As June slowly but surely moves toward the hottest part of summer, hot and dry weather is anticipated for an extended period, and people’s thoughts inevitably turn to watering their yards. But how much is too much, and how much is enough? The answer will not only make a difference in the way your lawn looks, but it also will make an impact on water bills.
During times of drought, there may be restrictions that limit the amount of outside watering allowed in your community. Regardless of how often you are able to water, one good rule is to avoid watering during the heat of the day, when high temperatures lead to increased evaporation. The best practice is to water early in the morning, when the air temperature is cooler. That means less water will evaporate and more will be retained to help nourish your yard.
An added benefit is that by not overwatering, you help preserve valuable water resources for the future.
Texas A&M AgriLife Extension says more than 50 percent of landscape water is wasted due to overwatering, inefficient watering and irrigation systems that are not working properly.
“A healthy yard needs less water than you may think,” according to AgriLife. “Early morning is considered the best time to water. The wind is usually calm and the temperature is low, so less water is lost to evaporation. The worst time to water is late evening because the lawn stays wet all night, making it more susceptible to disease.”
An easy way to help determine how long to water, according to AgriLife, is to place small containers or cans, such as tuna fish cans, in your yard in each watering zone. After watering for 15 minutes in each zone of your yard, measure the depth of the water in the can using a ruler, and then write down the measurements. You then multiply this by four (example, 1.5 inches times 4), and the result s tells you what the equivalent hourly precipitation rate would be (1.5 inches of water in the can would equal 6 inches in an hour).
You can visit Argillite’s Weather Data website (www.texaset.tamu.edu) to determine recommended run times for your sprinkler system. You should also know what type of grass you have (St. Augustine, Bermuda, etc.), because this is also a factor that helps determine the necessary watering time.
The Texas Water Development Board notes that established plants do well in the summer if watered once per week, especially if there is mulch placed around them. New plants require more frequent watering when the plant is becoming established.
To reduce runoff, TWDB recommends using groundcovers on sloping sites. Other methods to reduce runoff include low-output sprinkler heads, bubblers or drip irrigation systems. These systems take longer to saturate the ground, but lose less water to evaporation. Watering deeply and less frequently helps to promote better-established root systems. TWDB also recommends irrigating trees, shrubs and other types of landscape separately from turf grass, because those plants have different water requirements. More information is available here.
By following tips from AgriLife and the TDWB, you can make sure you are watering in the right amount where it is needed.