How Long To Run Your Sprinklers On Your Lawn

How Long To Run Your Sprinklers On Your Lawn

We just love our lawn. It’s like having a little piece of countryside  on your doorstep. But to keep it looking good, bounteous and fertile, you need to adequately water it. And this is where sprinklers come in…

But the issue is that sprinklers don’t typically come with advice on how long to run them for.

People often say to me that regardless of how much they water the grass, it still manages to end up looking dry and straw-like.

And others are afraid they’ll draw up a huge water bill if they leave on their sprinklers, or worse, that they may even be wasting water.

Yet, the better you perfect the watering of your lawn, the better and stronger it will grow, the healthier it will be, and in turn, the better it will look.

Discovering how long to run your sprinkler can be tricky. No-one wants to find out through trial and error. And that’s why we’ve put this article together, we’ve done the homework so that you don’t have to.

In this article, we walk you through a few general guidelines for using sprinklers on your lawn.

These are relatively loose guidelines, and you should feel free to make any necessary changes to them according to your lawn’s needs, what type of sprinkler you have, and of course the typical weather conditions in your particular area. We will try to provide guidance on this also.

To begin with, we will discuss what type of sprinkler we recommend.

What Is The Best Type Of Sprinkler?

The type of sprinkler we recommend for your lawn is an oscillating one.

An oscillating sprinkler is one that works by spraying a curtain of water in a fan shape, thanks to its metal arms that oscillate (rhythmically swing) back and forth.

The reason sprinklers that oscillate are so popular is because they can cover a larger area than a stationary sprinkler, which in turn means that you won’t have the hassle of moving them, or to buy additional sprinklers.

With a stationary sprinkler, the head of the sprinkler does not move around at all. It remains in one position but can spray water a full 360 degrees around it, or in a range that you have set.

Oscillating sprinklers are more likely to be found on larger lawns due to the larger area that they can water.

They’re easy to get hold of, and if you can’t get one locally, you can easily order one online for a reasonable price.

Better yet, if you have a very large lawn, then you can attach several oscillating sprinklers to each other for better coverage.

If you are blessed with an oscillating sprinkler system for your lawn, or you are thinking of investing in one, then please read on for tips on how long to run your oscillating sprinkler system (or other sprinkler system) on your lawn.

Finding How Much Water Your Sprinkler Disperses

Finding How Much Water Your Sprinkler Disperses

To begin, the first thing you need to do is find out how much water your particular sprinkler system puts out.

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If you’re lucky, this information would have been made available to you when you purchased it.

If not, however, you don’t need to worry, because it’s perfectly possible to measure this out for yourself. Here follows what you’d need to do.

First, place several shallow containers evenly spaced out all across your lawn in every area of grass that you expect your sprinkler/s to reach. 

(If you happen to have a rain gauge that would be ideal, but if not, simple Tupperware will suffice.)

Once set up, turn your sprinklers on for a quarter of an hour. This should give the sprinklers sufficient time to cover the whole lawn three times over.

After the set 15 minutes have passed, place a ruler in each container, and measure the depth.

Then, work out the average amount of water in each container and multiply it by four. This figure is basically the amount of water that your sprinklers can distribute per hour.

Once you compare this value with the amount of water that your lawn needs, you will be able to work out how long to run your sprinkles for, which leads us nicely onto our next section…

So … How Much Water Does My Lawn Need?

Generally speaking, the grass of fully established lawns requires between one and two inches of water on a weekly basis.

Unfortunately, however, this does not mean that you have a whole week to give the grass those one or two inches.

Instead, what you really ought to do is water this one to two inches of water all in one go.

The only exception is when you have sandy soil, or in periods of extreme drought, in which case you should deliver this level of water twice a week.

The reason for this, is to encourage the grass to develop strong roots, which in turn will keep it healthy throughout the year.

Most oscillating sprinklers will distribute approximately one inch of water every hour. And if this describes your sprinkler, then this will mean that you should run the sprinkler for one hour every week.

If, however, your lawn isn’t fully established, then you will need to bump up the frequency of watering in order to strengthen the grass’ root system.

If this describes your lawn, then I would recommend that you water the lawn for half an hour, twice each week.

Your aim should be to enable the water to soak so deep into the soil that it starts to saturate as the soil surface dries.

So … How Much Water Does My Lawn Need?

This way, the roots of the grass grow deeper into the soil in order to seek out remaining moisture when standing by for their next watering session, thus strengthening the grass’ roots, and making the lawn considerably more resilient over time.

If you do not follow this strategy, and instead water the lawn for just a few minutes each day, then you will not encourage the grass to develop good, strong roots, leaving only shallow roots instead.

How To Tell If Your Lawn Is Getting Enough Water 

A simple way to test if your lawn is sufficiently watered is to use a soil sampling tube. Simply poke the tube as far as you can into the soil.

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If the grass is sufficiently watered, between one and two inches below the surface of the soil sampling tube should be moist.

If, when you pull out the tube, it is not moist, then you should proceed to water it for an additional hour, in order to give the lawn another inch of water.

And now you’re clued-up on how much water your lawn needs, let’s go through how often you need to water it, according to the climate and weather conditions in your particular part of the world.

How Often Does My Lawn Need To Be Watered?

As we said earlier, the general rule of thumb when it comes to watering your lawn is to do so for approximately an hour, once every week.

However, it’s important to note at this point that how often you should water your lawn depends very much on the precise climate in your area.

For example, if you are based in a damp and wet climate, then you won’t need to water your lawn quite as often. Similarly, if your lawn is subjected to a dry climate, then you should water the lawn more frequently. 

And that’s not all you need to consider. If you live in a windy climate, the soil will dry out more quickly, which means that you should water the lawn more frequently.

As mentioned earlier (it bears repeating here) you can check the moisture level of the soil with a standard soil sampling tube.

Stick it all the way in and if the tube is not damp for two inches below the soil’s surface, then I strongly recommend that you water the lawn for an additional hour and really give time for the soil to soak up the water and strengthen those grass’ roots.

You can also tell if your lawn needs more watering if you find that you’re leaving a trail of footprints behind you.

Alternatively, if these two methods don’t appeal to you, for whatever reason, we would suggest that you invest in a rain gauge that will enable you to determine whether or not the rainfall in your area provides all the watering your grass needs.

This can be particularly helpful in areas where there can be considerable changes in the climate and weather conditions.

How Often Does My Lawn Need to be Watered?

So, now you know how often to water your lawn with an oscillating sprinkler system, let’s go on to discuss our various tips on watering your lawn more generally.

All The Tips You Need For Watering Your Lawn

As you may have gathered by this point, we like to recommend our readers that they invest in oscillating sprinkler systems for their lawn.

This is because they not only cover a larger area, but they also water the lawn much more evenly.

In this section, however, we’re going to provide you with a brief summary of the tips laid out above, together with some great tips for watering your lawn regardless of the nature of your sprinkler system.

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Here goes…

  • As a general rule, to ensure your lawn is healthy all year round, you should aim to enrich your lawn with between one and two inches of water. This amount of water should be enough to encourage the roots of the grass to grow further downward, resulting in stronger roots and a more resilient lawn, even when winter comes around.
  • You should water your lawn about once every week. You should not water your lawn on a daily basis because you may risk harming the lawn by drowning it. If on the other hand, you only water it once every week, this will provide sufficient moisture, but not so much that you risk causing damage or even killing it.
  • We also recommend that you do the watering in the morning. This is good practice. This is because the morning generally has different weather conditions than the afternoon. It is typically cooler in mornings, whereas once the sun is at its highest, the grass could really start to bake in the sun and dry out. So watering the lawn in the morning will give the soil the best opportunity to soak up the water to keep the lawn properly hydrated throughout the course of the day.
  • Adjust how often you water your lawn according to the climate in your area. If you’re in a dry area, you should water your lawn more often. Or, if the climate is rather wet and rainy, you should water the lawn less often. Remember, watering guidelines are just that, guidelines, and not a hard fast rule that you cannot tweak and adapt according to your lawn’s particular circumstances.
  • Check how well your automatic sprinklers are performing, test them out. Sometimes cut grass can get stuck in the system, clogging the sprinklers up, which in turn results in uneven watering, or, worse yet, dead grass. These problems are less likely with oscillating sprinklers, however.
  • If the grass on your lawn is brown in color, this does not necessarily mean that your lawn needs more water. However, if the grass fails to turn green after adding more water, then you must investigate whether there’s a deeper problem with your lawn, such as an issue with the soil.

Wrap Up

So, to summarize, you should run your sprinklers for a whole hour on a weekly basis. But this general rule can be adapted so that you water the lawn less often when it’s rainy, and more often when it’s dry.

If you’re not sure whether or not your lawn is sufficiently watered, there are several ways that you can check this, as we laid out earlier.

And if you’re in the market for a new sprinkler system, the type that we would recommend is an oscillating sprinkler system, because they can cover a larger area, and cover it evenly.