Watering your lawn

Tags: Conservation

If you live in a home with an average sized lawn, you are probably using at least half of your water outdoors. Many people give their lawns too much water. Not only is that wasteful, but it can also damage your lawn and leave it more susceptible to pests and disease. A typical Davis home could save more than 50,000 gallons of water each year through improved lawn irrigation practices.

Try a drought resistant turfgrass for your lawn, like buffalo grass or consider artificial turf.

How much water does your lawn need?

The UC Davis Integrated Pest Management website has easy to use step-by-step instructions to determine how much to water your lawn based on where you live, your sprinkler output, and the type of grass you have.

sprinklerA few helpful hints about watering your lawn:

  • Water your lawn no more than 2 times per week.
  • Water in the early morning hours when there is usually les wind.
  • Instead of watering for a short amount of time each day, water for longer periods of time, 2 times a week to allow the water to sink in deeply to encourage deeper roots on your grass.
  • Avoid water runoff, especially on sloped lawns, by turning off the sprinklers for 15 minutes halfway through your complete watering time to allow the water to soak deep into the soil.
  • Replace or repair broken sprinkler heads as needed.
  • Increasing the mowing height for your grass can help increase the water-holding capacity of the soil. More information here.
  • Don't allow sprinklers to water your street, driveway, or sidewalk. Position them so water lands on the lawn and shrubs, not the paved areas.
  • Avoid over fertilizing your lawn. Fertilizer applications increase the need for water.
  • Adjust your sprinkler system and apply water according to your lawn's seasonal needs.
  • Did you know you can report a broken sprinkler head?  If you see a broken sprinkler head (on public or private property), please report it to Water@CityofDavis.org so that we can notify the owner or property manager, or call Public Works at 757-5686.
As a guideline, the climate may indicate:
  • Approximately 0.8 – 0.6 inches per week in March and April
  • Approximately 1.4 – 1.1 inches per week in May, June, July and August
  • Approximately 0.9 – 0.7 inches per week in September and October
  • Water only as needed from November through February

Depending on the type of grass you have, a warm season or a cool season, you may need to apply more or less water. A week of windy weather, temperatures over 100 degrees or heavy fog can also influence how much water your lawn will need. Please remember that these numbers can only serve as a guideline. The best way to determine the water requirements for your lawn is to look at the type of grass you have (cool season grasses vs. warm season grasses) and the efficiency of your irrigation system. UC Davis Integrated Pest Management website has an online irrigation calculator, a great tool for determining a watering schedule for your lawn.

Here’s a simple test to determine how much water your sprinkler system applies to your yard:

Place 5 or 6 flat-bottomed containers (such as coffee mugs, tin cans, cake pans, etc.) on your lawn. Distribute them as evenly over your lawn as possible, keeping them at least 2 feet from the sprinkler heads. Turn on the sprinkler system so that the containers begin filling with water. After 15 minutes, turn off the system. Use a ruler or tape measurer to determine the depth of water in each container. The measurements will probably be between 1/8 to 7/8 of an inch.

The chart below can typically help you to determine how many minutes a week to water your lawn. Remember: this chart is only a guide. For best results for your lawn and for maximum water conservation, refer to the UC Davis Integrated Pest Management website online irrigation calculator.

Average depth in cans (in inches after 15 minutes)Total recommended minutes of watering per day using a 2 times a week irrigation schedule.
 Spring (March-April)Summer (May-August)Fall (September-October)Winter (little or no watering is usually required)
1" 4 7 5  
3/4" 5 9 6  
5/8" 6 11 7  
1/2" 8 14 9  
3/8" 11 18 12  
1/4" 16 28 18  
1/8" 32 56 36  

For more information on healthy lawns, see UC Davis IPM website: http://www.ipm.ucdavis.edu/TOOLS/TURF/index.html.

Irrigation Timers
You only need to worry about your irrigation timer four times a year.
  1. In the spring—turn your timer back on to water when the weather warms up and the soil starts to dry out. These are perfect times to look over your irrigation system and fix broken sprinkler heads or other problems.
  2. In the summer—once it starts getting really warm outside, you can turn up your watering a bit. Remember to turn off the sprinklers for 15 minutes halfway through your complete watering time to allow the soil to absorb the water and prevent water run-off.
  3. Early fall—as the weather cools down, you can adjust your timers to water less.
  4. Late fall—when it starts raining, turn your timer off. You don’t need to water your landscape when it’s raining outside!

faucet with corkMore Water Conserving Tips for your yard

  • Mulch plants to reduce evaporation and weed growth.
  • Adjust automatic irrigation timers as needs change.
  • Whenever possible, place plants with similar water needs close together.
  • Did you know you can report a broken sprinkler head? If you see a broken sprinkler head (on public or private property), please submit a message via the citizen request manager at: www.cityofdavis.org/crm/or call Public Works at 757-5686.
  • Use an auto-shutoff spray nozzle on your garden hose.
  • Wash your car at a commercial car wash - they recycle the wash water.
  • Avoid hosing down your driveway. Sweep, instead.

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