How long should you water your lawn for? Lawn care experts advise on the correct timings

A quick drenching or long soak? We ask lawn care experts which is best for a long-lived, healthy lawn

watering a lawn with a sprinkler
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Knowing how long you should water your lawn for has always been key to maintaining a lush, green lawn. But coupled with today’s concerns about water consumption and conservation, it’s left many of us in a quandary.

While some homeowners favor a regular evening sprinkling, either turning on the irrigation system or rigging up a sprinkler attached to the hose, there are others that are wedded to treating their grass to a longer soaking once or twice a week. While both approaches may keep the lawn looking green and lush, which will actually boost the turf’s overall condition? 

We’ve asked a wide range of trusted specialists to share their insights and lawn care tips on the best approach to watering your grass. 

sprinkler on a lawn

Watering can have its benefits if you get the right routine

(Image credit: Ronstik/Getty Images)

How long should you water your lawn for?

‘Watering your lawn based on time alone doesn't tell you how much water is actually being applied,’ advises Eric DeBoer, Agronomist at Simple Lawn Solutions. ‘Ideally, lawn watering times will be guided by conducting an audit of your irrigation system.’

Sounds technical? Don’t worry it really doesn’t have to be. It’s just a matter of working out how much water your particular grass and soil type need, as well as the best time to water grass, to keep them growing steadily.

‘The goal is to provide the lawn with between 1-1.5 inches of water per week for cool season grass and 0.5-1 inch for warm season grass, which includes rainfall,’ says Stacie Smith, owner of landscape specialists Smithson Exteriors. ‘The simplest way to gauge how much water your sprinkler system delivers is by placing a washed-out dog or cat food can on the lawn when watering. Measure the level of water in the can every 15 minutes. When you get to the desired inch level for your type of grass, record the amount of time that you watered.’ 

If this all sounds a little unscientific as a way of working out how often to water your lawn in summer, there are plenty of affordable gadgets around that can give lawn lovers a more accurate reading so you can avoid making any lawn care mistakes. ‘For those more technically minded homeowners, a soil moisture meter can be purchased for around $20 that will give accurate and simple readings to help know the moisture level of the soil at various depths,' adds Stacie.

This 4-in-1 Hemdre soil moisture meter from Amazon can test the moisture, PH levels, temperature and sunlight levels in your soil. It has a digital screen to make it easy to view the results too. 

sprinkler on lawn

Watering 2-3 times a week is normally sufficient

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‘As a general rule of thumb, it's often recommended to aim for about 1 to 1.5 inches of water per week, including rainfall,’ agrees Gene Caballero, co-founder of lawn care specialist GreenPal. ‘This usually translates to watering your lawn for about 20-30 minutes at a time, 2-3 times per week. It's better to water deeply and infrequently rather than lightly and often, as this encourages a deeper root system which makes your lawn more resilient and drought-tolerant.’

But are there any exceptions? Well, only that you know the nature and health of your particular lawn best. ‘It’s important to remember that these are just general guidelines and you'll need to adjust the duration and frequency of waterings based on the specific needs of your lawn,’ continues Gene. ‘It's always a good idea to monitor your lawn and adjust your watering schedule as needed and remember that it's better to underwater than to overwater.’

It's worth knowing too that watering your lawn at night can cause problems longterm if you do it on a regular basis, so keep this in mind when picking when to schedule your watering tasks.

Gene Caballero
Gene Caballero

Gene Caballero is the co-founder of GreenPal which has been described as Uber for lawn care. He has been in the landscaping business for over 25 years.

Make watering your lawn easy with these handy helpers

Problems caused by watering your lawn for too long

It may not be obvious at first, but there are several downsides to giving your lawn too much water. Besides being careless of precious natural resources, there are other consequences of continuing this habit. 

‘Overwatering is wasteful, encourages weed growth, and can prohibit gas exchange from the atmosphere to the soil if the soil remains saturated for an extended period,’ explains Eric DeBoer. ‘An underwatered lawn will have far fewer problems than a lawn that is overwatered.’

lawn sprinkler spraying water on a lawn

Overwatering can lead to your lawn struggling in periods of drought

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Making the time and effort to assess exactly how much water your lawn type needs can prove a real game changer as Bryan Clayton, founder of GreenPal explains. ‘Overwatering can lead to shallow root growth, making your lawn more susceptible to drought and disease. It also leads to water and monetary waste.' 

'On the other hand, underwatering can lead to dry, brittle grass and can weaken your lawn, making it more susceptible to pests and disease. Finding the right balance is key to maintaining a healthy, vibrant lawn.’

Along with giving your lawn the right amount of water, choosing when in the day to water it can play a large part in how effective your efforts will be in making your lawn green and thick. Watering early in the day before the heat hits is best as this allow the water to penetrate into the soil and roots. Much later in the day and any moisture may simply evaporate. 

Jill Morgan
Contributing Editor

Jill Morgan has spent the last 20 years writing for Interior and Gardening magazines both in print and online. Titles she has been lucky enough to work on include House Beautiful, The English

Home, Ideal Home, Modern Gardens and Although much of her career has involved commissioning and writing about reader homes and home improvement projects, her

everlasting passion is for gardens and outdoor living, which is what she writes about for Homes & Gardens.