The Ins & Outs of Irrigation

Your plants may be unwittingly perched on a tightrope when you water them. If you water them too much, you tip the balance one way and risk drowning their roots -- literally. But if you tip the balance in the other direction by under watering them, they "crash" -- a botanical term for severe wilting because they lack water. (Crashing isn't exactly a comfortable thought for human tightrope walkers, either.) Let the experts at The Grounds Guys® give you some tips to help balance your watering methods and keep your plants healthy and crash-free.

To keep your landscape plants properly watered, your primary considerations are:

Specific plant needs

Different plants have different water requirements, which makes irrigation a custom-designed plan -- one size doesn't fit all. Some plants, such as native plants, are more drought-tolerant than others. Backyard vegetable gardens and many annuals typically need lots of water.

Soil type

The perfect garden nirvana of soil types is loam, which is a fairly balanced blend of sand, silt and clay. This blend holds enough water to hydrate plant roots, but it also allows the soil to drain properly without becoming waterlogged. If the soil in your garden is sandy, you'll need to water more often. If you have clay soil, you can easily overwater your plants, which can drown plant roots or cause them to rot.

Irrigation method

Do you hand-water with a garden hose? Although this method allows you to give individual attention to plants, it's time-intensive. Automated irrigation systems, including overhead sprinklers, soaker hoses and drip systems, free up your time for other garden tasks and -- used properly -- they can boost the water-efficient use in your landscape.

Overhead (sprinkler) Systems

Advantages:

  • Hands-free operation
  • Can be connected to a timer
  • Saves valuable time compared to hand-watering

Disadvantages:

  • Typically use more water than ground-directed systems, particularly because much water evaporates before even reaching the ground
  • May create water runoff that can lead to erosion
  • Wets plant foliage, which can lead to plant diseases
  • If connected to a timer, a sprinkler comes on automatically even if it's raining unless you also purchase and install a soil-moisture sensor that works in tandem with the timer

Drip and Soaker Irrigation Systems

Advantages:

  • Hands-free operation
  • Typically use less water than overhead systems
  • Slow rate of water delivery minimizes water runoff and mitigates erosion
  • Efficiently delivers water directly to plant roots
  • Keeps water off foliage, which minimizes diseases

Disadvantages:

  • Soaker hoses and weep tapes can become clogged, requiring ongoing maintenance to unclog them
  • Tubing for drip emitters may become kinked or clogged, restricting the water flow
  • Additional cost for mulch to hide unsightly soaker hoses
  • Easier to install for plants, flower beds and islands that are close to a water source

Irrigation Tips and Techniques:

  • To maximize the efficiency of an irrigation system and conserve the most water, group plants with similar water requirements into zones -- separate the ones that are drought-tolerant from the ones that have higher water requirements.
  • Regardless of which system you use, know your plants' water needs.
  • If you install a soaker hose system, don't bury the hoses in the soil. But it's okay (and advised) to cover them with mulch.
  • Use a drip emitter system if you want to target specific plants without broadcasting water all over the landscape.
  • If you use an overhead sprinkler system, water plants in the morning so the foliage doesn't stay wet all night.

Don't let all the details of planning an efficient, cost-effective irrigation system overwhelm you. Call The Grounds Guys with any questions you have -- we're here to help!

Categories: Landscape

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