Watering our lawns is one of the few things we need to do week in and week out to keep our turf alive. Aside from mowing and fertilizing, working out the watering schedule is one of the most important aspects of a healthy green lawn with deep grass roots. While it is obvious that not enough water spells certain doom for a neglected lawn, the dangers of overwatered lawns or, even worse, waterlogged lawns are often understated.
When a lawn receives too much water, the grass blades grow heavy, and air pockets in the soil disappear. From there, what happens next depends on our actions. Fungal growth, brown patches, and growth of weedy plant materials are all symptoms of an overwatered lawn, but will it come back? This article will explore if overwater grass will recover and what steps can get us there.
Can Grass Be Overwatered?
Our grass plants can quickly become overwatered and succumb to lawn diseases if care isn’t taken when setting up your irrigation and sprinkler systems. There are a few things that lead to overwatering more consistently than other lawn issues, and these are too frequent watering, more inches of water than your turf needs, shallow root growth, and poorly draining soil particles that lock water at the soil surface.
The most common times that a lawn will become overwatered is immediately after a drought. Keeping plants alive with just an inch of water every few weeks will encourage deep root growth, and will need water several inches deep to restore the grass. Infrequent watering that all of a sudden becomes regular can shock your turf and seal off the soil of oxygen and water. Broken sprinkler hoses and heavy watering during rainy seasons can also lead to waterlogging and major lawn disasters.
What Happens to Grass that Gets Too Much Water?
The effects of too much water can vary depending on the turf type and your overall lawn health. A lawn that was suffering from drought damage that then is faced with overwatering will have a drastically more severe reaction than a healthy turf that received too much water one week. Wilting and yellow spots are the most common indicators that your lawn is experiencing some form of water stress.
If your yard gets too much water, then waterlogging will occur and can speed up thatch development on the ground. Without nutrients or oxygen, you will experience dead roots and fungi growth. New seeds sowed in wet grass from excessive rains or poor water management can develop shallow roots and not survive the summer heat. Some types of weeds will thrive in dehydrated grass and grow even larger when given several inches of water.
How to Treat Overwatered Grass
If your yard has been overwatered, don’t despair. All is not lost.
It is still quite possible to help your lawn recover and get your healthy grass growth back. Time is of the essence when you have stressed your lawn, but there is plenty you can do to the ground and yard to get nutrients to your grass roots and dry out the waterlogging. Once it’s repaired, you’ll be set up to prevent future over-watered lawns.
Dry Out Lawn
The first thing you need to do to get your grass back on track is to let the grass roots and soil around it dry out completely. Trying to do any of the other lawn maintenance processes on a water-stressed wet lawn can result in pulling up patches of grass and other irreparable situations. Once dry, your lawn will start to strengthen again and can handle some turf work.
Adjust Watering Schedule
Figure out a better watering schedule that will not over-saturate your lawn. If you need help drying the lawn out, then lay down sawdust or other natural dry mulches that will dry out the grass. Places where water pools can be amended with agriculture powders that improve water absorption into the soil and dry out excess water when flooded.
Removing a layer of thatch can greatly improve aeration in the soil and reduce the negative effects of overwatering. In most cases, a resilient lawn can handle an extra inch of water, but thatch buildup can greatly hinder grasses’ ability to breathe. Make sure you have a type of lawn that can handle thatch removal, and then remove all dead clippings from the base of the grass blades.
Most grass types benefit from aeration throughout the yard. Using a core aerator to open up pores into the soil is a relaxing way for homeowners to help their grass while checking on the condition of the lawn’s environment. Aerating helps the water go deeper into the soil and aids in strong root systems that can deal with excess moisture and wet summers.
When fertilizer is added, it can stress out grass and should only be applied in optimum conditions. Trying to get your grass to grow through the water damage can kill your lawn, and it is better to reduce fertilizer use until the grass has completely recovered. Some organic slow-release formulas can be added, as can compost to help amend the lawn and help with reseeding in the fall.
Weed competition is a huge factor that negatively impacts turf growth, and when the grass is waterlogged, it can have a hard time fighting off the competition. While the lawn is still wet, pull up any weeds to give your lawn a better chance of spreading roots and dealing with the stress. If you have selective herbicides, you can use these, but do not risk afflicting your lawn with non-selective herbicide collateral damage.
Signs of Overwatering
Bare earth and brown spots are two of the most obvious signs your lawn is not going to make it. A brown lawn can signal dormancy or a variety of other issues, but if the effects are in response to excessive natural rainfall or failure of proper lawn watering equipment, then the chance of overwatering being the issue is much greater. The following signs can help you know for sure what is wrong with your grass and indicate what to do to fix it.
|Thin||The turf isn’t growing or replenishing|
|Bare Areas||Turf is dying at the root|
|Dropping Blades||Roots need oxygen and need time to dry out|
|Shallow Roots||Frequent shallow watering has left roots unable to deal with heat and drought|
|Fungus||Soggy soil conditions|
|Excessive Weeds||More water than your grass can use|
|Runoff||More water than your grass can use|
The color changes of grass are the clearest indicator your grass needs help. The grass will turn yellow and brown naturally throughout the seasons, but when these changes happen randomly or at the wrong time of year, a closer investigation is needed. If common lawn issues are not apparent, then look for other signs like runoff after watering and fungus growth.
The growth habits of our lawn grasses are usually pretty consistent, so when it starts to alter drastically, that is a good indicator that something is wrong. When turf is overwatered, sections will slump, and bare areas will begin to appear where young grass dies. These conditions encourage the growth of weeds and fungal diseases and can lead to permanent damage to lawns.
How Much Water To Keep a Lawn Green without Overwatering
Depending on your grass type and the time of year, it might not take much water to keep your lawn green without overwatering. The main thing to remember is that you need to adjust your watering system and schedule to reflect the changes in the seasons. Overwatering can happen with excess moisture after prolonged shallow, frequent watering and irrigating during rain.
The minimum for water needed to survive for most lawn types is 0.3-0.5 inches every two weeks, but more, if possible, will allow for continued growth and greener blades. If you see any irrigation runoff after watering, reduce the frequency of watering and let the soil dry out completely before irrigating again. Water deeply and early in the morning to maximize water usage but only once a week to prevent root stress and help an overwater lawn recover quickly.