How Long Should I Water My Lawn With an Oscillating Sprinkler?

There’s no need to waste water by allowing your sprinkler to run too long. You can ensure your grass develops roots and grows without wasting water.

An oscillating sprinkler is a type of sprinkler that frequently confuses people when it comes to the amount and frequency of watering. If you’ve been wondering how long it takes to water your lawn with an oscillating sprinkler, you aren’t alone.

Use this guide to learn more about sprinklers and how best to use them for your lawn.

What’s an Oscillating Sprinkler?

An oscillating sprinkler is a common sprinkler that has metal arms that oscillate back and forth. These sprinklers typically cover a bigger area than stationary sprinklers. You won’t need to move your sprinkler as frequently, which is why they’re popular.

Oscillating sprinklers are commonly used on larger lawns since they cover bigger areas more efficiently than other kinds of sprinklers.

How Often Should You Water Your Lawn?

The frequency of watering relies heavily on the climate where you live. Generally, you should water your lawn once a week for about an hour. If you reside in a wet climate, you won’t need to water as much. A dry climate means you’ll have to water the lawn more often since soil dries faster.

The best way to determine the wetness of your lawn is by sticking a sampling tube into the soil. Another way to determine if your lawn is dry is by checking to see whether you’ve left footprints behind. If the soil isn’t moist two inches below the surface, water the lawn another hour to make sure moisture penetrates the soil.

If neither of these techniques work or the weather changes too drastically, invest in a rain gauge to help determine if there is sufficient rainfall.

Factors to Consider When Establishing the Duration of Watering

Water Flow

Before deciding on how long to keep an oscillating sprinkler running, you need to know your water output. To do this, place shallow cans on the grass area you plan to water and make sure that they are evenly spaced.

Turn the sprinkler on for 15 minutes, then dip a ruler into all cans to measure the amount of water in inches. Take the average water measurement and multiply it by 4 to determine your sprinkler’s average hourly output. This will help you know how long to keep oscillating sprinklers on and for how often.

Amount to Apply

Most grass needs between 1 to 2 inches of water per week. For example, if your sprinkler’s water output is an inch of water per hour, water the lawn once a week for an hour. After the initial watering, test the soil using a sampling tube to check for moisture 1 to 2 inches below the surface. 

You can use a sharp tool or pointed metal wire as a probe. Press down gently into the soil until you reach the dry part of the soil. This allows you to see how deeply the soil was watered.

If the soil is extremely dry after an inch of watering, immediately water it again for another hour to add another inch of water. Note that frequent and shallow watering prompts grass to have short roots.

How to Choose an Oscillating Sprinkler

What should you consider when shopping for an oscillating sprinkler? Although identifying your garden’s needs is a priority, the range of features that these devices come with can be overwhelming.  Aside from looking for quality sprinklers like the Melnor Oscillating Sprinkler, here’s what you should look for:

Melnor 65078-AMZ XT Turbo Oscillating Sprinkler with 3-Way Adjustment and QuickConnect Product Adapter Set, Amazon Bundle
  • 20 Precision nozzles provide maximum coverage of large lawns or gardens up to 4, 500 Sq. Ft.
  • Twin touch controls adjust the width and range of the watering pattern to cover the whole yard or a...
  • Infinity turbo drive provides a smooth operation for even watering and extended life.
  • Quickly connect and disconnect the sprinkler with an included Quick Connect Product Adapter...

Spray Range

The spray range is extremely important and goes hand in hand with a sprinkler’s area of coverage. You’ll discover that most oscillating sprinklers have flow-rate dials that allow you to modify the spray to suit your needs better.

The coverage area is equally significant since sprinklers have different spray ranges. This becomes increasingly important when the area that needs to be watered is huge, and several sprinklers might be necessary.

Watering Pattern

Examine a sprinkler’s watering pattern before purchasing. There are plenty of options, including custom patterns. If you’re buying the tool offline, check whether the crossbar has two adjustable directional tabs. This feature will come in handy when you need to switch between broad and narrow spraying patterns.

Construction Quality

Construction quality is vital because it helps determine your sprinkler’s durability. Some sprinklers are made of cheap plastic and lack a UV-resistant coating which you’ll need to avoid damage from extended sun exposure.

Make sure that the oscillating sprinkler you choose can withstand different weather for a reasonable period and that the metal components are corrosion and rust-resistant. Otherwise, you’ll find yourself replacing the sprinkler sooner than expected.


How compatible are the connectors of your sprinklers with your garden hose? Making sure your new sprinkler easily attaches to your hose will save you from headaches and frustration down the road.

Reasons Why Your Sprinkler Is Not Oscillating

Why is my sprinkler not oscillating? Oscillating sprinklers rely on controlled water pressure to create a continuous spray for your lawn. Having too little or too much pressure will affect how your sprinkler operates.

If the pressure is much too low, there won’t be sufficient pressure to make the cylinder or distribution bar move back and forth. As a result, your sprinkler might move very slowly to one side but may not have enough pressure to pivot back around.

You’ll have to examine your sprinkler’s user manual to learn how to use it with high or low water pressure. To avoid excess water pressure, turn down your faucet to see if it gives you the pressure you want. If it doesn’t, you might have to look into a pressure regulator which can be purchased from home improvement centers and plumbing companies.

How to Adjust Oscillating Sprinklers

If you’ve bought a new sprinkler, you might be wondering: “How do I adjust my oscillating sprinkler?” Above-ground sprinklers connect to a garden hose and have dual or single dial adjustment rings to control the patterns and distance of irrigation.

Duration for Watering 1 Inch

How long does it take an oscillating sprinkler to water 1 inch? Most sprinklers generate approximately 1 inch of water per hour. That means you would need to water the lawn for an hour every week. Most lawns need about 1 or 2 inches of water per week to flourish.

Amount of Water an Oscillating Sprinkler Uses

How many gallons of water does an oscillating sprinkler use? On average, sprinklers use 12 gallons of water each minute, translating to 2,160 gallons every 3 hours. Sprinklers seldom leak and can propel water at least 15 feet on each side.

Bottom Line

Maintaining a lawn or garden isn’t easy. It can be strenuous and tedious, but it’s a task you can’t ignore. Thankfully, there are many tools like oscillating sprinklers that you can use to save yourself from many hours of watering under the sun. 

Last update on 2024-05-30 / Affiliate links / Somes Images and Data from Amazon Product Advertising API