If your lawn is looking brown with bare patches you are probably wondering if you need to water it, and for how long.
This article covers everything you need to know about watering lawns. Plus I’ll share some top tips for improving the condition of your grass because this will affect how much you need to water it.
Patchy Brown Lawn? Don’t Worry
The first thing I want to say is, don’t panic if your lawn is turning brown in the summer. It might not be the look you are going for, but it doesn’t mean the grass is dead. When the rain comes, your grass will grow again. I promise.
If a view of brown dead-looking grass bothers you though, there are things you can do. It’s important to get watering right because using too much water could actually kill your grass. Watering all the time will also land you with a hefty bill, and it’s not sustainable.
How Long to Water a Lawn for?
First off, it depends on your local conditions. If you live in an area with lots of regular rainfall you probably won’t need to water your lawn at all. Shady lawns are less demanding than sunny ones. Your soil type and grass type will also influence how much you need to water.
There are lots of variables. But it’s really important to say that too much watering can actually be worse for your lawn than not watering it at all. Incorrect watering can lead to disease, shallow roots and weeds.
Plus, a hose and sprinkler can use about 1,000 litres of water every single hour. Your water supplier will ask you to have a water meter fitted if you are planning on using a hose and sprinkler a lot.
If you are set on watering the lawn, it’s best to water it well. About 2.5cm (1 inch) for sandy soils and 1.5cm (half an inch) for heavy, clay soils. You can work out how long you need to water by setting up a sprinkler with a bucket near and timing how long it takes for the water to reach 2.5cm (or 1.5cm) in the bucket.
Watering Lawns in the Summer
If your lawn looks brown and, well, dead in hot summer weather, you can use greywater or rainwater to bring it back to life. Buying a water butt is a perfect way to prepare for those hotter spells, and you will save money on your water bill.
Some people like to use washing-up water and even bathwater. This is an excellent way to save money and make use of water which would otherwise go straight down the drain.
Another way to keep the moisture in your lawn during the summer is to leave the grass cuttings on the lawn, in small bits. This will slow down the evaporation of water from the surface of your grass and keep it moist for longer.
Watering Lawns When there’s a Drought
If you have a hosepipe ban in your area, you will not be able to water your lawn with a sprinkler system or manually with a hose. Hoses and sprinklers use up huge amounts of water.
Even if there isn’t a hosepipe ban, using a hosepipe in areas known to be drought-prone and water-stressed is not a good idea.
The good news is that grass is incredibly tough. It can survive very dry conditions and grow back. As I said above, a brown, patchy lawn isn’t dead; it’s dormant.
Don’t Sow Grass Seed in a Drought
I probably don’t need to spell it out, but planting grass seed when there’s a drought on is the worst possible timing and will cost you money. The grass seed will die if you can’t water it because the seed needs regular water to germinate.
Wait until the autumn, when there’s more rainfall, but the soil is still warm enough. Your grass will recover over the winter and should be back to full strength by the spring.
Watering after Sowing Grass Seed
You might want to plant new grass to fill up patches on an existing lawn or grow a completely new lawn. Either way, your grass seed needs water to grow.
Grass seed needs moisture and warmth. This is why it’s best to sow seed during the warmer months, generally from March to October. But the best month to plant new grass is September. The soil will still be warm, and you will get enough rainfall to get your new lawn growing in the autumn.
By spring the roots will be well-developed, and your new lawn will be much better prepared for dry weather than one sown during a hot summer.
Regular rainfall is exactly what you need for watering in new grass seed. If you aren’t getting enough rain, you will need to do additional watering for the first two weeks. Just keep an eye on the weather – rainwater is much better than using water from the tap.
Other Easy Ways to Improve Your Lawn
Are you watering and seeing no results? What’s the problem?
You Might Need to Aerate the Soil
If your lawn is looking worn out, you could have compacted soil. Sometimes the soil under your lawn gets very solid and hard, and grassroots struggle to breathe. Hard soil also means water doesn’t get to grassroots as easily.
You can improve the air and moisture flow in your lawn by aerating the soil. This sounds fancy, but it is very straightforward and easy to do. All you need is a garden fork.
Walk around your lawn and make regular holes in the lawn with the fork. These should be at least 10cm (4 inches) deep. Try to make holes every 10cm/4 inches around the whole lawn. This will also help when the rain comes – the water will reach the roots rather than sitting on the top of the soil or running off somewhere else.
If you have very heavy clay soil, adding some sand or fine grit into the holes you’ve made can help with drainage.
What is Lawn Scarifying? How it Can Help
If you have lots of weeds and moss on your lawn and the grass seems to be struggling, think about scarifying your lawn. You can hire a scarifying machine – sounds a little scary, I know! But it’s pretty easy.
You run the scarifier over the lawn, and it chops up the soil a little. It helps to remove what lawn experts call ‘thatch’ from below the soil line. It’s all about giving your grass more room to breathe. It might look a little messy, but it will help in the long term.
You can hire the machines quite cheaply, and it’s easy to do yourself, or you can ask a professional gardener to do it for you.
Mow Your Lawn Regularly
Cutting the grass often – once a week in the summer and once every two weeks in spring and autumn – helps your grass to grow stronger. Cutting encourages grassroots to spread and fill the gaps where weeds might otherwise invade.
If you have planted new grass seed, it’s a good idea to mow it as soon as it gets to about 8cm (3 inches) tall, as this will help it to thicken up.
In the summer months, adjust your mower’s height settings to leave the grass to grow a little taller. This should stop brown patches appearing if you get a hot spell of weather.