Many clients will tell me that they want to “water in deep” their lawn and landscape. I know and understand the concept and they know what they would like to accomplish. I agree with the concept however the reality of making this happen can be a challenge. Deep watering is irrigating enough to fill the root zone of turf and plants to saturation. Here are a few misconceptions about deep watering:
- Many soils in many parts of Long Island cannot accept a one time deep watering. Especially heavy clay soils because clay particles are small and flat and do not allow water to easily infiltrate.
- Some plants and most lawns do not have deep roots.
- Most plants do not search out water. They do not have that ability.
- Deep watering leaches out valuable nutrients.
- Many plants, especially trees and indigenous plants do fine with minimal amount of watering and can survive extended periods of dry weather without the onetime big blast of water.
There are many factors I consider when I program a sprinkler system such as:
- Lawn vs. trees & shrubs
- Sunny vs. shaded areas
- Clay soil vs. sandy soil
Lawns need more water than trees, clay soils hold more water than sandy soils, and sunny areas need more frequent watering than shaded areas. I recommend heavy watering for lawns in sunny areas with sandy soils vs. short duration watering for trees in shady clay soils. In the heat of the summer, you could be looking at watering 60 minutes/ day for lawn vs. 10 minutes 3x/ week for trees. Those are two extremes that are not that uncommon for residential systems.
The best and most efficient watering that I can recommend is the cycle & soak method. This is my preferred method as it makes the most efficient use of available water. Lawn & plants thrive the best when they have the correct amount of water- not too much and not to little. Constant watering with little saturation promotes weak plants with little root growth. Too much water in the wrong soil runs off or displaces too much oxygen and drowns the plant.
It’s simple; all I want is to match the amount of water your plant needs with the amount of water the soil will allow, controlled with the amount of water the sprinkler system applies. This method works for all types of sprinkler equipment; rotary sprinklers, spray sprinklers, and drip irrigation.
To cycle & soak you divide the total amount of water required by plants in minutes divided by the infiltration rate of the soil e.g. 0.3” per 60 minutes to give you the # of cycles.
To cycle and soak take the amount of minutes you require to water per day and divide it into 2 or three cycles and have a few hours separation between cycles.
Example: let’s say you need 60 minutes of water per zone per day. If you let the zone run for 60 minutes and you notice that water puddles up after 20 minutes and begins to run off property. You determine that you absolutely require 60 minutes of watering to keep you plants or lawn alive. OK then divide 20 minutes into 60 minutes then you need 3 cycles. Start the cycles with a few hours separation between cycles. First cycle can start at 4am; the next cycle can start at 8am, and last can start at 11am. As long as there is a buffer of time between cycles you should be ok and watering will this way will allow infiltration into soil making for a healthier landscape!
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