How much water does Bermuda grass need?
Although Bermuda grass is a great drought-resistant grass, providing it with too little or too much water can make it prone to disease and pests. So, how much water does Bermuda grass require?
Bermuda grass requires 1/2 inch to 3/4 inch of water every one to three weeks. During summer, the grass will need 1 to 1.25 inches of water every week to survive. If the Bermudagrass lawn is established on sandy soil, provide 0.5-inch of water as often as every 3 days.
The claim that Bermuda grass is drought-tolerant is only true in the sense that it can withstand long periods of drought without dying out. However, the grass will still turn brown if it does not get adequate water.
|Spring||0.5-0.75 inches per week|
|Summer||1-1.25 inches every 7 days|
|Fall||1 inch of water once a month|
|Winter||1 inch of water per month|
How often to water Bermuda grass
Water your Bermuda grass lawn deeply with 1 inch of water only as often as once every week. This frequency helps roots grow deeper, which will be an added advantage for saving water during summer.
It’s advisable to water your Bermuda grass deeply and infrequently. Since this turfgrass species typically needs an inch of water every seven days, consider irrigating the lawn with an inch of water on just a single day of the week, every week. This is as opposed to applying a quarter inch of water for four consecutive days.
Infrequent but deep watering helps to condition the Bermuda grass roots to grow deeper into the soil profile. With deeper root establishment, Bermuda grass can benefit from increased moisture access.
Best time to water Bermuda grass
The best time to water Bermuda grass is between early morning and mid-morning to allow the water on grass blades to dry before sunset. Avoid watering your lawn at night because temperatures are low at this time, allowing moisture to settle on grass blades for too long. Moisture increases the risk of turf diseases.
Observe your lawn closely to make sure it is not deprived of water. You’ll notice changes on your turf that will mean it is time to irrigate.
Here are the signs Bermuda grass needs watering:
- Curling or wilting leaves
- Leaf blades turning into a dark bluish – gray color
- If there’s been an extended period of dry hot weather
With these signs, you may be tempted to overwater your lawn to compensate for the drought. There are some side effects of that as I’ve elaborated below.
Can you overwater Bermuda grass?
Overwatering Bermuda grass is not a good idea because it clogs the root area, keeps the lawn overly moist for prolonged periods, and interferes with root development. An overwatered lawn is prone to fungal diseases as well as pest attacks.
Signs of an overwatered turf include:
- Lawn fungus (brown patches)
- Shallow roots
- The ground feels spongy
- Buildup of excessive thatch
For starters, overwatering will most likely create soil compaction problems, which then prevents the turf from springing back under heavy foot traffic unless you aerate and dethatch adequately. As such, you end up with foot marks on your lawn. The same applies to mowing after overwatering, as you’ll end up with unsightly lawnmower tire tracks on your lawn.
Soil compaction by way of overwatering occurs when runoff water droplets form tight bonds that seal off underground air pockets. This also cuts off the supply of oxygen to the Bermuda grass root zone. As a result, the Bermuda roots die out as the soil compaction due to closed air pockets inhibits their spread, with the lack of oxygen worsening the situation.
Luckily, you can remedy lawn soil compaction of this nature by combining dethatching with core aeration.
Overwatering a Bermuda turf can also lead to lawn disease. Harmful fungi like dollar spot and brown patch fungi love to breed in consistently wet conditions and will be easily attracted to an overwatered lawn with runoff water/puddling.
These fungi leave dead spots on your Bermuda grass blades, leaving you with ugly-looking sections on the lawn.
Finally, overwatering also causes microbes to penetrate into your lawn soil, consequently hampering root growth and development. These bacteria prefer moist conditions and will cause the Bermuda roots to decay.
Remedy for Overwatering
To avoid overwatering your Bermuda turf, allow the lawn to dry up after every irrigation session. This will help lessen the chances of runoff water causing soil compaction and pathogen problems.
You should also avoid applying more than one inch of water per irrigation session, as chances are that your turfgrass won’t have dried out by nightfall if you irrigate it that much at one time.
Watering Bermuda grass in spring
During spring, Bermuda grass does not require as much irrigation as it would during summer months. However, newly sodded grass may require a little more water to faster growth and spreading into a thick turf.
Here’s a Bermuda grass spring water maintenance guide:
- Spring water requirements: 0.5 to 0.75 inches water
- Watering frequency: once per 7 days
During the spring months of March, April, and May, Bermuda grass requires 0.5-0.75 inches of water every seven days, as an existing Bermuda grass turf doesn’t normally require too much water at this time of the year.
You can however increase the amount of water to one inch per week if you notice that the leaf blades of your Bermuda grass plants are curling/folding and yellowing due to lack of water.
Summer Water Requirements
During the summer months of June, July, and August, irrigate your Bermuda lawn with at least 1 inch of water every seven days. This is because as the temperatures rise during these summer months, there’s increased possibility of drought stress affecting your Bermuda turf.
A regular summer irrigation schedule will help to prevent this from happening. Remember, too, that the amount of water needed, and the summer irrigation frequency can be adjusted depending on the soil type and the environmental conditions in your region.
Fall Water Requirements
During the fall months of September, October, and November, you should continue irrigating your Bermuda lawn to prevent drought stress. If Bermuda dormancy sets in early in late fall, you can reduce the frequency of watering.
At this time of the year when Bermuda turf growth stops, you still need to water the lawn, albeit less often, to prevent desiccation/dehydration.
Winter Water Requirements
During winter, your Bermuda lawn will most likely be lying dormant already. However, to prevent loss of Bermuda turf due to winter drought, you still need to water your Bermuda lawn at least once every three weeks.
Should you water dormant Bermuda grass?
Bermuda grass is a warm-season turfgrass and normally goes dormant during winter, with the turf turning brown. However, this doesn’t mean that it doesn’t need to be irrigated, as Bermuda grass roots require moisture to prevent desiccation.
Nevertheless, dormant Bermuda grass still doesn’t need as much water as a Bermuda turf that’s at the active growth stage. Basically, dormant Bermuda lawns need about 0.5 inches of water every 14-21 days. Therefore, when there’s frequent winter rainfall, you can avoid irrigating the lawn.
How Long Should You Water to Get 1 Inch?
Now that you know how much water and how often to irrigate Bermuda grass, how do you measure the amount of water you’re applying to your lawn when using sprinklers? How long should you run your sprinklers to get 1 inch of water?
- Position about five plastic cups in in your lawn and turn on the sprinkler for about an hour. Then, measure the depth of water collected in each cup.
- Add up the total depth and divide by five to determine the average depth of water in inches applied per hour by your sprinkler system.
- Now, divide one inch by the above average figure to gauge how long it’ll take you to irrigate your Bermuda lawn with one inch of water.
For instance, if the average depth per hour is 0.5 inches, it’ll take you two hours to irrigate your Bermuda turf to a depth of 1 inch.
- Fred Yelverton et al, Extension Specialist (Turfgrass/Forage Crop Weed Mgt) Crop & Soil Sciences, NC State University: Bermudagrass Lawn Maintenance Calendar
- The University of Arizona, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences: Phoenix Lawn Watering Guide
ZOYSIA AND FESCUE
As one of the most common lawn grasses, fescue is often grown alone or mixed in with other grass seed varieties in general lawn mixes. Fescue remains green during cooler weather, only dying off during the heat of summer or the bitter cold of winter. Zoysia, on the other hand, thrives during long, hot summer days, only going dormant in response to cooler fall and winter temperatures. A lawn containing both fescue and zoysia will remain green year-round in areas that don’t experience freezing, or will only brown during winter in colder climates, as long as you follow the correct summer watering schedule to meet the lawn’s needs.
STEPS FOR WATERING WISELY
- Check the water flow from your sprinkler. Place a shallow can, like a tuna can, in the center of the lawn and run your sprinkler for 15 minutes. Measure the depth of the water in the can to determine how much water is delivered during that 15 minute period. If it only fills up ½ inch, you must run the sprinklers for 30 minutes to supply a full inch of water.
- Water early in the morning, when possible. Afternoon irrigation evaporates before it soaks into the soil, and evening irrigation can lead to fungus problems in zosyia and fescue.
- Irrigate every two to three days when summer temperatures are below 85 F, or every one to two days when temperatures are higher. Infrequent, thorough waterings encourage deep root growth and grass that’s better able to withstand drought.
- Provide up to 1 inch of water at each irrigation for zoysia grass in the summer, and up to 2 inches for fescue. If you are growing a blend of the two, 1 to 1 ½ inches of water is usually sufficient. Remember zoysia may still brown and die out during the hottest weeks, but it will quickly green up once the temperatures cool.
- Keep an eye on your grass. If it starts to look wilted, give it a drink. If your lawn ever starts to turn yellow, stop watering it for a couple of weeks. Too much water in the soil will rob the grass of nitrogen and oxygen and may cause rot. This won’t happen if you follow these guidelines, however.
- To keep your tall fescue lawn healthy, you must continue care through the winter months as this cool season grass is actively growing.
MAXIMIZE YOUR IRRIGATION
All the irrigation in the world won’t keep your fescue and zoysia green if you don’t combine it with other good cultural practices.
- Maintain a grass height between 2 1/2 and 4 inches tall throughout summer. Longer grass shades the soil, preventing rapid moisture loss from evaporation. Mowing too closely, or scalping the lawn, is going to cause the zoysia and fescue to burn and dry up.
- Decrease mowing frequency during long, hot periods or in times of severe drought. Mowing too frequently stresses the grass, and increased watering may not repair the damage quickly enough. As a general rule of thumb, cut off no more than 2 inches of the grass blade length while maintaining the 2 ½ to 4 inch grass height.
- Dethatch and aerate both fescue and zoysia lawns regularly. Generally, if the layer of dead grass and debris, or thatch, is deeper than ½ inch, it’s time to dethatch. Annual aerating in spring punches small holes in the soil, which better allows moisture to penetrate to the grass roots.
- Avoiding water stress doesn’t just keep the lawn looking better, it also helps to prevent diseases, pest problems and weeds. A watered lawn is a healthy lawn.
When it comes to a home’s irrigation system, a little maintenance goes a long way. Homes with clock timer controlled irrigation systems use about 50 percent more water outdoors than homes without irrigation systems. Your system can waste even more if it’s programmed incorrectly, a sprinkler head is pointed in the wrong direction, or you have a leak. Before you ramp up your watering efforts, spruce up your irrigation system by remembering four simple steps: inspect, connect, direct, and select. Use the following checklist from WaterSense Sprinkler Spruce-Up | US EPA to help keep your irrigation system in tip top shape.Find It, Flag, Fix It_ A Checklist For Your Landscape 6-29-23
Official statement from Virgin Valley Water District regarding water use restrictions:
With most of our news coming out of Las Vegas, it is easy to have the misunderstanding that Southern Nevada Water District’s (SNWA) mandates and restrictions apply in the Virgin Valley. You may have seen advertising such as the following: “SNWA has mandatory restrictions on time of day, day of week and length of watering. Outdoor watering is limited to three days a week in the fall and the winter schedule is only one day a week. It goes back up in the spring starting March 1 to three days and during the summer months, water is permitted six days a week beginning May 1, but not between 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., the hottest times. Watering is never permitted on Sunday.”
The restrictions referenced are only enforced by Southern Nevada Water Authority for their service area and are NOT a statewide mandate. The SNWA’s area of responsibility is in the Las Vegas Valley, not in the Virgin Valley area. The Virgin Valley Water District (VVWD) has no mandatory restrictions regarding water use in place at this time. We do not have the same water source (Colorado River) as SNWA, and therefore are not under the same mandates for use of that water, nor are we experiencing the same level of scarcity as the Las Vegas area. Our water source, the aquifer below us, has maintained constant levels over the past several decades. Because of the plentiful water supply, and the fact that voluntary water conservation measures (desert landscaping, voluntary water conservation) have placed water usage in our area on par with many of the heavy-handed water conservation efforts in the southwest United States, VVWD has opted to encourage conservation through rate structure, and education, giving our customers the opportunity to make changes without mandates.
At VVWD, we do not like to see water wasted. While we have a different water source than SNWA, and no water use restrictions, we do not condone waste of any kind.
We are hopeful that we will receive cooperation from individuals, businesses, HOA’s, and landscape companies so we can work together to conserve without having to assess large fines that would be passed on to the members of the association or create draconian mandates. Rather we would like to reach a level of voluntary conservation that would satisfy our valleys’ water needs. If voluntary efforts aren’t enough, then future mandatory restrictions will likely be put in place.
Your irrigation system is the key to creating a healthy, water-efficient landscape. Use the following tips to ensure you know how to water and when.
You should change your irrigation controller settings each season, both to comply with suggested seasonal watering and for the health of your landscape.
How to set sprinklers (Program A):
- Watering days: Find your “watering days” function and adjust it to ensure it is watering only on the days you want each season.
- Start times: Find your “start times” function and adjust it so you run three sprinkler watering cycles, each about an hour apart. In warm weather, run cycles before sunrise. (example 5,6, and 7 am) This is the least windy time of day. If runoff occurs, it may be necessary to split the runtime to allow the water applied to infiltrate into the soil (cycle and soak)
- Run time: Find your “run time” function and set it to four minutes per cycle.
How to set drip irrigation (Program B):
- Watering days: Find your “watering days” function and adjust it to ensure it is watering only on the days you want for each season and no more than three days a week in the summer.
- Start times: Find your “start times” function and adjust it so you run just one cycle in the early morning. If runoff occurs, it may be necessary to split the runtime to allow the water applied to infiltrate into the soil (cycle and soak)
- Run time: Find your “run time” function and set it to a single run time of 30 to 90 minutes if your emitters are low flow (when it runs you see drip, drip, drip) or 20-40 min for high flow emitters (when it runs you see a small stream).
- Replace your battery: Power outages can cause your irrigation controller to reverent to its factory settings, often watering your landscape far more than it needs. Replace your backup battery at least once a year – possibly when you replace batteries in your home’s smoke detectors – and avoid over watering.
Shrubs and Plants: The frequency for low water use shrubs may be as low as one day per week for all months from April to October, depending on the plant type and soil. The frequency for the moderate shrubs may be as low as two days per week during the hotter months.
Tree Irrigation: Trees should be watered well enough to penetrate the soil to a depth of 18-24 inches. The type of tree and the season will determine a watering schedule.
Root Depth: Plants with shallow roots require more frequent irrigation with less total run time, e.g. turfgrass. – Plants with deep roots require less frequent irrigation with longer total run times, e.g. established perennials and woody plants. – In order to achieve the required total run time, the use of multiple start times (cycle and soak) may be needed in order to minimize water waste due to runoff. – Irrigation should replenish moisture in the soil root zone.
Soil Type: For sandy soils, use shorter run times to prevent water draining beyond the root zone and more frequent water days due to lower water holding capacity. – For clay soils, use a lower application rate to prevent runoff, multiple start times to give water time to move through the root zone and allow time for air to return to the soil, and less frequent water days due to higher water holding capacity.