Many of us think of the Pacific Northwest as rainy and damp…after all, we consider ourselves the “Moss Capital” of the world. However, did you know that in the summer we annually receive less rainfall than Tucson, Arizona? It’s true!
So you’ve probably heard the rule that lawns and gardens need 1” of water a week. So what does that mean? Do you need to take a tuna fish can of water to each marigold every week? Do you water your lawn until the sprinkler fills a tuna can every week? Well, let’s divide the information into three pieces.
- Watering Basic Information
- Lawn/Ornamental Plantings
- Seasonal Garden/Planters.
WATERING BASIC INFORMATION.
- 1” per week is a good place to start but is definitely not an absolute. An established maple tree will not need nearly as much water as a newly planted tree. But plantings directly under a mature stand of fir trees will need more water.
- The water needs to penetrate into the soil; yet not drain away immediately. If you see puddles or runoff you may need to water in shorter spurts so the water can penetrate where you want it to go. If the soil seems to dry out almost as soon as you turn off the water you may need to put down water more often, or consider adding organic matter or mulching to help retain the water.
- Try to water in the early morning, if possible. Many more good things happen when you can water early, such as:
- Less evaporation
- Leaves are dry by nightfall. This will help with fungus problems especially on plants like roses, pumpkins, squash, etc.
- You will not burn plants if they have water on the leaves during the heat of the day if all you are putting on is water. If you use a liquid fertilizer, the chemical solution can do some serious damage if the sun shines down through the water on a leaf.
- Try to keep newly planted trees and shrubs from showing any signs of water stress during their first year. After they have established a strong deep root system they will require much less water.
- Use your hands to check for moisture in the soil. It’s okay for the top 1” to 2” to be dry in most cases. You should find some moisture below this level. The soil does not need to be “WET”, just moist. Most plant roots will follow the water down at least to that depth. If you water so frequently that the plant only builds a root system that is in the top ½” to 1” then when the really warm weather comes and you miss a few days on your regular schedule (like a vacation) the plants will be water stressed.
- Use some form of mulch to hold moisture in the soil wherever you can. The layer between the soil and the bottom of the mulch can be a huge help in holding moisture especially in vegetable gardens and other seasonal plantings. Just make sure the top of the mulch does not get crusty and start shedding water.
- Adjust the spray pattern of your sprinkler. Remember the 1” rule does not apply to driveways, buildings or most pathways.
- The 1” per week rule does include what water Mother Nature might apply on her own.
- The basics apply to pretty much all watering situations but should be adapted to your particular situation.
The 1” a week rule works well for lawns. Be aware of how much water your lawn can absorb at one time. You may need to apply small amounts in multiple times to avoid runoff issues.
- If you want to water every day.
- Water for shorter periods
- Be aware you may setting your lawn up for some stress if it does not get watered even just for a few days in a row during periods of high temperatures.
- You may have a higher incident of lawn disease.
- Watering less frequently in August and September can help with control of crane fly, as the eggs will die if the soil around them dries out.
- If the weather is dry and hot enough, your lawn is likely going to go into a dormant state. This means it will turn brown despite your best efforts. If your lawn goes dormant the 1” a week rule becomes 1” to 2” a month just as a support measure and your lawn will come out of its dormant state as the weather cools and natural moisture returns to the soil.
- Keeping established ornamental beds watered is relatively easy.
- Consider using organic mulches to hold moisture in the soil.
- Plantings under mature fir or spruce trees may need more water during hot weather as the extensive root systems of these trees will suck the water out almost as fast as you can put it down. These types of beds are good candidates for drip irrigation systems or spot watering the individual plants.
- Watch the plants in these beds; they will tell you when they need water.
- If you use the 1” a week rule on newly planted beds while being aware of how the soil in your beds absorbs or does not absorb water, you should be in good shape. Just make sure the new plants do not get into a situation where they are stressed for water from the heat of summer and you should be good.
- Planters are very personal but here are some tips
- Know what you have in the planter and keep the proper moisture level. Geraniums like to dry out between watering’s. Fuchsias like to be consistently moist but not soggy.
- Fertilize on a regular basis. I use ½ strength of the package directions and water every week.
- Make sure the planter is in the correct sun exposure for what is in the planter.
- Gardens (primarily Veggies)
- Water in the morning to help reduce fungus problems.
- Water less often but deeply. The 1” a week rule works well here but you will almost certainly have plants that need more water. The water needs of many plants will change as the fruit matures or the blooms peak.
- Mulch, Mulch, Mulch
So there you have some ideas on how to keep up with the water needs of your garden and lawn. And if you need hoses, sprinklers, and nozzles or help putting together a drip system, any one of our experts in a WFC Garden Center can help you get it done. Stop by…we’re happy to help!