Does how I water affect how much water I use? How many minutes should I water?

You’d be surprised how important proper watering is. You can save a lot of water by watering properly. As usual, the rules are quite simple (there’s only one rule):

“Water your lawns deeply, not daily, and only water twice a week.”

What? Isn’t that what my town recently told me to do, and we all freaked out because we were used to watering every day? Well, we’ve been telling people to water twice a week for almost 40 years!

You should only water your lawn every third day or so, and water enough so that you are applying sufficient water to meet the lawn’s minimum needs. Lawns need about 1″ of water a week.

So, how many minutes is that overall? It depends on your sprinkler system, and they can vary widely. Some sprinkler systems use lots of heads fairly close together. Other systems have far fewer heads and cover much more area so they need to operate longer to deliver the same amount of water. Here’s a test you can do to find out how many minutes to water every week:

To determine how many minutes to water to get the required 1″ of water every week, do this test:

Using a bunch of empty yogurt containers or coffee cups, distribute the cups all over the lawn, then water for a set amount of time, (go through each zone or station) such as 15 minutes.

Measure the amount of water in the driest cups, ignoring the cups that seem to have twice or three times the amount of water in them.

If 15 minutes got you an average of 1/2″ water in the driest cups, then 30 minutes would equal 1″ of water.

Do this test for each station or valve, then set the timer accordingly so you water twice a week for the total time needed.

Tip: You can adjust your sprinklers to water the drier areas more by cutting back on the heads that put out too much water in a given area. Use the test above to determine how long to water, then locate the fullest cups. The heads that cover those wetter areas can be turned down, increasing the pressure to heads that will benefit by the extra water pressure created.

Did you know?
When you water too often, it makes the roots grow closer to the surface. Why should roots grow deeper if all the water is near the surface?

Watering frequently also promotes weeds. In fact, 80% of crabgrass control is watering. If crabgrass seeds dry out during germination, they die and never become plants.

Watering too often also makes more thatch, as the roots respond to surface water availability and respond by making shallow hair-like roots that eventually die and become thatch.

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