Best Practices for Watering Lawns in Florida
Apart from regular mowing and fertilizing, watering is essential to maintaining a healthy lawn. While it may sound as easy as setting up your sprinklers, there is more to it than meets the eye.
Watering your lawn requires balance—too much or too little can damage grass, encourage diseases, and invite weed and pest issues. Understanding how often and for how long to water your lawn will not only keep your lawn healthy, hydrated, and resistant to diseases, but it can also save you time and money and ultimately conserve water.
Check out our in-depth guide on how to water your lawn better.
How Often Should You Water Your Lawn?
On average, your lawn will thrive with approximately one inch of water weekly, either from rainfall or irrigation, to stay lush and green. This rule applies to most grasses, including warm-season and cool-season grasses, and is specifically geared towards established lawns in their active growth phases.
Water New Grass Plugs Frequently for the Next Two Weeks
A new lawn established from grass seed, sod, or grass plugs will require multiple daily watering sessions for the next 10-14 days—enough for the soil to stay consistently moist. This practice facilitates faster root development during the initial establishment stage of your new grass, forming the foundation of a healthier and more resilient lawn.
Water Dormant Grass Once Every Two Weeks
When temperatures drop to 74ºF, warm-season grasses slow their growth and may enter full dormancy when temperatures are below 60ºF. Dormant grass will experience slower metabolic activities, resulting in less water needs. So, watering usually becomes unnecessary during this period.
However, in exceptionally dry conditions, periodic watering will help prevent desiccation and keep the grass roots from drying. Schedule watering sessions approximately once every two weeks, focusing on deep watering to stimulate deeper root growth.
Adjust Watering Based on Weather and Soil Type
In addition to these factors, always consider prevailing local weather conditions and the soil type you have in determining the optimal watering schedule for your lawn. For example, different soil types have different water retention and drainage capacities, significantly influencing how often you should irrigate your lawn.
Sandy soils drain water quickly, often demanding more frequent watering. Meanwhile, clay soils retain water for longer periods, requiring less frequent but deeper watering to avoid waterlogging. Loamy soils, a mix of sand, silt, and clay, maintain a balanced drainage and retention capacity.
How Long Should You Water Your Lawn
The precise duration for each lawn watering will vary based on factors like your lawn size, sprinkle type, and settings. However, you can do a can test to determine how long to keep the sprinkler running.
Place a few tuna cans, cat food cans, or similar straight-sided containers evenly across your lawn, within the reach of your sprinklers. Start your sprinkler system and occasionally check the cans to gauge how long it takes to collect ½ inch of water. Multiply this time by two to determine how many minutes you need to reach the recommended 1 inch of water weekly.
While aiming for the standard amount of water, keep an eye out for any runoff. If you see water flowing into sewers instead of soaking into your lawn, consider adjusting your watering routine—do it more often but for shorter lengths of time.
When to Water Lawn
As the saying goes, don't put your grass to bed wet.
It's common belief that watering your grass at night will help conserve water, allowing it to soak into the ground better. However, as it turns out, leaving wet grass overnight can create optimal conditions for fungal growth, potentially leading to more problems.
The best time to water your lawn is early in the morning—between 6 and 10 am—when the temperatures are cooler and the sun and wind are less intense, allowing the moisture to penetrate the soil before evaporating. Watering during the heat of the day puts your lawn at higher risk of water loss to evaporation, while watering in the evening predisposes it to lawn diseases.
Best Watering Routine Practices to Conserve Water
Below are some other lawn watering tips to help conserve water.
Pay attention to the weather
Florida often experiences alternating heavy rainfall and prolonged drought in the summer. Therefore, adapt your irrigation systems accordingly. Refrain from unnecessary watering when your lawn is already saturated, and only water when essential. Keep an eye out for signs of dehydration, such as wilting or curled grass blades.
Choose drought-resistant grass
Whether starting a new lawn or repairing an existing one, the type of grass you use and how you plant it will influence how much water you need. Warm-season grasses like Bermuda, Zoysia, and St. Augustine offer excellent drought tolerance.
Planting them as grass plugs instead of seeds further reduces water needs, as they already have established roots that can reach moisture deeper in the soil.
Practice deep watering
Watering less often but for longer durations not only minimizes water wastage but also encourages deep-root growth. This practice allows grass to access moisture deeper in the soil during dry spells, thus improving its drought tolerance.
Improve soil quality through proper maintenance
Your lawn maintenance practices will have a direct influence on your watering routine. For example, proper mowing heights and regular fertilization will improve soil quality, allowing your lawn to withstand dry spells better.
Additionally, aerating reduces soil compaction and aids water infiltration, while mulching around plants improves moisture retention.
While watering may seem like a no-brainer, finding the right balance between excess and insufficient watering is crucial for maintaining optimal health. Several factors, including weather, time of day, grass type, and plant stage, influence your watering needs—and achieving this balance ensures your grass receives the right amount of moisture to thrive, contributing to a healthy, vibrant green cover.
Stay informed with more tips on maintaining optimal lawn health on our blog.