Best Time to Water Grass in Summer

Novice and seasoned gardeners know the importance of watering grass but what boggles me is the amount of questions I get asking when is the best time to water grass in the summer? 

Watering your lawn is a fairly simple task, at least this is what we think, but there’s a lot more to it than turning the hose or sprinklers on for a certain amount of time. 

The best time to water grass in the summer is early in the morning between 6:00 AM to 10:00 AM but the watering routine to keep your lawn green and healthy depends on several factors such as summer temperatures, and the chance of rainfall. 

Improper watering, whether underwatering or overwatering can not only create a shallow root system by causing erosion but also wash away fertilizer and nutrients, eventually killing the grass including cool-season grass and warm-season grass. 

In this article, I am referring to existing healthy grass and not newly planted grass seeds, for which this guide will prove helpful.

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Best Time to Water Grass in Summer – Is in the Morning Before 10:00 AM

If you’d like to water your grass efficiently during the hot weather months and weather conditions, you’ll have to set your alarm between 6:00 AM and 10:00 AM. 

However, this isn’t a hard-fast rule but this watering period for your turf is highly recommended for many reasons. 

Best Time to Water Grass in Summer

Importance of Watering in the  Morning

The absolute best time to water your grass in the summer is between 6:00 AM and 10:00 AM. This time of day keeps evaporation to a minimum given the cooler temperatures and calm breezes. 

When the extra water evaporates, the grass blades stay dry, so there’s little or no chance of root rot and disease. If you water when the sun’s hot and bright, the water will simply evaporate before the grass even absorbs it. 

Watering early in the morning also ensures optimal water absorption so there’s no wastage of valuable resources and effort. Adding to this, an early morning watering schedule allows your grass to get the right amount of water for healthy growth. 

If you get the job done at dawn, water can easily penetrate the roots and get fully utilized. And since the lawn is nourished with water early in the day, it stays cool during the hottest parts of the day and well into the evening. 

Another big reason I like watering the lawn in the wee hours of the morning is it gives me a moderate workout for the arms, especially when hauling around a heavy watering can. The United States Environmental Protection Agency states that the best time to water lawns is in the early morning and evening after the sun goes down.

Importance of Watering Grass in the  Morning

Watering in the Evening as an Alternative – A Myth and a Bad Idea 

I often hear gardeners say that the best time to water your lawn during the summer heat is early in the morning owing to less evaporation and watering in the middle of the day will just leave your grass thirsty and cause you to waste water. 

But if you follow this same logic, you should be able to water your lawn when the sun has set and it’s cooler in the evening, right? 

Well, not quite! It’s beneficial to water your lawn in the early morning as it helps avoid the heat and sunshine that threaten your lawn at midday.

However, you do want this water to evaporate a few hours after watering or else the accumulated water can cause lawn disease and rot. 

A common myth among homeowners is that watering grass during cooler hours in the evening will allow the plants to absorb the water. But is that water going to evaporate in the night when there is no sunlight? 

It’s not and will soak into the ground, leading to an array of issues such as fungal and bacterial growth, pests, waterlogging that occurs when the soil is too saturated with water, and soil erosion. 

How Much to Water

How much to water depends on many factors such as drought stress, frequent rains, type of grass, and the conditions of heat your lawn is experiencing. But 1″ to 1 1/2″ per week is sufficient to adequately maintain most types of grass.

General Recommendation

As a general rule, aim to provide approximately 1 inch to 1.5 inches of water per week for green, lush, and active growth. Your goal should be to provide 1/3 of an inch of water every two days to maintain strong and deeper roots. 

How Much to Water Grass During Hot Summer Days

The weather regardless of the season is unpredictable hence the watering requirements may change accordingly. But as long as you’re watering your lawn first thing in the morning, your lawn should thrive with 1 inch of water per week.

Keep in mind that some lawn grasses require less or more water than others. For example, warm-season grasses such as bermudagrass need about 20 percent less water than cool-season grasses because of their extensive root system. 

In terms of numbers, that equates to 0.5 – 1 inch for warm-season grasses when the weather is hot, and/or the grass is actively growing and 1-1.5 inches of water per week for cool-season grasses.

How Much to Water Grass During Hot Summer Days

Methods for Checking if the Lawn is Receiving Enough Water

One of the biggest mistakes I made in my novice lawn care days was guesswork – guessing how much to water my lawn, guessing how much fertilizer to add – and so on!

But this practice had grave consequences, which could’ve been easily avoided had I paid a bit more attention. That said, there are two ways to check whether your lawn is receiving the right amount of water, both of which do not require any extra tools. 

Screwdriver test: Puncturing the soil to ensure proper hydration

You can use any screwdriver to check your lawn hydration level. 

  1. Grab a screwdriver and push it into the ground. 
  2. You won’t be able to push the screwdriver into the ground if it’s dry and the screwdriver will easily go down if the soil is wet. 
  3. If the screwdriver can’t go down between 6 and 8 inches, it’s time to water. 

Tuna can method: Checking the time it takes for a can to fill up with water

You’ll need eight tuna cans or pet food cans for this test. 

  1. Place the eight flat-bottomed cans randomly throughout your lawn. 
  2. Turn on your sprinkler system for 15 minutes and measure the depth of water in each can with a ruler. If there are any differences between the cans, one area should be watered less or more than the other (s).

The Importance of Deep Watering for Promoting Deeper Root Growth

Simply turning on your sprinklers and leaving them won’t do your lawn any good but you have to deep water your turf to moisten the soil to the full depth of the roots – at least 6 inches, if not more. 

However, it may take more than a single soaking to do it. Achieving deeper irrigation depends on the type of soil you have and the type of sprinkler system installed on your property. 

And it’s worth mentioning that not all lawns require deep watering. The exception to deep watering is sandy soil. Loamy soil and clay soil can retain a lot of water, but sandy soil cannot and drains quickly. 

Overwatering and Underwatering 

Both overwatering and underwatering can be detrimental to the health of your lawn, but there are a few ways to prevent these issues.

Signs of Overwatering Lawn 

There are 5 tell-tale signs that you’re soaking your lawn. 

1. Depressions in the lawn 

Although depressions in your lawn can be caused by several different reasons, one of them is overwatering. Soggy, matted, or mushy imprints after walking on the lawn indicate that you’re going to heavy on the H2O. 

2. Root Rot 

Most root rot issues are caused by overwatering the lawn. Also a fungal disease, root rot is caused when there’s too much moisture in the soil, and results in yellowing and/or browning grass blades. In terms of roots, they may also suffocate and die from the lack of oxygen caused by excess water. 

3. Thatch Development 

Too much watering prevents thatch from breaking down naturally, leading to thatch buildup. And thatch that’s too thick prevents oxygen from reaching the grassroots and creates a habitat for fungal and insect pests.

Signs of Underwatering Lawn 

The signs of underwatering your lawn are easier to tell than overwatering the lawn. 

1. Dry Soil 

Dry soil is one of the obvious signs of underwatering your lawn. If the soil is dry, the grass will not be able to benefit from the nutrients and moisture it needs to grow. 

2. Drought Damage and Weakened Grass

Drought damage is another clear sign your lawn needs a good dose of water and can cause warm-season grasses to go dormant or turn brown during longer periods of heat and drought. 

3. Dry Patches and Dehydrated Grass Blades

Your lawn will develop dry patches when the soil in those areas doesn’t receive the water it needs. These dry, dead patches of grass may appear dead but can be fixed with a proper watering schedule. 

Signs of Underwatering Lawn 

4. Slowed Growth and Stunted Root Development

Without enough water or during times of drought, the grass in your lawn will suffer from slowed growth and stunted root development. 

Water needs to penetrate the roots for healthy grass growth. However, slowed and stunted growth could also be a sign of overwatering because the overall development of the grass is affected by the extra water, which prevents the uptake of nutrients and oxygen. 

Recommended Treatments for Dehydrated Lawns and Preventing Drought Damage

I can’t stress this enough but maintaining a solid watering routine will save you from a lot of heartache. And I won’t sugarcoat this – recovering your lawn after drought damage isn’t easy, but does take considerable effort. 

Before implementing any solutions, inspect the damage caused by drought stress such as thinning grass, yellow or brown patches, dull-colored turf, and grass blades that appear wilted. 

Next, determine if your lawn has gone dormant or is dead. The biggest mistake is thinking that your lawn is desperate for a drink of water but wait before starting the sprinklers. 

While this might be true, the last thing you want to do is overwater your lawn, which can lead to weed infestation, soil erosion, and lawn disease among other issues. 

Summer Irrigation Tips + Lawn Watering Tips

Choosing the Right Sprinkler System for Your Lawn

We always want the best thing money can buy especially if it’s affordable. But that may not work well with an irrigation system. There are three types of sprinklers available to keep the soil moist in an established lawn, each geared towards different-sized lawns. 

1. Stationary sprinklers for small patches or specific areas

Just like the name suggests, stationary sprinklers are installed in a fixed place on your green lawn. Since they’re fixed, they can only cast water in a specific area, mostly covering a radius of 5 to 15 feet at a time. This makes stationary sprinklers a great choice for small yards. 

2. Rotary and impact sprinklers for medium to large lawns

Rotary and impact sprinklers spray water around in circles using two arms, making them a great choice for small to medium-sized lawns. 

3. Oscillating sprinklers for rectangular areas

Oscillating sprinklers spray water in a fan-like pattern and most models can cover larger areas with each pass.

One of the biggest advantages of oscillating sprinklers is the way they spray water up and down, similar to rain. Oscillating sprinklers are generally used for watering large sections of lawns or gardens at one time. 

Summer irrigation sprinkler system watering the lawn

Ensuring Even Water Coverage with Sprinklers including Pulsating Sprinklers

1. To determine whether your sprinklers including in-ground sprinklers are spraying water evenly across your lawn to keep the soil consistently moist, perform the tuna can test by placing eight tune cans across your yard, turning on your sprinkler system, and measuring the depth of water in each can. 

2. After performing the tuna test, adjust the sprinkler system to spray water evenly across your lawn. 

How Long to Run Sprinkler for 1 Inch of Water:

It takes approximately 30 minutes to get a half inch of water so run your sprinklers for 20 minutes, three times a week for an inch of water to achieve a healthy lawn Read my detailed article on how to properly run your sprinkler system. You may have to water for longer with a garden hose.

Avoiding Watering the Street and Pavement to Prevent Wastage

We’ve all been taught in elementary school – water is a precious resource so adjust your sprinklers to avoid spraying water on the pavement. You can use a hose to clean the pavement and driveway, which is not only convenient but also an efficient way to get the task done.

Additional Tips for Summer Lawn Care

  • The proper mowing height, which is 3 inches high for most turfgrasses can greatly reduce water loss and prevent stress on the grass. The proper mowing height allows for the right surface area, through which less moisture is lost.
  • Rain gauges are some of the most basic yet necessary tools for any homeowner as they allow you to identify rainfall conditions before they harm your home. Plus, knowing you have rainfall in the forecast can also help you set your sprinklers according to avoid overwatering your lawn. 
  • Mulch can be your best friend during hot sunny days as it reduces the evaporation of water during these times but you still need to water grass and plants growing in and around mulched soils. 
  • The main reason for the compaction of lawns is overuse through heavy foot traffic. Grass roots cannot be established in hard compacted soil owing to the lack of absorption of water, oxygen, and other nutrients. 
  • Your sprinkler system consists of several components, and all of them should be operating in sync for the best results. Irrigation systems can get clogged with dirt and debris over time, which is why inspecting them periodically is a good lawn care practice. 

Common Misconceptions about Summer Lawn Watering

Watering Every Day is Best for the Grass

My neighbor gave some friendly advice years ago – “watering every day is good for the grass”. Well, if you’ve read so far, you already know the consequences of overwatering grass. 

To reiterate, most lawn grass types grow well with an inch of water per week. Overwatering can cause the grassroots to rot and push out oxygen from the root space, causing your lawn to eventually die. 

Watering in the Evening is a Good Alternative to Morning Watering

You don’t have to feel guilty about watering your lawn in the evening as opposed to the morning because that’s what you’ve read in several leading publications. 

However, evaporation is an important part of lawn watering and proper evaporation can only happen if you water your lawn between 6:00 AM and 10:00 AM. 

Watering More at Once is Better than Watering Less Frequently

Watering more than once results in overwatering. What you want to do is maintain the right consistency when you water your lawn. When all is said and done, you should ensure that the water soaks into the soil and only add water as fast as it is absorbed. 

Here is an informative video about lawn watering schedules:

Lawn Watering Schedule - Spring vs Summer


Q. How Often Should I Water My Lawn in the Summer?

Water your lawn deeply every other day in the summer while providing no more than 1.5 inches of water per week. 

Q. What Should I Do If My Lawn Is Experiencing Drought Damage?

A. First, inspect the drought damage, stop overwatering, mow high, aerate if needed, apply a slow-release fertilizer, and overseed bare areas. 

Q. What is the Best Temperature to Water Grass?

A. The ideal temperature to water grass is between 60 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit.

Final Thoughts

Turning on your sprinklers after 10:00 AM is not the ideal environment to water your lawn. Watering your lawn between 6:00 AM and 10:00 will ensure your grass gets the right hydration to thrive and allow excess water to gradually evaporate throughout the day. 

Adding to this, early morning watering also makes your grass susceptible to disease and pests, which needless to say can affect your lawn’s growth. 

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