How Long Should You Run an Oscillating Sprinkler

Your lawn and your sprinkler may be a bit different from another lawn with another oscillating sprinkler, but there are some basic answers to this question. There are different factors to take into account as you decide what is best for your situation.

If your grass isn’t growing, then you can assume you aren’t watering enough. However, grass can also be overwatered. This leads to big water bills and sometimes it encourages weeds to grow. 


It is important to neither water too much or too little. Yet, if you must do one of those, then over-watering is best. You don’t want your grass to die during the long hot days of summer. Watering is especially vital if you live in a dry climate. Still, you don’t need to water every day and risk killing it from too much water.

The goal is to develop healthy roots as well as maintain good looks. To do that, you should be keenly aware of how often it rains and adjust your watering habits accordingly. If it never rains, then you have it easy. You know you need to be regularly watering the same amount to achieve the desired effect. 

Why Use an Oscillating Sprinkler to Water Your Lawn?

There are a number of different sprinkler types. The oscillating sprinkler is desirable because it fans out the water. The arms are moving and the water is spreading out wider than it would with a stationary sprinkler. This feels more like rain to thirsty plants.

Children love to play in this type of sprinkler since it delivers a curtain of water. They can run under it, staying out of the water, or jump through it, getting soaked. Your plants are grateful for it because it delivers water with less force.

It should follow that you can leave your sprinkler in one place and get more area covered with water. This reduces the amount of work you may need to do as you calculate how much water your lawn needs. 

Since it is common, let’s assume you have an independent oscillating sprinkler that’s not part of a yard irrigation system. These can be set to a timer, reducing your stress over how much water your grass will get. An independent sprinkler will need to be used and moved, increasing how often you need to think about it and utilize it. 

The Two Tools You Need To Supplement Your Oscillating Sprinkler

You can’t decide how long to use the sprinkler until you also figure out how much water your lawn needs every week. Assuming your lawn is well established, the average lawn needs one to three inches of water per week to stay green.

Where you live will figure into how many inches you need to supply.  If your area provides rain, you should cut back on watering. If it doesn’t, you will be watering more often.  For those with irregular rain patterns, which is most of us, then there will be a need to keep up with how much rain is falling.  Phoenix lawn care will require much more water than living on the rainy coast of North Carolina.

There are two tools that can help you become more precise in making an estimate. The first is probably familiar: a rain gauge. If you put it in a good place in your yard, you’ll have some idea of how much the sky is watering your lawn. Then you can calculate how much you need to do yourself.

The second tool is less well known. It is very simple like the rain gauge. It’s called a soil sampling tube. This allows you to measure how deep the water is penetrating the soil. Read on to see how you can use these two tools to make a decision on how long to run your oscillating sprinkler.

How Much Water Does Your Sprinkler Put Out?

Using your rain gauge, you can run your sprinkler and get a sense of how much water it gives out in a given period of time. This will take some experimentation since there are different settings on your device and different levels you can run your water to the sprinkler.

You can also use plastic containers of the same size. By using several in a row on both sides, you will get an accurate picture of how much is falling. You can also choose a time such as 10, 15 or 20 minutes and cut off the sprinkler there. Once you measure the water in the containers, you will have two figures: time and volume. 

While you are getting the hang of it, you can also get in the habit of using the soil sampling tube. If you don’t have one, try digging a small hole about the width of a screw driver. You can pull out some soil to see how deep the moisture goes. Is it wet two inches below the surface? If not, you probably need to water for another hour.

Final Decision

So, now you know how much water your oscillating sprinkler puts out in a given amount of time. If you can determine how much water your oscillating sprinkler is releasing every hour, you are almost there.

You know how many inches of water your lawn needs in a given week. Let’s say your sprinkler releases about half an inch an hour. Then it needs to run about two hours to deliver an inch of water. If you live in a hot climate, you will want to water longer. If you live in a rainy climate, you may cut back in relationship to how much water is in your rain gauge.

To make sure your watering is worthwhile, you should consider doing it at night. This will allow it to soak in. There are others who find early morning is just as good.
From time to time, use the soil sampling tube to check how deep the water is penetrating. This should give you a clear picture of whether your efforts are working or whether you need to increase the amount of water.

Dedicating yourself to watering at the right level will pay off in a more beautiful lawn. It will also ensure your summer grass comes back from year to year, reducing how often you’ll feel the need to sow new seed. 

Abigail Jones

Hi, I'm Abigail. I like spending time tearing my house apart and putting it together back again. Join me on home improvement tutorials, tips on my blog.

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