When Should I Stop Watering My Lawn in the Fall?

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Fall lawn care leads to healthier grass in the spring. Don’t stop watering too early — or too late.

Summer is over, and you’re just starting to see the first hints of fall in the air. With the change in seasons, it’s natural to assume that you can stop mowing your lawn and hold off on watering it again until next year, but that’s not the case.

According to certified lawn care technician and House Grail consultant Emilly Barbosa Fernandes, some lawns actually need more water in the fall than they do in the summer. The source of that water and when to stop watering lawns will depend on the weather in your area.

Why You Can’t Stop Watering Your Lawn in the Fall

Fall lawn care is more than just watering. It’s also a good time to aerate, fertilize, reseed and treat for weeds and pests. It’s even a great time to plant some varieties of cool-season grasses.

“This window of seasonal change represents that last and best opportunity for recovery before winter,” says Dr. Frank Rossi, chief science officer at Sunday. “The best natural defense for spring weeds and other lawn problems is to patch and seed a healthier lawn today.”

Grass seed and fertilizer need water to work. Rossi recommends the Sunday Smart Lawn Plan for getting the right fall grass nutrients.

Besides its importance in lawn care tasks like fertilizing, water helps your lawn recover from the summer. And even if your turf grass growth slows in the fall, it will grow some. It needs water to do that. “Typically, the lawn requires one to 1.5 inches of water per week,” says Fernandes.

Adjust your watering based on rainfall. If it tends to rain more in the fall in your area, you’ll likely water less. So if you get 1/2-in. of rain per week in your area, Fernandes suggests resetting your irrigation system to water only 1/2-in. to one inch.

Temperature is another consideration for fall irrigation. Grass dries out much more quickly in the summer heat. “As temperatures cool during the fall, your lawn will need less and less water,” Rossi says. Gradually reduce your watering as temperatures drop to match your lawn’s need.

When To Stop Watering the Lawn in Fall

You might be surprised by how late you can mow and water your lawn. Fernandes says to continue watering until the ground freezes, but take care not to overwater. Gradually reduce watering until the average nighttime temperatures are in the low 30s, then stop. Water won’t penetrate once the ground freezes.

“Watering in colder climates can lead to disease, so it is critical to reduce how often and how long you water your lawn,” Rossi says. Overwatering is one of the most common grass problems homeowners face. It can lead to yellow grass and fungus issues, such as mushrooms.

Do You Need to Water in Winter?

Like fall watering, winter watering depends on your location and weather. “You should stop watering completely in colder climates,” says Rossi. “In warmer climates, that means greatly cutting down your water use.”

First determine if your grass grows in winter. If your ground never freezes and your grass grows all year, some winter watering may be necessary to keep your lawn looking fresh. But if you’re getting some rain, that might be enough. Ask your neighbors or local garden center to find out what works in your area.

What About Sprinkler Systems?

Unless temperatures never dip below freezing in your area, you’ll need to winterize your sprinkler system before the first freeze. Water left in the pipes can freeze, and frozen pipes will burst. You can hire a professional to winterize your system or do it yourself with an air compressor.

Mikayla Borchert
Mikayla is an assistant editor for Family Handyman, specializing in indoor and outdoor gardening, organization and décor. She has one cat and holds a B.A. in English from the University of Minnesota. Outside of work, she likes running, skiing, hiking and tending her balcony garden.