We all want our lawns to look manicured, green, and pristine. However, this is not always as simple as it sounds. Overwatering your lawn is a common gardening mistake that is not only harmful to your grass but also wasteful. But don’t fret! There are simple ways to monitor your lawn’s hydration and even correct an already over-watered turf.
If you are diligent in spotting the signs of overwatering and follow these simple watering rules, you are well on your way to creating a healthy and aesthetically pleasing lawn space!
- Hose or sprinkler system
- Chopstick or screwdriver
- Measuring tape
- Shallow cans/containers
Issues with Overwatering
When you first start to notice dead patches of grass, an immediate thought might be that you need more water. This is not always the case. Overwatering can result in stunted root growth and suffocating your grass. Underneath your turf, the soil particles are surrounded by pockets of air and water. These provide oxygen and a healthy amount of water that the roots need.
By overwatering, the pockets become consumed with water, leaving little to no space for any oxygen to reach your grassroots. Thus your grass will suffocate, stunting growth and eliminating the need for the roots to source out water on their own. You may also notice your garden becomes more susceptible to disease and drought, as the root system will not develop properly and be left shallow and vulnerable.
Signs of Overwatering
1. Water Runoff
If you notice lines of water running off of your lawn and into the street, this is a clear sign of overwatering. Your lawn is already wet and saturated, and the runoff may be stealing nutrients that your grass needs to grow. You do not need to water the street!
2. Lawn Depressions
You know that squishy, sloshy sound you hear when you step across a wet lawn? That is a clear indication of overwatering. Any sort of puddle left by your footprint is your lawn’s way of telling you it’s had too much!
3. Increased Weed Growth
While too much water may not promote adequate turf growth, it may provide an inviting environment for weeds to take over. Common lawn weeds that may pop up are crabgrass and nutsedge. When these guys are prolific on your lawn, you can likely blame overwatering.
4. Presence of Fungi
When we think of fungi, we often visualize cute little mushrooms popping up on decaying logs. These organisms can also pop up in spongey, overwatered grass. If you notice any discoloration, particularly on grass blades themselves, you have likely provided the ultimate growing environment for fungi. Use discoloration and colorful growths on your grass as an overwatering indicator!
Thatch is a combination of living and dead plant matter, which builds up around the base of your grassroots. It can include grass clipping that accumulates when you mow. While a thin layer can be a beneficial mulch to protect your lawn against fluctuating temperatures and moisture deprivation, too much thatch will harm your lawn. Beneficial organisms can’t turn thatch into plant nutrients when the layer becomes too thick.
With the accumulation of thatch come the bugs. If thatch is left in thick layers on your lawn, bugs will begin to inhabit this protective covering. Depending on thatch thickness, several bugs may find it an enticing home that will protect them from sun exposure, predators, and even pesticides. If you notice your lawn has become home to an abundance of tiny critters, you have likely provided them a welcome space to thrive inside a thick layer of mulch.
How To Water Properly
1. When Should You Water?
The most important rule of thumb when watering your lawn is not to let it soak overnight. The best time to water is in the morning, preferably before 10 am. It ensures your grassroots will be able to absorb the water during the hottest parts of the day. Your lawn will not appreciate soaking in cold water overnight.
Observing your grass will also provide you with an indication that it is time for some water. Thirsty grass blades will begin curling. You may also notice that the grass won’t spring back properly when you walk across it. Footprints should disappear quickly, leaving a beautifully manicured lawn in their wake!
2. How Much Water?
Healthy lawns generally need about 1 inch of water per week, either from watering or rain. That water should be soaked 6 to 8 inches deep to properly hydrate grassroots. Ensure you are watering evenly, so part of your grass doesn’t end up dry while the other is drowning.
3. Checking Your Work
Using common materials found around your home, you can check your watering work and make sure you are doing a proficient job.
If you are unsure whether your grass is getting a full inch of water per week, spread out some shallow containers or cans on the surface. This will allow you to measure exactly how much water is reaching different places.
Measure the depth the water is reaching by inserting a thin instrument down into the soil. A screwdriver will work, but even something as simple as an old chopstick is a great measuring tool. By constantly checking as you water, you can determine the amount of time it takes for the water to reach the 6-inch mark.
4. Watering at Different Stages
Keep in mind that the age of your grass will impact the amount of water needed. When you first seed your lawn, you want to keep the top part of the soil moist but not soggy. In dryer and hotter regions, misting your seeded area once or twice a day is also beneficial. Once germination occurs, you still want to keep the top 2 inches of soil moist until the grass reaches a mowing height of 3 inches. At that point, you can begin to monitor your soaking depth of 6 to 8 inches.
5. Watering Methods
The key to a beautiful and healthy lawn is to ensure it is watered evenly and consistently. Don’t forget that mother nature will aid you on rainy days! If you use a sprinkler method, it is important to note the size and shape of your lawn. Some sprinklers will work for rounder areas, while others are best for square and rectangular zones. When introducing a new sprinkler system, use the can method to test how much water your lawn is getting and ensure it is getting full coverage.
To Sum It Up
Overwatering is a common lawn problem. By paying a little extra attention to your grass, you can easily determine whether your lawn is getting the proper hydration. The natural occurrence of weeds and critters can be good tell-tale signs of an issue. By measuring water and saturation levels, you can create a proficient watering schedule. Don’t forget to factor in those wet, rainy days and give your lawn the TLC it deserves!