Lawns need water; not too much and not too little

It’s natural to think that if water is necessary for grass to grow, then applying extra water to it   should be harmless.  Established lawns in New Jersey require watering of about one inch of water per week minus any precipitation.  The water can either be from natural rainfall or irrigation during the months of June, July, and August.  Grass grown on sandy soils should be watered more often than grass grown on clay or loam soils.  The best time of day to water is late evening through the early morning. Water should not be applied faster than the ground can soak it up.

Lawn watering ~
Lawn watering ~

Overwatering can remove valuable nutrients from the soil and carry them to the groundwater or surface waters where they can act as pollutants.  In fact, many municipalities throughout New Jersey have adopted water ordinances restricting outdoor irrigation in times of drought.  Local ordinances typically have restrictions on the time of day or day of week that lawns can be watered.  As the summer months approach, it may be prudent to let a lawn go dormant instead of investing money in irrigating for municipalities that have not adopted ordinances. 

Of the common lawn grasses, fine fescues and turf-type tall fescues are known to be drought-tolerant, whereas, bluegrasses, ryegrasses, and bentgrasses are likely to require supplemental water to tolerate drought conditions. 

Smart Water Application Technology, or SWAT, may help homeowners and landscape irrigators better manage water use, and thereby maintain lawns and gardens without overwatering.  SWAT irrigation systems rely on controllers that automatically calculate and deliver the needed amount of water.  While they may require initial professional installation and calibration, SWAT controllers are designed to be relatively simple enough to use for those without a technical background in horticulture or experience with irrigation controllers.

Here is what municipalities can do to help homeowners learn more about how much water their lawn needs:

  • Provide information to homeowners on turf water needs - flyers, web material, RCE Bulletin FS921, etc.

  • Ask your local Rutgers Cooperative Extension County office to provide programming on healthy lawns.

  • Consider passing an ordinance that limits the amount of water residents can use on their lawns.  The NJDEP recommends the Sustainable Jersey Ordinance.     


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