Watering your lawn and garden is essential for healthy, attractive plant growth. However, if you water incorrectly, you end up wasting time, money and water. Also, watering your lawn or garden at the wrong times or in the wrong way can end up doing more harm than good.
With any watering plan, your first priority is to conserve as much water as possible:
Water in the morning or late afternoon whenever possible. Water applied at midday evaporates at a much higher rate and night-time watering encourages diseases and molds.
Choose native and drought-resistant plants. They are more likely to thrive in your yard without additional watering.
Limit your water-intensive plantings to just a few areas of your yard. Keep water-intensive zones close to your home, on porches and decks or in showy spots in your overall landscape.
Minimize hand watering. Use sprinklers, soaker hoses or drip irrigation systems, all of which release water slowly and allow it to seep down to the roots of plants with less evaporation and runoff.
Apply 2 to 4 inches of mulch around flowers, trees and shrubs. Mulch keeps roots cooler and slows evaporation.
Don’t mow too short. Taller grass reduces moisture loss and discourages weeds.
Choosing the Right Watering System
Different watering tools work best in specific situations. Choose the best watering options for your yard or garden:
Oscillating sprinklers are appropriate for watering lawns or vegetable gardens. Their biggest advantage is that they can be moved to any spot in your yard.
Soaker or drip hoses snake through a garden or vegetable bed, releasing water slowly so it can seep into roots. Some gardeners like to keep the same soaker hose in a bed all season.
Rain barrels collect roof runoff for later hand-watering with watering cans or hose. Be sure to investigate the regulations in your area for gathering rain water.
Irrigation systems typically consist of buried plastic water supply pipes, pop-up sprinkler heads and an electrically powered timer to start and stop water flow. Although they take some planning and set-up, irrigation systems offer years of easy, automatic watering.
Using the Right Amount of Water
Whatever watering system you choose, pay attention to how often you water and how much water you use:
- New plants generally need more water than established plants. Water new grass once or twice daily for the first week, then once weekly after that for the first growing season. Watering should be limited after that.
- Water deeply but infrequently. Many lawn grasses and garden plants will do well with about one inch of water per week. If Mother Nature doesn't supply enough rain, make up the difference with a sprinkler or irrigation system. Avoid frequent light waterings, which discourage deep root growth. Overwatering can waterlog plants or run off the soil without soaking in. If you're not sure how much water equals one inch, put out a rain gauge when you water.
- Invest in a timer. These devices attach to your faucet or sprinkler and release a specific quantity of water or run for a specific amount of time.
- Take care of containers. Plants in containers dry out more easily and require ongoing watering. Choose large containers or ones with reservoirs in the bottom to minimize constant watering. Also, fill containers with potting mixes specifically designed for potted plants.