The Ultimate Guide to Watering Bermuda Grass

Watering your lawn may seem like a straightforward task, but there’s more to it than just turning on the sprinklers. The amount of water your lawn needs can vary depending on several factors, including the weather and soil type.

How Much Water Does Bermuda Grass Need?

Your Bermuda grass lawn will generally need around 1 inch of water per week, either from natural rainfall or irrigation. However, this is just a starting point and may need to be adjusted based on weather conditions.

Seasonal Adjustments

Watering your lawn effectively requires adjusting to seasonal changes in evaporation rates, which are influenced by temperature, solar radiation, wind speed, and humidity. Here’s a streamlined guide to help you water your lawn throughout the year:

Spring (The Season of Growth):

  • Watering: About 0.5-0.75 inches per week.
  • Frequency: Weekly.
  • Tips: Begin with a deep watering to revive the grass from winter dormancy. Increase water as temperatures rise.

Summer (The Thirsty Season):

  • Watering: 1-1.5 inches per week; increase during heatwaves.
  • Frequency: 2-3 times a week.
  • Tips: Water early in the morning to minimize evaporation. Avoid watering more than once a day; even in extreme heat, Bermudagrass does not require cooling.

Fall (Preparing for Dormancy):

  • Watering: 0.5-1 inch per week.
  • Frequency: Weekly.
  • Tips: Reduce water gradually as the grass enters dormancy. Focus on deep watering to strengthen roots.

Winter (The Resting Period):

  • Watering: Minimal, only as needed.
  • Frequency: Rarely.
  • Tips: Water only during unseasonably warm periods. Avoid watering before freezes to prevent ice damage.

This approach not only conserves water but also ensures your lawn stays healthy and vibrant year-round.

Smart Controller: Automate Your Watering

A smart controller is a device that connects to your irrigation system and adjusts the watering schedule based on weather conditions, soil type, and more. This is incredibly useful if you don’t want to think about adjusting your watering too much or if you weather changes a lot. Take a look at the top smart controllers here.

Benefits of a Smart Controller

  • Efficiency: Saves water by adjusting to real-time conditions.
  • Convenience: Automates your watering schedule, freeing you from manual adjustments.
  • Healthier Lawn: Provides optimal watering for each season, promoting a healthier, more resilient lawn.

The Importance of Head-to-Head Coverage

What is it?

Head-to-head coverage refers to the arrangement of your sprinkler heads so that the spray from one head reaches the adjacent head, ensuring even water distribution.

Why it Matters

  • Even Watering: Helps to avoid dry spots and ensures that all areas receive adequate hydration.
  • Efficiency: Maximizes the effectiveness of your irrigation system, reducing water waste.
Example lawn where each sprinkler head reaches other sprinkler heads.
An example where one sprinkler head reaches the sprinkler head in the previous diagram.

The Tuna Can Test: Measure to Manage

What is it?

Many people incorrectly measure their amount of water in minutes. For example, they say they water their grass “30 minutes per zone” which is meaningless. The tuna can test involves placing empty tuna cans around your lawn while watering. The goal is to measure how much water is being applied during each watering session. A tuna can is about an inch deep so you can see how long it takes on your system to put down 1 inch of water.

How to Do It

  1. Place empty tuna cans at various locations on your lawn.
  2. Turn on your irrigation system.
  3. Measure the water level in the cans after a set period (e.g., 15 minutes).
  4. Adjust your watering time to ensure you’re hitting the 1-inch per week target. If you’re using a smart controller, calculate and input your inches per hour value for each zone.

Deep Watering

It’s better to water your lawn deeply and less frequently than to give it frequent sips of water. Deep watering encourages:

  • Deep Root Growth: Promotes a more robust root system.
  • Weed Prevention: A well-hydrated lawn is less susceptible to weed invasion.

When manually setting watering times (if you’re not using a smart controller) you might water your lawn twice a week in the summer.

Soil Considerations

The type of soil you have can also impact how much water you should apply at one time. Sandy soils may require more frequent watering, while clay soils may require less but for a longer duration. Clay soils should also leverage soaking periods where the lawn watering cycle is broken into soaking cycles. For example, if you need to water for 30 minutes, watering for 10 minutes, with 20 minutes of break/soak, followed by 10 minutes of water and repeating is going to be ideal.

Here’s a typical watering sequence for a small 3-zone system. This waters all zones for 30 minutes. So something like this may run 2-3 times per week.

Zone 1Zone 2Zone 3
Water for 10 minutesOffOff
SoakingWater for 10 minutesOff
SoakingSoakingWater for 10 minutes
Water for 10 minutesSoakingSoaking
SoakingWater for 10 minutesSoaking
SoakingSoakingWater for 10 minutes
Water for 10 minutesSoakingSoaking
SoakingWater for 10 minutesSoaking
SoakingSoakingWater for 10 minutes

When / What Time of Day To Water

We’ve covered how frequently and how much to water, but we haven’t talked about time of day. The ideal time to water your lawn is early morning. I set my controller to finish by sunrise. If you water during sunlight, you run the risk of evaporation. If you water during the evening, you run the risk of fungus.

Some will also run their sprinklers for a few minutes during the afternoon to “cool off” their grass, but for bermuda grass, that’s not necessary. Bermuda grass doesn’t struggle as much with the heat as most think. It struggles during high heat because of the lack of water, so if you’re watering sufficiently in the morning, it can make it through a day of high heat without trouble. There is no need to run your sprinkler mid-day to “cool” the lawn.

Conclusion

Watering your lawn is not just about meeting a weekly quota; it’s about understanding your lawn’s unique needs and adjusting your watering practices accordingly. By ensuring head-to-head coverage, using the tuna can test, and opting for deep watering, you can create a more resilient and healthier lawn. So grab those tuna cans and get ready to give your lawn the hydration it deserves. Be sure to check out our advanced watering guide and seasonal watering guides for a deeper look.


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