Water the lawn less – Save money!

Water the lawn less – Save money!

Water the lawn less – Save money!

Many homeowners are running up their water bills unnecessarily by over watering.  According to Dr. Jim McAfee, associate Professor Texas A&M and Texas AgriLife extension agent, overwatering can do more harm than under watering.  To conserve this precious resource  and your pocketbook, you should establish how much water the lawn really needs.  There are several factors that can make a difference: type of soil, variety of grass, mowing, fertilizing and time of year.

Clay soil, found in most of McLennan County, absorbs water slowly , retains the most water and thus needs water less often.  However, because water seeps into clay soil more slowly, it must be applied at lower rates over a longer period of time. Sandy soil, found in pockets here, require shorter and more frequent watering

Buffalograss has the best drought tolerance followed by Bermuda grass, St. Augustine grass and lastly Zoysia.  Some varieties of Zoysia are more drought tolerant than others.

Mowing, simply put by Dr. McAfee, “never cut off more than one third of the grass when you mow.”  This practice will cause the grass to thicken and less moisture will evaporate.  Over fertilizing will cause the grass to grow higher, but is not good for the root growth and can lead to a thatch build up.

With high temperatures, windy days and low humidity, water is quickly lost from the soil by transpiration and evaporation and the grass will need watering more often. With the temperatures we are now experiencing, our lawns need 1 inch to 1 1/2 inch per week.  When the temperatures cool down, less water will be needed.

Rather than watering on the same schedule each week, adjust your watering schedule according to the weather.  Irrigate deeply. Then wait for signs of drought before watering again.

Symptoms of drought stress include grass leaves turning a dull, bluish color, leaf blades rolling or folding and footprints that remain in the grass after walking across the lawn. Early morning watering is best because the winds are usually calm and therefore, and you will have less evaporation.  Watering in the late evening especially when the nights drop below 70 causes the leaves to remain wet for a long time and increases the chance for disease. A deeply watered lawn can often go 5 to 8 days between waterings.  Established lawns with deep roots can often go even longer.

How Much to Water

With each watering, the soil should be wet to a depth of 4 to 6 inches.  Shallow watering produces short roots which are more susceptible to drought stress.  Normally, one inch of water every five days is sufficient for most grasses during the summer.  Since soil types vary, it is best to verify that you are watering to that depth.

To get an idea of how long to run the sprinkler to wet the soil six inches, set out five to six cans randomly on the yard.  Cake pans or  cans with straight sides such as tuna and cat food cans work well.  Run the sprinkler head or system on for 30 minutes.  Measure the amount of water in each can, add the depths together and divide by 5 the number of cans you used and this will give you an idea of the average amount of  water you put out in 30 minutes.  Use a spade or a screwdriver  to determine how deep the water penetrated the soil. Using this information, you can determine how long to run the sprinkler to wet the soil to a depth of 4 to 6 inches.  Remember to account for rainfall.

If you find water is standing or running down the street, try setting the sprinklers for 15 minutes at each station, then run them a second time.  If you are “dragging the hose” let the soil asorb the water, then run the sprinkler again.

By making sure your irrigation system is putting out sufficient water to soak in deeply, the lawn will be healthier and hopefully your water bills lower!

Water is a precious resource.  At present, Texas has enough to meet the demand, but because of projected growth and without wise use of water, that will not always be true.  Be ‘Water Wise’!

The End



The Texas Water Commission suggested watering schedule:

  • Buffalograss: every 21-45 days
  • Zoysia: every 7-10 days
  • Bermuda: every 5-10 days
  • St. Augustine: every 5 days

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