Under ideal conditions, you should water three times a week. The length of
each watering session depends upon: soil conditions, topography, exposure to sun
and wind and the types of heads on the zones. There are several factors to
consider when determining your correct turf management plan:
The time of year and the amount of natural rainfall - As turf management specialist we
want to water our lawns approximately 1" per week. Sprinklers are needed to
supplement normal rainfall. Most people tend to over-water. Keep in mind that
after an extensive rainfall, the soil may be saturated and hold water for up to
7 days. Watch your lawn and only water it when it begins to show signs of
dryness. Holding back on watering will actually strengthen your lawn by forcing
it to send its roots deeper into the soil in search of water.
The kind of soil in your area - Your soil acts like a giant sponge, and will
hold water for immediate and future use. Some soils can hold water better than
others. The two most common types of soil in the Bergen County, NJ area are:
Sandy Loam - Holds water well and allows water and turf roots to penetrate
deeply because of its loose structure. The ideal soil for growing turf would be
6 or more inches of this type of soil. With this soil base, we can "fill" the
sponge up once a week with 1" of water and the turf will draw it up as needed.
Clay - Does not hold water well. Because of its tight structure, clay
compacts easily and does not allow water and roots to penetrate deeply. This
soil is very common in this area. Clay soil becomes saturated quickly and excess
water runs off. With clay soil, we need to water for less time and more
The slope or drainage - Water loves the law of gravity. Slopes are more
difficult to maintain because the water "runs" down before it can be absorbed
into the soil. They require more frequent watering for shorter periods of time.
Exposure and shade - Areas with more sun exposure require more water; shady
areas require less.
The day of the week you mow the lawn - Mowing a saturated lawn can cause turf
damage, deep ruts, muddy areas and compacted soil. You should not water the day
before or the day of mowing.
To determine how long we can water at a time, we can perform the following
- Don't water your lawn for 5-7 days; let the lawn and soil dry out.
- Turn the sprinklers on and let them run - note what the time is.
- Watch for the first signs of the water puddling or running off - you are
looking for the point at which the soil is "saturated" and almost all the water
we are applying is running off or forming large puddles in the lawn. (Do not be
mistaken by "overspray" running down the street or sidewalk). Note the amount of
time this took. This is the water-holding capacity of your soil. This capacity
may vary widely; it may have taken 10 minutes to run off, or it may have taken 2
hours. This is the maximum time you can water your lawn without "wasting" water
As with the maintenance of all growing things, proper watering is part
science, part common sense, and part trial-and-error. With patience and tender
loving care, you will discover the turf management plan that unlocks the secret to your lawn's optimum health.
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