How Long Should You Run Your Sprinklers?

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Spurting water profusely out of its sprout, it lives to quench the thirst of our parched lawns. It also can be used to irrigate golf courses, landscapes, and crops. Its head comes in all shapes and sizes, some with sleek and simple nozzles and others with tech-savvy rotational openings. Nevertheless, they all have the same life-long task: to hydrate.

And while it is a crucial aspect of proper care, nearly 35% of Americans who claim to know how to adequately care for their grass freely admit that they don’t know the first thing about irrigation.

In other words, while it may be intuitive to use—you just turn it on—knowing when to turn it on and for how long proves less instinctive. Watering your lawn for the proper length of time is essential to its health.

So, today, you will no longer be in the dark when it comes to suitably using your sprinkler system because, in this article, you will learn how to ensure your property is properly irrigated.

Grass requires appropriate water amount to flourish through this guide

How Often to Run Them

There are a couple of factors used to determine how often you should hydrate your grass. 

The first is to determine how much water your yard is already receiving per week through rainfall. Use a rain gauge to determine if your property’s irrigation needs are met naturally or not. If the rain gauge holds between 1 inch and 1.5 inches of water after a week, then you don’t need to water the grass.

The second is the grass type you have growing: warm-season or cool-season grass?

Cool-season grasses like Kentucky Bluegrass and Perennial Ryegrass require more irrigation than warm-season grasses like Bermuda grass and Bahia grass. 

Many utilize sprinklers on schedule to ensure proper hydration

During the growing season, cool-season grasses require hydration every 2 to 3 days. In contrast, warm-season grasses require hydration every 3 to 4 days during the growing season.

Whether you irrigate in the winter months is entirely dependent on the climate in your area. 

If you receive a significant amount of snow, then you can turn off the sprinklers until spring. In these areas, the precipitation of irregular rainfall and snow should be enough to supply your grass with 1 inch to 1.5 inches of water per week through the colder months of the year.

Snow is also a form of water to the lawn

For warmer climates, remember the phrase, “If you’re still mowing, then your lawn is growing.”  If this describes you, you need to keep watering the grass until mowing is no longer required.  Then you can count on Mother Nature to take care of your irrigation needs until spring.

How Long to Run Them

Both warm-season and cool-season grasses need between 1 inch and 1.5 inches of water per week to maintain ideal soil conditions for the grass to flourish.

Generally speaking, it takes between 20 and 30 minutes of hydrating your lawn three times per week using an above-ground sprinkler type. This will supply enough water to maintain optimal conditions for the grass’s root systems.

Some in-ground types of sprinklers need to irrigate for an hour or more to provide the grass blades and grass roots with enough hydration. 

Determining Appropriate Run Time

Use a Flow Timer or Water Timer

These timers measure the flow of water in gallons of water your lawn is receiving. To calculate the number of gallons needed for 1 inch, multiply the total square footage of your lawn by .62 gallons. The total will give you the number of gallons needed to cover your lawn with one inch of the nourishing liquid.

If you are watering more than one time a week, divide that number of gallons by the number of times you plan to irrigate per week. This will give you the correct number of gallons needed each time you run the sprinklers. Program the timer to run the sprinklers for the specified number of gallons. 

Sprinklers are watering lawn

Tuna Can Method

Measure the depth of the water each area of your lawn is receiving by placing empty tuna cans or other containers flat onto the ground in the areas you will be hydrating. Run the sprinklers until it rises to a specified depth in the tuna cans or containers. The number of days you plan on hydrating your lawn will determine the necessary height of the water in the tuna can.

The corresponding depths follow here:

  • Every 4 days – ½” to ¾”
  • Every 3 days – ⅓” to ½”
  • Every 2 days – ¼” to ⅜”

A good way to tell if your lawn is receiving enough water is to take a standard screwdriver and push it into the soil. If you can depress it to the handle of the screwdriver, you are watering an appropriate amount. If you cannot depress it to the hilt, then you’ve got a problem.

Best Time to Run Them

Ideally, the best time to hydrate your lawn is after 8 a.m. and before 10 a.m. This will keep the earth cooler during the hottest parts of the day, so the vegetation won’t scorch. It will also allow time for the grass to dry before nightfall. 

If this is not practical, you can irrigate your lawn in the late afternoon. The sun will still be out, and the water will have a chance to dry from the grass and absorb into the soil.

water spraying and covering all areas of a property

It is ill-advised to water in early or mid-afternoon. The heat of the day evaporates the water before it has had an opportunity to absorb deeply into the soil.

Avoid irrigating in the evening entirely. Irrigating once the sun has gone down will keep it wet through the night and leave it prone to disease and fungus.

Different Soil Types

Water soaks into different soil types at different rates to nourish the grass roots contained therein.

Sandy soil absorbs water the fastest at a rate of 4 inches per hour. Clay soil, on the other hand, absorbs 0.2 inches every five hours. But the most efficient soil absorption ratio belongs to sandy loam, as it absorbs one inch per hour.

So, you should determine what type of soil you have before irrigating. If you heavily hydrating clay soil, you may inadvertently wind up drowning the plants on the surface. 

Determine how quickly you can hydrate your lawn based on how long it takes for the water to absorb into the ground.

Determine whether your soil absorbs or not to help with time length

So, there you have it, and now you know the basics of irrigating your lawn. Apply this knowledge and watch your yard flourish and your water bill shrink.

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About the author: Jeffrey Douglas is a horticultural hobbyist that loves everything related to plants and gardening. He specializes in gardens and houseplants.

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