The two most basic things that your lawn needs to stay healthy and green are sunlight and water. Though providing more or less sunlight is out of your control, the quantity and frequency of watering is up to you.
Many believe that since a brown lawn is dry, a green lawn is wet, right? Not quite. As the saying goes, everything in moderation.
Believe it or not, overwatering is a common problem for lawn owners. Not only is it hard on your lawn, but it’s also wasteful. Understanding the signs of overwatering and taking steps to correct the issue will get your lawn back on track – here’s what you need to know.
What Does Overwatering Do?
Overwatering your lawn suffocates your grass and also stunts root growth.
Below the surface of the turf, your soil is made up of soil particles surrounded by pockets of air and water. These pockets of air and water provide the roots of your lawn with the oxygen and H2O needed for healthy growth. However, when your lawn is overwatered the air pockets become filled with water, removing the oxygen from the soil, and your grass suffocates.
Additionally, when the water becomes readily available in the soil, the roots of your turf grass are not encouraged to grow and find water. As a result, the root system of your grass will not develop, leaving a shallow root system that is susceptible to drought and disease.
6 Signs of Overwatering
Your lawn is always trying to tell you something. Whether it’s a lack of potassium, too little water or too much water, the signs will be there. You just have to know what to look for.
Here are 6 easy signs to watch for:
1. Runoff: If you can clearly see streams of water running off your lawn and down the sidewalk or street, that water obviously isn’t making it into your soil. This is an indication that your lawn is already well saturated, possibly already overwatered. Additionally, the runoff water could be washing away nutrients that your lawn craves.
2. Spongey Lawn: Another simple way to tell if your lawn is getting to much water is to give it a step test. Just step on the lawn in a few different areas. If the turf feels spongey or just plain squishy, you should probably dial it back a bit.
3. A Plethora of Weeds: While an overwatered lawn is not ideal for growing healthy grass, it may be the optimum conditions for weeds like smooth crabgrass or yellow nutsedge to thrive. If you see a lot of weeds moving in and starting to take over, it could mean you’re going a little heavy on the watering.
4. Growing Fungi: If you notice discoloration on your lawn – particularly colorful growth on the grass blades themselves – you likely have overwatered to the point of providing optimal conditions for fungus growth. Mushrooms popping up across your lawn is also a clear indicator, and keep in mind that mushrooms can be hazardous to pets and children.
5. Thatch, Thatch, Everywhere!: Thatch is a layer of partially decomposed plant material. A little bit of thatch can be a good thing as organisms in soil break down the thatch and provide natural nutrients for the soil. Overwatering inhibits these organisms from breaking down thatch, resulting in thatch build up. Too much thatch can prevent oxygen from getting into the soil plus…
6. Bugs Move-In: A nice thick layer of thatch is a great place for bugs to hide. It protects them from the sun, predators, and even pesticides. If you’ve noticed that the bugs are really stepping up their game, it could be that overwatering has made things easy for them.
5 Steps to Fixing an Overwatered Lawn
Okay, you’ve figured out that you’ve been heavy-handed with the water. Now what? Here are 5 steps to consider.
1. Dial Back the Water: You don’t want to suddenly stop watering your lawn altogether. Try to determine how much water it really needs. Consider your climate, the season, and the daily/weekly rainfall. Remember, it’s better to water less frequently, but more thoroughly than to water a little bit every day.
2. Treat a Fungal Problem: If you have a noticeable fungal problem, in coordination with dialing back your lawn watering habits you’ll also want to apply a fungicide right away.
3. Dethatch: If thatch build up is a problem, it’s essential to remove the excess – anything more than half an inch. There are few ways you can do this. Thatch can be raked out, however it can be a significant amount of labor depending on your situation. Alternatively, there are dethatching products that you can apply to give those organisms a boost in thatch decomposition and breakdown.
4. Treat a Bug Problem: Once you’ve removed that thatch, those pesky little bugs are exposed and ready for their turn. If you can, try to determine what kind of bugs you have so you can pick the right pesticide to deal with the issue.
5. Fertilize: Your lawn is probably struggling to find the nutrients it craves after a period of overwatering. Test your soil if you really want to know what it’s lacking, but a good all-around fertilizer could just help your lawn get back to green.
Star Tips for Watering Your Lawn
Just as your lawn will show signs of overwatering, it will also let you know when it needs more water. Here are a few things to know:
- If the blades are starting to curl, they are dehydrated and need water.
- If you walk across your lawn and can still see your footprints in the grass afterward, it’s another sign that the grass needs water. Dehydrated grass can’t spring back up the way it should.
- The best time of day to water your lawn is relatively early in the morning. Aim for 10 am or earlier. It’s cooler during that time so you’ll have less evaporation, plus it will help cool your lawn through the hottest part of the day.
- The second-best time of day to water your lawn is late afternoon. Don’t wait too long because you don’t want your lawn to be soaked overnight. That can lead to some of the same problems as overwatering.
If you think you have been overwatering your lawn, relax. It’s a common problem and one that you can remedy. Follow these tips to get your grass in peak shape again and you’ll have the happiest lawn on the block.