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What Temperature Is Too Cold to Water Grass?

As fall approaches, temperatures start to drop, and you might be wondering, is it too cold to water my grass? Indeed, if it’s too cold, your lawn will end up freezing, which can damage it or even kill it sometimes.

Yet grass is quite the resilient plant species, and it can bounce back from freezing temperatures with snowfall and ice covering it over the winter months. 

Nonetheless, it’s recommended not to water your grass if the temperature drops below 38℉ (just above 3°C) as a precautionary measure to prevent potential damage. 

However, it can be extremely beneficial to water your grass throughout the winter months.

Here’s why…

Can You Water Grass When It’s Cold?

As long as it’s not too cold (below 38℉), it is a great idea to water your lawn. 

Grass goes dormant in cold temperatures – typically from the beginnings of fall, throughout the winter, and early spring. Even though it is inactive, your grass still requires water. There might be long dry spells throughout winter, and so you should take any opportunity to water your lawn in the right conditions.

Also, if you notice some new grass sprouts, it’s important to nurture them with water during colder periods as they will be more vulnerable than full-grown grass. These sprouts will be trying to establish new root systems, so they need all the water they can get.

And overall, watering your grass throughout the colder months, when you can, will help them develop more strongly in the growing season. Plus, one benefit is that you’ll save money watering grass in the off-season as your dormant grass needs much less water than in summer.

Generally, it’s common practice to give your grass an inch of water per week in the growing season and then half an inch in the off-season.

When to Stop Watering Your Lawn?

When to stop watering your grass all depends on what type of climate you are in and what the particular season you are in is like that year. 

As a rule of thumb, many growers curtail their growing season watering routine at about mid-November time – usually, good timing before freezing temperatures are due.

Many growers cease to cut their grass during the winter months as it won’t really grow so much – if at all.

Here’s a summary of some helpful off-season grass watering tips:

  • Mild winter regions – reduce watering by half in mid-November
  • Harsh winter regions – stop watering in mid-November
  • Don’t cut grass in the winter months
  • Provide more water grass sprouts

But sometimes you’ll experience abnormal temperatures unexpectedly in the growing season – so how do you know when to stop watering?

Well, warm-season grasses like Centipedegrass and Zoysiagrass typically go dormant when temperatures drop below 54℉. Cold-season grasses can handle lower temperatures until it reaches about 50℉ – then they go dormant.

So a good idea is to keep a thermometer handy as part of your lawn care. When the temperature drops below your grass’s threshold for dormancy – make the necessary changes to watering and mowing your lawn.

Should You Run Sprinkler in Cold?

The basic guidelines for running sprinklers in colder temperatures are very similar to standard watering practices – like using a hose or watering can. Again, make sure that you are only watering your lawn when temperatures are above the 38℉ mark. 

Yet, there are a few nifty little changes you can make so that you can run sprinklers for longer into the off-season. 

For example, many growers set their sprinklers on a timer to work in the early morning hours, like 6 or 7 am, and then in late evening times. When the off-season approaches, mornings and evenings can be a lot cooler than in summer, so a logical approach is just to set your sprinklers to warmer times in the day.

 

It’s also crucial not to allow your sprinklers to function if there is frost on the ground. If they do sprinkle water under these conditions, ice could form, which will damage your lawn. Moreover, it makes sense to avoid watering if ever there’s frost or snow present.

But you might have been wondering, why can’t you water below 38℉ when it’s above freezing point? 

38℉ may be above freezing, but when water clings to grass at very low temperatures just above freezing, but this water can stay above ground on your lawn for hours. All it takes is a slight temperature drop at night or a cold wind chill to change that water to ice.

Should You Water Your Lawn Before a Freeze?

It is a good idea to water your lawn before a period where there is a predicted freeze. Just make sure you water your grass when the temperature is right and at least 24 hours before the freeze is forecast. 

Twenty-four hours should be enough time for the water to get into the soil and not be exposed to the harsh temperature changes to freeze and cause damage.

How to Protect New Grass With a Sprinkler

OK, we did say you should stop watering at the 38℉ mark. But, there is one tactic you can employ if the weather is super cold and you’re afraid your new grass will die out.

It has to be done correctly, though, because this method’s timing is essential for it to be successful. Also, this method will only be useful for predicted cold snaps.

So the water in your tap at home should be around 15 to 20 degrees above freezing. Set your sprinkler to run every 2-3 hours throughout the time that this cold snap is meant to occur. The warmer water should prevent your grass from freezing and becoming damaged.

It is not advisable to do this throughout the entirety of the off-season, however. Firstly, you’ll end up drowning your grass with too much water, and your water bills will end up going skyward. 

Warmer Climates

If you live in the South and get pretty mild winters, you can keep watering throughout the off-season – just at half your usual amount. Again, make sure to stop if ever a cold snap below 38℉ occurs – this would be a good time to employ the sprinkler tactic mentioned above.

We said you should start half-watering typically in mid-November, but then a good time to start gradually bringing the water levels back up is late-February early-March time. You may find that a gradual increase in your watering can really help you get lusher and greener grass come summer!

Conclusion

Stay within the temperature guidelines when watering your grass – it is a resilient plant species, but you can damage it when watering in cold temperatures.

Keeping track of the temperature is an often overlooked aspect of lawn care, where many go by their gut instincts on how the weather feels. It’s a much better idea to keep track of daily temperatures to check out forecasts regularly in case of cold snaps.

Sometimes proper lawn care can seem like a lot of effort, and it can be challenging at times. But it will be well worth your efforts come summer when you have a beautiful lawn to enjoy for months on end.

Sources:

  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eremochloa_ophiuroides
  2. https://home.howstuffworks.com/sprinkler.htm 

 

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