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Watering Instructions for North Texas Clay Soils

Posted by sarahebordelon on February 3, 2020
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It’s hard to believe that spring is JUST AROUND THE CORNER! Here are a few tips from a local pro to get ready.

Watering a lawn correctly is much more of an art than a science. When watering North Texas clay soil lawns, wet the soil to a 3-4″ depth. Usually, this should create enough reserve moisture in the soil that you will not need to water again for 3-4 days. It is best to water your lawn deeply and infrequently (only two days each week). One common mistake with irrigation systems is that too much water is applied on a 1-2 day interval basis, which can lead to disease problems and excessive weed growth, or the system is left on to water irrigate the lawn during raining times of the year, which only wastes water and has no additional benefits to your lawn.

Sandy soils (very rare in North Texas) will need to be watered more often (every 2-3 days) vs. clay soils (every 3-4 days), but less water is required to wet a sandy soil to the four-inch depth.

Your North Texas lawn needs a minimum of 1 inch of water weekly during the summer months.

A regular deep watering, two days a week, is better than a light sprinkling on the lawn every day and will encourage stronger, healthier roots. Overwatering results in waste and promotes turf problems, such as disease and excessive weeds. If you are operating your sprinkler system for 10-20 minutes a zone every 1-2 days – STOP!  Follow our watering instructions at the end of this article, which will save on your water bills, and your lawn will look much better after 2-3 months of following our process.

This process consists of operating a typical zone for no more than 5 minutes but repeating the process four times at 2-hour intervals.  This 2-hour interval allows the previously applied water to be absorbed by the clay soil before applying another application of water.  Running a zone for longer than 5 minutes causes runoff and only wastes water, providing no additional benefit to your lawn.

Midnight to 9 AM is the best time to water.

Midday watering during hot, dry weather will waste water since much of the water evaporates before being absorbed into the soil. Watering before midnight promotes the spread of diseases, as you are applying water to a lawn that is still too hot from the day’s heat. After midnight is the best time to begin watering.

If the entire lawn shows symptoms of drought, water it immediately regardless of the time of day.  If there are yellow patches in the grass, do not increase the amount of water, as this will only make your problems worse.  If you have large yellow sections, you probably have a sprinkler head issue – refer to the Yellow Patch article for more details.

The best way to water hills is to use lower precipitation rate nozzles or rotary heads, which apply water to the lawn at a much lower rate and allow the water to be absorbed into the ground easier without running down the hill.

Summer Dormancy

  • Dormancy is one of the mechanisms nature has developed to help plants survive stressful conditions.
  • Summer dormancy occurs in a lawn when grasses as exposed to an extended period of heat and lack of moisture during mid-summer. This severe stress may cause a lawn to stop growing temporarily.
  • Though not recommended, allowing a St Augustine or Zoysia lawn to go severely dormant during extended drought periods may cause portions of the lawn to die and not recover.  Bermuda lawns should survive without any problems.


  • Leaves and stems of grass plants usually turn brown, as crowns and buds stop growing.
  • The lawn appears to be dead or dying only in certain areas.

When the weather changes with the return of cooler temperatures and adequate moisture, grasses will typically begin to grow again. With proper care, the lawn will return to a healthy state – unless you have an elongated period of heat and drought where some plants may have died.


One of the most common mistakes with an irrigation system is operating it during periods of the year when rainfall is regularly occurring (at least once a week). The sprinkler system is there to water the lawn and landscape when rain is not commonly occurring, typically from as early as May to as late as the end of September. All other months of the year do not usually require you to operate the irrigation system. The general rule of thumb is to turn the system on in the spring ONLY after no rain has occurred for a week and no rain is in the upcoming forecast. Then turn the system off in September as soon as rainfall returns.

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