It’s more than a nice feeling to have a lush lawn and showy flower beds — it’s a solid investment in your home. In fact, according to some estimates, landscaping accounts for about 18 percent of the value of your home. But it’s important to be savvy about watering so that your investment doesn’t go down the drain. How much should you water and how often? What methods will cause your landscape to thrive without costing a fortune?
Invest in an irrigation system. Having a professionally designed and installed irrigation system beats dragging the hose and sprinkler around the yard. A professionally designed system will cover your lawn and beds uniformly. Set the control panel to water at the proper time of day for the correct length of time and at regular intervals throughout the week. You’ll waste far less water, save money and save yourself a lot of time.
How long to run the system. How much water do your plants need? Too much water can harm the plants, but water too lightly and you risk your plants and lawn having shallow roots that make them vulnerable to summer heat. Plant roots wick the water up when the first four to six inches of soil becomes saturated. Know your soil. Sandy or loose soils drain water away more quickly than clay-based soils. Set each sector of your system to run long enough to hear a slight squish of wet soil when you step on it.
How often to run the system. Determining factors include the season of the year and in which part of the country you live. During the winter months in northern states with snow, no watering is needed. In southern states the root systems still need moisture in winter, so if you don’t get regular rain, water a few times a month. During the growing season of spring and into summer, especially when the heat cranks up, schedule your system to run just as the plants are starting to wilt but don’t allow the plants to go into distress. In southern climates, you will likely water more frequently, especially in the dog days of summer, but those states also are prone to having water restriction schedules, so be mindful of the rules to avoid a hefty fine.
Best time of day to water. Watering overnight can cause the lawn to stay wet too long and cause disease. Watering during the heat of the day means much of the water evaporates before it can do any good. The best time to water is around sunrise.
More tips and tricks. Mow your grass high. Cutting too low weakens the root system and stresses the grass in summer heat. Be sure to periodically check your system by running shorter test cycles. Broken sprinkler heads can send water straight up or out into the street. Watch to make sure the spray patterns are providing even coverage with no gaps. Adjust heads or call your installer for help. Finally, layer your planting beds with three to four inches of quality mulch to preserve moisture and insulate root systems from winter cold and summer heat.