How to Cut Back on Lawn Watering Without Letting Your Grass Die
Watering the lawn can be one of the most water-intensive activities for homeowners. But reducing water use doesn’t have to mean letting your grass turn brown and die. There are several ways to cut back on lawn watering while keeping your grass healthy.
Timing Is Everything
The best time to water grass is early in the morning, before 10 am. Watering in the evening can lead to fungal growth as moisture sits on the grass overnight. The most important thing is to avoid watering during the hottest part of the day, when most of the water will simply evaporate before it can soak into the soil.
I aim to do my lawn watering between 6-8 am. This allows the water to soak in with minimal evaporation. It also gives the grass blades time to dry during the day, which helps prevent disease. Watering in the early morning is the easiest way to use less water while keeping my lawn green.
Water More Deeply, But Less Frequently
Many people water their lawns too frequently but for too short a time per watering. This leads to shallow roots that require constant moisture.
It’s better to water more deeply, but less often. Most lawns only need about 1-1.5 inches of water per week. I measure this using tuna cans – when 1 inch accumulates in the cans, I know I’ve watered enough.
This deeper watering encourages deeper root growth, meaning the lawn can go longer between waterings without stress. I now water my lawn for about 30 minutes twice a week, rather than 15 minutes every day.
Adjust Your Mower Height
Letting your grass grow a little longer is an easy way to reduce water needs. Longer grass shades the soil, reducing evaporation. It also has deeper roots, making it more drought-resistant.
I increased my mower height from 2 inches to 3 inches. This small change had a big impact, allowing me to water one less day per week. The bonus is that longer grass outcompetes weeds, reducing the need for other lawn care.
Improve Your Soil
Healthy soil holds moisture better than compacted, poor soil. Aerating and dethatching your lawn allows water, air and nutrients to penetrate the root zone.
I aerate my lawn in spring and fall, pulling plugs of soil to alleviate compaction. Topdressing with compost also improves the soil over time. These practices have allowed my soil to retain more moisture.
Embrace Some Dormancy
If drought restrictions require you to water even less, it’s okay to let your lawn go dormant. Dormancy turns grass brown, but the crown and roots will stay alive. Once cooler temperatures arrive, dormant grass will green up again with fall rains. Some browning is acceptable to avoid permanent damage from inadequate water.
Consider Alternative Landscaping
For areas of my yard that get the most sun and heat stress, I’ve incorporated drought-tolerant plants and hardscaping features. Replacing certain high water-use areas with rocks, mulch and native plants has significantly reduced water demand. Landscaping can be done strategically to get maximum impact from limited water.
With some small adjustments to my lawn care routine and watering schedule, I’ve been able to cut my water usage substantially while maintaining a green, healthy lawn. It just takes a bit of planning, patience and letting go of the idea of a flawless turf. Prioritizing soil health, plant selection and efficient techniques allows me to water less without letting my grass die.