General Tips

Less is More - More damage is typically caused to our landscapes from over-watering than from under-watering. When setting up your schedules, be conservative to start and add more time if needed.  Avoid just assuming that stressed plants need more water.  Instead, first probe the soil around them using a moisture meter or screwdriver to determine whether the soil is dry.

Losing its Spring - If grass springs back quickly when you walk in it, it probably doesn’t need water yet.  When footprints remain after you walk across the lawn, it’s a sign that it could use more water. 

Mowing Magic - Set your mower to one of the highest settings.  Longer grass has larger surfaces to carry out photosynthesis, which results in healthier plants.  This can also prevent weeds from germinating—and in turn reduces the need for herbicides.  Leave a thin layer of grass clippings on the lawn after mowing too.  You’ll reduce fertilizer and water needs by recycling nitrogen and moisture.

Take Control – Correct irrigation scheduling is essential in irrigating efficiently.  This includes setting an appropriate watering schedule initially, and adjusting it throughout the watering season to meet changing weather conditions.  While watering just a few extra minutes may seem minor, when it is done with multiple sprinkler zones several days a week, it can result in significant excess water use.

Sprinkling Strategies – Small differences in how long and how often you run sprinklers can make a big difference in your ability to maintain a healthy landscape while minimizing water use.

  • Many sprinklers (especially standard spray sprinklers) apply water much more quickly than it can absorb into clay soils that are common in our region. Running sprinklers longer just results in water running off, drowning low spots while other areas remain dry.  Dividing watering time into two or more short cycles, separated by an hour or two (cycle and soak watering) can enable water to soak in before more water is applied. This results in beneficial deep watering and deeper healthy roots.

  • The same sprinkling schedule usually won’t work for your entire landscape. Sunny areas need more water than areas in the shade, and different sprinkler types apply water very differently. Shrubs also tend to need 1/3 to 2/3 as much water as lawn and with more robust root systems, benefit from less frequent but deep sprinkling.

  • Instead of adding watering time to an entire sprinkler zone due to a few dry spots, try to determine why the areas are dry and try some modifications.  Maybe a sprinkler isn’t working right or the soil in that area needs aeration or amending.  Another easy solution is to occasionally water the small dry areas for 10 to 15 minutes with a hose-end sprinkler.  Use a timer attached to the hose bib to make manual watering more convenient and without worries about forgetting to shut off the water.

Spring and Fall Irrigation - temperatures may occasionally be quite warm, but with shorter days than mid-summer, water needs can be a third less than they’d be with the same temperatures in July. We also tend to receive some rain in the spring and fall, so modify watering schedules frequently as weather changes.

Next - Watering Device Types