Watering your yard may seem simple. If you have a sprinkler system, you just set the timer and forget it. If you have a sprinkler on the end of a garden hose, you have the added chore of lugging it around the yard. Same with soaker and bubbler hoses.
Keeping a green yard requires thought and effort.
First, you need to know what kind of grass you have. Different varieties have different requirements. For example, Bermuda and Augustine do well in the South, while fescue and bluegrass prefer the northern climates. If you don’t have a good grasp on grass, find someone who does. Ask a knowledgeable friend or call a pro.
Once you know your grass, a little research will tell you how much water it needs. A good rule of thumb is that 1 inch of water per week from rain or irrigation will moisten the ground down to 6 or 8 inches. A trick to knowing how deep the water reaches is to shove a long screwdriver into it and measure how far down it goes before you hit hard dry soil.
What kind of soil you have will determine how often you need to water. A loose, sandy soil may need water three times a week to stay moist while a clay-rich soil may need it only once. Somebody at your garden center will know what kind of soil is prevalent in your area. You can also ask your local extension service to test it for you.
Pick your watering times wisely. If you turn your sprinklers on in the heat of a summer day, much of that water is going to evaporate into thin air. It’s tempting to set the watering time for overnight when cooler temperatures prevail and to avoid hosing down the neighbor walking her Shih Tzu — but it’s actually bad for your lawn. The ground stays wet longer at night and can become a breeding ground for harmful fungi and bacteria.
The absolute best time is in the morning when the sun is warming things up, but before it’s high enough to start baking your yard. The evening before dark is your second-best choice.
Automatic watering systems set on a timer are the easiest and most thorough way to irrigate. But these systems come with their own problems, the most common of which are leaks that may occur underground and waste your water and money. Broken sprinkler heads are another nuisance that can turn a spray into a geyser. Unless your system is equipped with a sensor, it may water merrily away in a downpour.
Proper placement and correct alignment are important, whether you have an irrigation system or drag around a hose and sprinkler. Water that runs down the curb into a gutter is wasted, and no matter how much water you put on your sidewalk, it’s unlikely to grow.
Grass needs water to live, but most varieties have a built-in instinct for survival. They can survive a dry season by simply going dormant (turning yellow) and then green up when the rain comes. Most of the yard watering we do is for the aesthetic pleasure of having an emerald-green lawn.
Outdoor ornamentals may need special care when it comes to watering. You need to keep an even closer eye on outdoor potted plants. They have less soil around them to retain moisture. You can save water and energy by planting drought-tolerant plants and flowers. Plants that are native to your area will also need less maintenance.
Trees with a few years of maturity are wise to the weather and sink their roots deep enough to tap into groundwater. If they do need water, apply it around the drip line — the outermost circumference of the branches — not near the trunk.
Keep in mind that some communities that are experiencing drought have watering restrictions. Check them out and abide by them. A fine is not the kind of citation you want for your award-worthy landscape!