How much water is enough?


If you’re like me, your water bill goes up significantly beginning in May — there’s the garden, and there’s our usual droughtiness. This year, as you might imagine, our water usage has been higher than normal.

The drought this year has been bad. What happens when grass doesn’t get enough water is that it goes dormant. Not so bad, really — the grass usually springs right back to life with a little rainfall or water. If the drought is severe enough, your lawn might need re-seeding in the fall. Again, not a terrible outcome from a drought. Nothing we can’t fix. And sometimes we just can’t keep up with the need for water — especially when there are watering restrictions.

The real problem comes, ironically, from OVER-watering.

A lot of people think that all watering is good, and that “you just can’t water too much.”

Fact is, you can over-water. And when you do, you can encourage fungal diseases AND end up mowing your grass too often. The worst part, though, is that by over-watering, you can send fertilizers and pesticides from your lawn and garden onto paved surfaces, which affects local water quality, and finally the water will run off into the Chesapeake Bay, create algae blooms, and continue to choke life that used to flourish there.

We don’t need any more problems with the Chesapeake Bay, so please follow these suggestions for a healthy lawn:

1. Your lawn needs about an inch of water a week. You can measure how much you’re watering (either by hand or by sprinkler) by placing an empty tuna or pet food can in the area you’re watering. Check it after each rainfall or watering.

2. Water early in the day (5 am to 10 am) when evaporation loss is lowest. Afternoon watering is OK, but can be uneven because it’s usually windier in the afternoon than the morning. Night watering isn’t a good idea, because it promotes fungal diseases.

3. Make sure you’re watering the lawn (not sidewalks, driveways, and roads) so that you’re not promoting runoff.

4. Mow your grass at a high blade height, which encourages a stable root system. Longer blades of grass also shade the soil and can help your yard tolerate drought.

5. For gosh sake, ENJOY that lawn of yours! Throw a party. Play croquet. It’s not as much fun if you just look at it.

Read more about it:

Summer Lawn Management, Virginia Cooperative Extension Service

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