Tips for Watering Lawns

One of the best management practices for using water efficiently is to institute a "cycle and soak" watering schedule. This method ensures that your lawn is getting watered in increments which allow for the water to travel deeper into the soil. This protects against losing water to run off as well as encouraging the roots of your lawn to grow deeper into the soil. Learn more about the cycle and soak here

Watering Amount

Minutes to water per zone for lawns (based on three days per week). October - April water trees and shrubs as needed.

Fixed Spray HeadsRotor HeadsRotary/high-efficiency nozzlesManual Sprinklers

Watering times should be broken up into Three Short Cycles.

Three Short Cycles

General Watering Tips

  • Get a FREE irrigation consultation 
  • Install a rain sensor or smart irrigation control clock. These devices will help ensure that your irrigation system is running only when needed. The Town of Erie offers programs to help you install these devices. 
  • Wondering if your lawn is in need of water? You can probe your lawn with a screwdriver or other probing object. If it goes into the soil easily, this area has a good level of moisture, if it doesn't, this area likely needs to have more water applied.
  • Adjust your watering schedule to only water twice a week.
  • Cycle through all settings on your irrigation controller to ensure that there are no hidden programs running.
  • Use high-efficiency rotary nozzles for spray zones. The Town of Erie offers rebates to help out with this upgrade! 
  • Improve your soil quality by adding compost to your landscape. This will help your plants to absorb more water and can reduce outdoor watering by up to 25%. Compost can be added as a top dressing on your existing lawn.
  • Aerate your lawn annually. This will allow water to reach the roots instead of running off the surface.
  • Colorado winters are cold enough to damage your irrigation system! An irrigation contractor with specialized equipment will flush out water that could freeze and crack pipes, valves, and sprinklers. This will save you water, money, and headaches down the road.

Quick Facts on Lawn Watering

  • Lawns in Colorado may require as much as 1 to 1-1/2 inches of water per week from irrigation or rainfall during summer to remain green and actively growing.
  • During extended periods of summer drought, dormant lawns (browned-out leaves) containing Kentucky bluegrass, tall fescue or perennial ryegrass should receive 1-1/2 inches of irrigation every two weeks to maintain hydrated grass crowns and allow for full lawn recovery when more favorable moisture and temperature return in the fall.
  • Deeper roots draw moisture from a larger volume of soil and thus require less supplemental irrigation.
  • Taller grass has deeper roots and a lower tendency to wilt.
  • Taller grass provides shading of the soil surface and reduces lethal temperatures near the base of grass plants.
  • Lawns mowed weekly at a taller mowing height are less likely to be scalped. Scalped lawns lose density and have shallow root systems

Learn to read a lawn and know when to water

Turfgrass water-use rates are high during sunny and windy days with low relative humidity. In situations where lawns are not watered and rainfall is limited, grasses first show symptoms of wilt and later turn completely brown.

Signs that a lawn should be thoroughly watered for grasses to remain green and actively growing:

  • Grass blades turn bluish-purple, indicating plant wilt.
  • Footprints remain in the lawn for several hours. Leaves with plenty of water quickly return to their rigid upright shape, but leaves lacking water will remain trampled for a period of time.
  • Leaves are folded or rolled lengthwise along the blade.
  • If high temperatures and dry conditions continue without rain or irrigation, the aboveground portion of grasses will turn entirely brown. Grasses are said to be dormant during this browned-out stage because the lower portion of the plant called the crown, usually remains alive but is not growing. Thorough watering will bring the lawn out of dormancy, and new growth will resume from the crown of the grass plants.
  • Although grasses are dormant, watering restrictions that result in extended dry periods can cause large ground cracks, severe soil drying and excessive loss of turfgrass cover even when watering is resumed later in the summer or early fall.
  • Summer dormancy of grasses is a mechanism that helps a lawn survive, but it does not guarantee that a lawn will fully recover from the browned-out stage.
  • Dormant lawns should receive at least 1 inch of water every two or three weeks during summer to prevent complete turfgrass loss. Grasses may not show a noticeable greening but that amount of irrigation should be sufficient to hydrate the lower plant portions and increase the recovery once adequate moisture is available.
  • Wet wilt is another type of wilt to look for. Wet wilt occurs when the soil is obviously wet, but the root system is not able to keep pace with the water demands from the atmosphere. The curling of leaves from wet wilt looks very similar to wilt caused by lack of soil moisture. Waterlogged lawns that have a shallow root system are susceptible to wet wilt on hot days when plant transpiration rates are higher. Do not add more water when lawns are wilting and soil moisture appears to be adequate, for it will only aggravate the problem by starving the root zone of oxygen.

Programming an Irrigation Controller

Basics of an irrigation controller:

  • Programs
    • Most controllers have three programs (A,B,C). The programs control when and how long each zone is watered. Each has a start time (when watering will begin) and run times (how long the watering will run). Individual zones can be turned on or off in each program. For example, you may run your lawn zones 2-3 days a week on Program A, and water your drip zones on program B. If your water bill seems high, you may be overwatering because of the schedule running on another program. 
  • Valve
    • The part of the sprinkler system that receives signals from the controller. Electronic signals cause the valve to open and release water.
  • Station/Zone
    • On your controller, the term “station” or “zone” refers to the valves being controlled.
  • Start Time
    • Start times allow you to specify a time of day for your sprinkler system to run. Use three different start times over the course of the evening and early morning to institute a cycle and soak watering schedule.
  • Run Times 
    • Also sometimes called “station duration”. This is the length of time a station/zone will run.
  • Watering Days
    • This allows you to pick which days of the week your system will water. You can manually turn on/off days of the week, or you can set it up to run every other day.
  • Automatic/Run Mode
    • Any schedules programmed will run automatically when this mode is enabled.
  • Manual Mode 
    • This mode allows you to set and run a specific zone for a specific length of time. It is best used to perform repairs or to test out your system.
  • Off/Stop Mode
    • This will prevent you from running. Use this mode after large rain or at the end of the watering season.
  • Seasonal Adjust 
    • This allows one to make “across the board” adjustments to your programs. 
      • During peak summer months, keep seasonal adjustment levels at 100%.
      • For the cooler months in the Spring and Fall, you can switch your seasonal adjust button to 80%.