Conduct the all mighty finger test! The simplest test anyone can do. If you feel your plant is not doing well and concerned it is due to the amount of water provided, simply stick your finger in the soil. If it comes out muddy, then you know not to water it. If it comes out dry, then it is time to water.
It is a common mistake for people to think that if a plant is not doing well, or better yet for a plant to be healthier, is to water it more. On the contrary, overwatering is one of the most common mistakes homeowners and landscape companies make. Grass, trees and shrubs have (4) major necessities: sun, oxygen, water and nutrients. Overwatering induces weeds, increases soil compaction and soil runoff.
The best time to water is at first light.
Overwatering and under watering can both produce excessive weeds. Standing water induces nut grass that may or may have not been dormant for years in the soil. Many varieties of nut grass have become known to be the “most difficult weed to eradicate”. Once it begins to grow, it can and will take over large areas. Often times people do not notice it till it’s too late because it looks very similar to grass and by that time it has taken over.
Overwatering and irregular irrigation intervals can create soil compaction. Standing water breaks up the soil into finer sediment while the organics rise to the top and eventually wash away. Soil compaction then restricts oxygen and nutrient absorption by the plant and ironically enough WATER! The cause of the problem in the first place.
Excessive soil runoff can be simply be reduced by education and awareness of the issue. There are a couple of fancy terms to describe why the soil can easily be washed away; Evapotranspiration Rate and the less technical percolation or absorption rate. (If you would like to bore yourself further on these rates, please feel to look them up on the web.)
In layman’s terms, water or irrigate the landscape enough to saturate the area though stop prior to visible runoff. This will let you know what the absorption rate of you soil is. Let the water absorb into the soil. Repeat process when you begin to see the least drought tolerant plant in your landscape begin to wilt. Repeat process and then once again slightly prior to wilting of that same plant. That’s all! This way you know that you are not wasting water and that your plants are absorbing the maximum amount of moisture. Given the proper ratio of time/absorption/precipitation, your landscape will FLOURISH!
Here are a few basic tips to maximize your watering efficiency:
1. The best time to water is at first light.
2. Make sure all sprinklers are tight and not leaking water.
3. Make sure to utilize your “Seasonal Adjust” option on your irrigation timer.
4. Frequently observe system to ensure all components are working properly and to look for water runoff vs. absorption rate.
5. Add mulch to planting beds, this reduces watering needs by keeping soil moist. Mulch will also increase microbiological agents in the soil resulting in loose aerated soil to allow water to more readily be absorbed into soil.
- Andrew Kendall
Owner, Kendall Landscape Services LLC