by Mark Wolfe

When summer arrives and the spring rains dry up, watering is an important part of maintaining a healthy landscape. There is no need to break the bank to keep your plants alive. Use smart watering techniques and technology to keep your lawn and garden hydrated and minimize waste.

Why Water

Watering is done for one of two reasons: either as maintenance or damage control. The primary goal of watering is to maintain the soil moisture reserve for plants to uptake throughout the day(s) until the next rain or irrigation event. This is maintenance. Damage control is when plants have begun to show signs of stress such as wilt or brown leaves, because the soil is already dry, and you have to play “catch up.” Drought damage can have long term effects, and may invite insect or disease infestation.


Water Early

The best time to irrigate is in the wee hours of morning, from an hour or so before sunrise until around 9 a.m. At this time of day, little water is lost to evaporation. Midday watering with traditional sprinkler systems can result in greater than 40% loss to the atmosphere! Watering in the morning also avoids having plants with wet foliage overnight, which could lead to fungal infection.


Water Enough

Most lawns, annual flower beds and vegetable gardens require about an inch of water per week during the growing season. Established plantings should receive these amounts over the course of two or three water events. Do not continue watering past the point of runoff.

To gauge how long to run your sprinkler, simply place several straight sided containers of the same size (tin cans for instance) around the area, and run the sprinklers fifteen minutes. The average depth of water in the cans tells you the average output for your system, whether a sprinkler system or a hose with a sprinkler device attached. Multiply that number by 4 to get your output per hour. Use that information to figure how many times and for how long you need to run your sprinkler.


Adjust For Rainfall

When it rains, irrigation should be interrupted. Use a rain gauge to determine how much (if any) additional water you may need to apply. Quick cloudbursts may be deceiving: if it wasn’t absorbed, it didn’t count.

Tech Helps

  • If you have a sprinkler system.
    • Inspect the system for problems annually, before seasonal startup.
    • Convert individual heads or zones as needed, from turf rotors to more appropriate delivery methods such as drip, mist, soaker, etc.
    • Use a rain sensor to interrupt the regular irrigation schedule when wet weather blows in.
    • Winterize the system before cold weather arrives.
  • If you don’t have a sprinkler system:
    • Use a shutoff timer on your hose. These are available as simple mechanical “egg timer” type devices, or high tech digital models.
    • Use soaker hoses in flower and vegetable gardens, and around trees and shrubs. Soil soakers allow the water to penetrate deeply and precisely where the hoses are placed.
    • Use a water wand or watering can with a showerhead-type spout for watering outdoor containers. These devices break the flow of water, allowing it to saturate soil more efficiently than a solid stream. Use the Aerocart Water Bag accessory when watering away from the reach of a hose.

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