Proper watering is critical for a beautiful lawn. It’s especially important when you’re getting a new patch of turf sprouted from seed.
But how often and how much? Do you need to douse an inch of water onto the infant seed each hour, or is there a more efficient way to get your new grass going?
The type of grass seed, the type of soil, and your weather conditions strongly influence the frequency of watering needed to turn a freshly seeded area into an established lawn. They aren’t the only factors in planning a watering schedule, either.
Let’s look at the simple steps to determine how often to water a newly seeded lawn.
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How Often Should I Water New Grass?
As a general rule, keep the soil consistently moist for the best results.
Lightly watering newly scattered seed each day in the early morning will help the new seed germinate most effectively.
Thoroughly soak the planted area for 5-10 minutes, allowing water to soak down to the root systems.
Monitor soil moisture, and if the soil loses moisture too rapidly during the day, you may need a second light spritzing in the late afternoon, an hour or so from dusk.
But, like many simple answers, a lot more is happening in the background. Here’s what you need to work through to get the best from your new lawn.
Things to Know Before Planting Grass Seed
Your soil is the literal foundation upon which your new lawn will be built.
Most folks concentrate heavily on the fertility of the soil, but its structure is just as important.
Getting a grip on the soil conditions will make the entire work of lawn care a hell of a lot easier.
Generally speaking, soils are a mix of the following elements:
- Clay: Clay soils contain a lot of literal chunks of clay, just as you would imagine from the name. Heavy and wet, clay soils hold water well but drain poorly.
- Sand: Sandy soils drain well, preventing root problems later down the track. The downside is that sandy soils are hard to keep moist.
- Rocky: Rocky soils barely seem like soil at all, with lots of stones and gravel. They are loose, hold water and roots poorly, and are the most challenging soil type for a healthy lawn.
- Silt or Loam: Loamy soils are preferred by many plants. They rely on the aspect and the landscape itself to drain but do not hold onto water aggressively. Small invertebrates like worms and pillbugs often work this material into the soil. Organic matter provides nutrition and structure to the soil and improves its capacity to hold water.
The average lawn will generally be a mix of the above elements. Rocky soils are often sandy, too.
Loams develop a lot of organic material within them as generations of plants live and die above, and even first time gardeners will have few dramas growing a lush green lawn.
Clay soils often need amendment before you can seed, and you’ll have better results once it’s done.
It will work wonders for drainage, allowing the soil to hold water without becoming a swamp, whereas lime will take care of your soil pH.
Conversely, sandy and rocky soils often need correction to hold much water at all.
Region and Climate
What’s the weather like in your neighborhood?
The temperature, humidity, and even the aspect of your lawn will all change how much moisture is available to the germinating seed.
It will also influence the seed type you can grow and which is the best time of year to plant new sod.
The ideal soil temperature for spreading new grass seed is between 55 and 65 degrees F.
Little sprouts hate to be too cold or too hot, so time your germination period with a lot of care.
A warm, mild temperature is needed for the seed germination process.
Keeping the soil moist for a few days before spreading the seeds will be helpful if you live in a particularly dry and hot area.
It’s a good idea to have an idea of what the annual rainfall is like in your area, too.
Invest in a rain gauge to track it yourself, though the best way is often to check with the local records.
For example, if late spring generally brings heavy rain to your region, you’ll need to wait or risk severing inches of water washing away seed and loose soil alike.
A new lawn on a steep incline will require more water over time due to the relentless nature of gravity – water will run down the hill, and the parts at the top will be drier and need more frequent watering.
Conversely, new seed planted in a low part of the garden will need less, as water will collect there more readily.
You also need to watch what the sun is doing. Highly exposed regions of the garden that receive full sun all day will need more water.
They do best when watered deeply for longer each morning. But shady areas, like the northeastern side of buildings or near grottoes of trees, have a lower evaporation rate and will do well with less water overall.
Grass types mainly fall into two categories: warm-season grasses and cool-season grasses.
They have distinctly different needs, so you’ll need to know the difference to pick the best one for your climate, soil type, and the time of year you wish to plant.
For truly savvy gardeners, consider seeding species of both types as the season progresses.
This will keep your lawn green throughout the growing season, as one grass type germinates as the other slides into dormancy.
Do you live in hot and warm climate regions? The warm season grasses include Centipede Grass, Bahia grass, St. Augustine Grass, Zoysia grass, Carpet grass, and Bermuda grass.
These are also known as southern grasses and do most of their growing in the spring season throughout early summer.
As fall approaches, these grasses dry up and become dormant.
Of this type, Bahia and Centipede grass are low-maintenance grass as they can withstand nutrient-poor soil and even drought conditions. Their deep roots draw more of what they need from the soil.
Consider growing the cold-season grasses if you live in a more temperate area.
Some cold-season grasses include Kentucky Bluegrass, Tall Fescue grass, Ryegrass, and Bentgrass.
The best months to seed cool season grasses are early fall. That puts it from mid-August to October in most parts of the Northern Hemisphere or as the cold season starts in your part of the world.
How to Water New Grass Seed
Many of us love to flick a hose over the lawn and call it a day. But depending on your conditions, you may well be damning your new turf to failure.
Water too lightly, and the grass roots will not develop well. Too deeply, and you risk the kind of fungal infections that rots the new seed before it can sprout.
New grass seeds need to be grown in moist soil, and maintaining that balance of moisture is important.
The key is not to let the water percolate in a specific region. It should be evenly distributed over the entire lawn area.
Down below are effective new lawn watering systems based on the areas:
By Hand (Smaller Areas)
If your new grass seed is spread over relatively small areas, you can use a hand-portable sprinkler or even a garden hose to water them.
This prevents over-watering and controls the water flow using a nozzle.
Be mindful to ensure good depth of water penetration – you still need to provide the right amount of water to get below to the roots.
It’s not great for huge areas, but if you’re reseeding a few bare spots in an existing lawn, it’s an economical and easy way to go about it.
Sprinkler System (Large Areas)
A sprinkler system is useful for watering new grass lawns in large areas where water runoff is a concern.
The process creates a gentle artificial rainfall by allowing the application of water under high pressure with the help of a pump. It irrigates most soil types due to its wide range of discharge capability.
These sprinklers oscillate, ensuring the soil has enough time to soak in, and the entire area gets enough water.
One of their best traits is that adding a water timer to the system is easy, ensuring the watering schedule is met no matter how busy the gardener becomes.
Irrigation System (Large Areas)
More complex in-ground or drip irrigation systems also work well for watering large-area lawns.
Drip irrigation is a method for watering large lawn areas using a mechanical device called an Emitter for slow water application to the soil.
It is useful in ensuring uniform water distribution and limiting water losses.
Like a sprinkler system, it can be attached to a timer and left to its own devices once the new grass plants mature.
In-ground systems use porous hoses or pipes that ooze water directly into the soil.
It’s the most efficient of all irrigation systems, encouraging deeper roots over large areas without requiring a ton of water.
On the downside, it requires substantial excavation across the seeding area, and while it provides good results, it can be expensive and disruptive.
When to Water New Grass Seed
First thing in the early morning hours is the best time of day to water grass seed as it germinates. A second dose in the early afternoon is also a good rule of thumb for most seed types.
Early watering provides the new grass seedlings with the moisture they need for the rest of the day.
The soil acts like a water bottle, storing lots of water beneath the ground ready for use, depending on the soil type.
Watering early also prevents loss due to evaporation. The water has enough time to be absorbed by the plants and the soil alike and won’t dry out so readily.
Watering before the sun is at its full strength also prevents leaf scald.
A wet lawn at noon can become veritably steamed as the bright sun heats the water on the grass blades beyond what the tissue can handle.
It also can result in sunburned leaves, as each little water drop works like a lens to concentrate diffuse light into a single hot point.
If your soil has poor water holding capacity and the weather turns hot, you may need to give it a second spritz as dusk approaches.
This watering should be lighter than the morning one, just enough to re-moisten the top inch of soil and carry the new seed to the next day.
How Much Water to Give New Grass Seed
The frequency and amount of watering new grass seeds are also critical to help seeds retain moisture. Inadequate watering will allow the seeds to dry and stop the seed germination process.
In general, water your lawn twice every day until seeds begin to sprout. Spend 5 – 10 minutes watering at this stage.
Once the new seed germinates and sprouts are visible, you can drop frequency down to once daily after sprouting but increase the amount of time spent watering. Extend the duration to 10 to 15 minutes.
Consider watering every other day once the newly germinated seed begins to mature. Continue this for three weeks.
Finally, once the grass root system is well-developed, you can shift to watering once to twice per week, depending on the type of grass, the weather, and your soil.
A sudden hot spell over a sandy patch may demand a return to twice daily watering until Mother Nature calms down and the dry weather passes.
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