Proper Irrigation For Your Lawn and Garden Needs
Updated: Aug 22, 2020
Over my six years of operating EcoQuiet Lawn Care LLC, I have witnessed various methods of watering for homes and commercial properties. Some of them are suboptimal to the point that they create massive issues for organic lawn care and ease of maintaining garden beds. Here, I hope to clarify my preferred methods of watering for three subjects: lawns, gardens, and new plantings.
The thing that keeps me up at night is crabgrass. It’s the biggest issue when creating a weed-free lawn. A homeowner might ask me, “Why do I have so much crabgrass?” and time and again it’s due to short and frequent watering methods. Many homeowners like to do 10-15 minutes of everyday watering, but that should only be for newly germinating lawns as it does just that: germination. The issue is that germination in the middle of June, July and August germinates weeds.
So how much time should you water for, and how often? Cool-season grasses that we use in New England, such as fescues and ryegrasses, want to develop deep roots. This means it’s best to do a deep soak for as long as an hour per zone to create deep roots and let the moister stay under the surface level. This promotes deep roots and fewer weeds. (Note that one exception to this is Kentucky bluegrass, which may need shorter waterings two to three days a week due to shallow roots.)
Here’s the seasonal breakdown:
Spring: deep watering once a week if needed (depending on rain; normally springs are wet enough for the lawn to maintain itself).
Summer: deep waterings once or twice a week, minimum 30 minutes per zone.
Note: summer is the best time for overseeding, especially the end of August. After overseeding, do one deep watering to start, then follow up with 10-15 minutes of watering two to three times a day until the grass germinates. After that, wean off the grass to deeper waterings once or twice a week. Do not just cut to once a week right away.
Fall: once a week deep watering just like spring.
Gardens need similar waterings. Deep waterings are the desired goal. Thus, sprinklers are about the worst method possible. Switch to either drip line, drip emitters, or if by hand, let the hose run at a trickle for 20 - 40 minutes to soak the rootball then let it dry out and breathe.
Sprinklers germinate weeds such as crabgrass and provide me with massive amounts of income due to refusal of people to change the methods of watering. If you overwater, the risk is that pathogens like Phytophthora - Greek for “the plant destroyer” - will rot the roots and leave the pathogen in the soil for multiple years which could potentially ruin any chances to plant that species for years to come. Furthermore, less damaging but still unsightly foliar pathogens such as apple cedar rust or other fungi can be stimulated by sprinklers, which leave the foliage blighted and generally looking bad. To sum things up, remove your sprinklers in your garden and fork out some cash for the proper system.
New plants such as shrubs, perennials, and ornamental grasses need a deep watering every other day or every three days until developed.
Established plants should get a deep watering (30 minutes to one hour) once a week.
The ground cover might need to be watered via sprinklers for the first season, but try to reduce the watering as soon as it is established to prevent your landscaper from reaping in the cash, or for that matter your chiropractor. Let’s eliminate the need for unnecessary weeding.
I hope this will help you reduce the number of weeds you’re up against and reduce your water bill for the year.