushrooms out of your lawn. Watering lawns properly requires a balance, and as the grass gets stronger and the mowing height is closer to 3 inches, watering can be cut back to a regular schedule of around twice per week.

    Ensure those watering sessions are a bit longer, as this will help deeper roots start to grow. If you have just planted seeds, don’t be afraid to mist the soil in the late afternoon when you notice it is drying.

    Established and Mature Lawns

    Established and mature lawns can benefit from two to three times a week of set watering and then filling in if the weather conditions warrant. In warmer climates during the summer, every other day watering can make sense to keep up with heat and evaporation. This is where it makes sense to be testing your soil with the screwdriver method or similar.

    Watering Cool-season vs. Warm-season Grasses

    The type of grass you have will also impact how it grows and how much water is necessary to keep the lawn healthy. Based on your climate and the type of grass you have, the first thing to do is determine if you have cool or warm-season grass. Common cool-season grasses include bluegrass, ryegrass, and fescue. Common warm-season grasses include Bermuda, zoysia, and St. Augustine.

    Cool-Season Grasses

    Some cool-season grasses are very drought-tolerant. The grass may turn a slight brown as it goes dormant, but it does not necessarily mean the grass is dead. When rain and watering are established again, the grass can turn green. Fescue grass has very deep roots and prefers to grow this way; deep roots help with drought tolerance as the grass will grab water from several inches of soil below the surface. Make sure that watering times are set long enough to promote strong fescue growth.

    If you’re considering planting fescue grass, we recommend you check out our article with helpful instructions for growing fescue grass.

    Warm-Season Grasses

    Warm-season grasses are built to withstand heat and, as a general rule, will not need as much water as cool-season grasses. In addition, warm-season grasses are a bit reliant on rainwater as there are typically intense summer storms in the warmer states. Using a sprinkler timer that also has a rain sensor can help ensure the proper water amounts.

    Pay attention to humidity as this will impact the amount of water needed. The key with warm-season grasses is to help them develop those strong roots so they are stronger if drought conditions should arise.

    Lawn Watering Tips

    Now that you have a better idea of the best time to water grass and how long to water grass for, we wanted to share some of our favorite lawn care tips. These tips will help with basic things like ensuring you are using enough water but not wasting water, how to combat a drought, and more.

    • Rain sensors and other water-saving technologies can help you preserve water and spend less money on irrigation water
    • Use a small timer or a watch when using hose-end sprinklers, leaving the sprinkler running without checking times makes it hard to find the right balance of water
    • Check sprinkler heads often to look for damage or clogs
    • Stay away from night watering when possible; disease and fungus can occur if this becomes a common practice
    • Hills and slopes on your property may require different amounts/times of water because of runoff. If your yard is really uneven consider reviewing our comprehensive guide on ways to level your yard.
    • Shade and sun spots will often require different amounts of water; set your sprinkler system accordingly, and always test several areas when determining the right amount of water
    • Change of seasons will bring changes to your watering schedule; make sure to adjust accordingly; summer months need the most water

    Ways to Water Your Lawn

    If standing outside with a hose is not your idea of a good time, there are plenty of ways to water your lawn. Some homes have built-in sprinkler systems, but this can be a significant investment; here are some of the most common ways to water your lawn.

    • Pulsating sprinklers
    • Hose End sprinklers
    • Smart watering systems (Hands-free watering)
    • In-ground sprinklers

    Professional Lawn Care Services

    Sometimes with sandy soils or climates where weather is unpredictable, it makes sense to have a professional lawn care service handle your lawn watering. A professional lawn care service like TruGreen will come in and test your soil and set your watering needs accordingly. In addition, TruGreen can also make adjustments to sprinkler heads, so they water your turf and not your driveway and car.

    Sprinkler systems sometimes need new heads, or there can be a break in the line; this will also require professional lawn care services to repair and replace. If you think that lawn watering may be more complicated than you would like, take a look at our TruGreen review to learn more about this impressive and highly rated complete lawn care service.

    Final Thoughts

    We hope you now understand the best time to water grass and how long you should be watering. It may take some trial and error to get your watering schedule exact, and it will likely change based on the season and how much your grass is growing. If this process feels overwhelming, TruGreen is an excellent alternative as they can handle everything for you.

    FAQs About Lawn Watering

    Does watering grass in the sun burn it?

    Watering grass in the sun will not burn it. However, when you water grass in the sun, some of the water will evaporate before it makes it to the soil. If you see your grass is about to burn up late in the day, don’t be afraid to water.

    How often should you water grass seed?

    Grass seed often needs to be watered each day until the grass becomes more established and the watering schedule can be spread out. With new grass seed, keep the top inch of soil moist until the grass gets close to mowing height.

    Is it OK to water the grass in the evening?

    It is OK to water grass in the evening, yet it is still more efficient to water grass in the morning. The grass at night is still holding on to heat from the day. In the early morning hours, the grass has cooled down and can now absorb the most water.

    Is 5 a.m. a good time to water grass?

    Early in the morning at 5 a.m. is the perfect time to water your grass. You will use the least amount of water to get the most effective watering.

    Is it better to water grass every day?

    It is typically best to water your grass every few days or every other day. Watering daily can create puddles that will lead to issues with fungus and water collection on your turf. Follow our recommended methods for determining the right amount of water your turf needs, and then spread that out through a few different watering sessions.

    Today's Homeowner’s Rating Methodology

    At Today's Homeowner, transparency and trust are our most important values for the reader. That’s why we took the time to create an objective rating system and score each lawn company/service according to our methodology.

    Our research team dug deep into the fine print of contracts, combed through more than one hundred customer reviews, and thoroughly investigated all of each lawn care service’s services, costs, and products. We’ve done the homework for you by researching nearly all of the lawn care companies on the market so you can have the information you need to make the best choice for your home.

    We developed a formula to objectively determine the best lawn care companies and give each a score out of 100 based on the following criteria:

    • Plan Options (30): Do they provide a variety of plan options? We looked at the number of plans each company offered and the flexibility of adjusting the plan.
    • Services offered (20): How many services are offered in each plan? We looked at the number of lawn care coverages, including weed control, seeding, irrigation, aeration, dethatching, and more.
    • Trust (10): What do customers say after their lawn has been serviced? Does this company offer a guarantee? We considered how satisfied customers are post-service if the company does what it says it will, BBB accreditation, and service guarantees.
    • Prices (10): How reasonable are the costs of the plan or service in comparison to the industry average? We compared the costs of each company to competitors that offer the same lawn services.
    • Unique perks (10): Does the company offer discounts or special services such as organic treatments, pest control, or a mobile app? We looked for perks each company offers that set them apart from the competition.
    • Customer Service (10): How is the customer experience when contacting the company? We considered the speed of response, weekend/holiday availability, and ease of communication through phone calls, email, and online chat functions.
    • Nationwide availability (10): How many states does the company offer its services? Companies that operate nationally and in all zip codes are favored over those with limited availability.
    Editorial Contributors
    avatar for Britt Olizarowicz

    Britt Olizarowicz

    Britt Olizarowicz is a former real estate agent and landscaping business owner. She has a wide range of experience across several industries and was also a professional golfer. With her experience in investing, renovating, and improving properties Britt loves to share in all of the latest and greatest technologies, systems, and strategies to keep your home and garden looking great.

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    Lora Novak

    Senior Editor

    Lora Novak meticulously proofreads and edits all commercial content for Today’s Homeowner to guarantee that it contains the most up-to-date information. Lora brings over 12 years of writing, editing, and digital marketing expertise. She’s worked on thousands of articles related to heating, air conditioning, ventilation, roofing, plumbing, lawn/garden, pest control, insurance, and other general homeownership topics.

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