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Stone Creek Nursery's DIY Watering Guide for the Midwest

Watering Guide for the Midwest


A beautiful luscious green lawn and healthy vibrant trees, shrubs and plants all are a sign of a well-tended yard. One key to a first-class yard and garden is knowing how to water effectively. How do you know how much and when to water? There is really no single answer. Weather, soil and the types of plants, shrubs and trees you wish to grow all must be considered. Here are some watering strategies that can help you grow a gorgeous, green lawn and a bountiful flower and/or vegetable garden.


On a hot, sunny day in summer, the average lawn uses around 125 gallons of water per 1,000 square feet. The same lawn on a cloudy day uses as little as 10 gallons of water. Mature trees can consume up to 15 gallons of water per hour on a hot day. Any plant exposed to hot sun, low humidity and strong winds will evaporate large amounts of water that must be replaced or it will quickly die. Grass is particularly susceptible since 85 percent of a grass plant's bulk is water.


A deep water once or twice a week is better for your lawn than daily light sprinklings. Deep watering produces a strong, deep root system that can withstand drought. To help build such a root system requires consistent, thorough soaking of the soil.

When to water?

Most lawns need 1 inch of water per week, depending upon the climate and soil conditions. In dry areas, a regular watering at least once a week is important to maintain good plant health. During spring and fall, or on cooler days, look for signs that watering is needed. A slower rate of growth, changes in the color, loss of resilience (such as footprints showing in the grass) are all signs that the yard, shrubs or trees need water.

You also can check the soil 2 to 6 inches below the surface. If the soil is dry and crumbles easily, then it is time to water. The soil should always have time to dry between watering. Too frequent watering produces wet areas that make the plants susceptible to lawn diseases, insects and root damage. As the soil is left to dry fully, roots will grow deeper, looking for water below the surface. Roots need to absorb small amounts of oxygen from air spaces in dry soil are warmed by the soil as it dries. Plants respond best when the water penetrates below the top few inches of soil. Light watering produces shallow roots in the upper few inches of the soil, which causes them to dry quickly.

What’s the best time of day to water?

Early morning is the best time because the temperatures are generally cooler. Less water will evaporate and it will soak into the ground better. Late is not recommended because the lawn and other plants stay wet for a longer time, which leaves them susceptible to lawn diseases.

How much is enough water?

Fescue lawns require 1-2 inches of water per week. To find out how much and how long you need to water can easily be tested by placing small cans in your yard to determine how much water your lawn has received through rainfall or sprinklers. Adjusting your watering times can save you both money and water.

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