Water Requirements for Grass, Plants and Soil.

You know, I just kind of write these blogs as you folks, our clients, call in with questions on so many of the different phases of the landscape industry, and I have to admit that I am sure learning a lot about what you guys want. So thanks so much for the input!

I want to discuss the water requirements for plants and grass. It’s that time of year and man, is this year different than most. Yes it’s cool and a little wet, but it’s getting late, and although it may seem like it’s still winter the days are longer and the sun is warmer so it doesn’t take long to dry out your plants and grass.

Lawn watering

My rule of thumb is when I walk on a lawn I like to feel the lawn under my feet, kind of like feeling the road with a BMW or Porsche, but I wouldn’t know much about that since I’ve never owned one – oh, ya talk to my brother about that and he could tell you.... If I can feel the soil under the lawn push down just a little then I can judge the amount of water to adjust on the automatic controller running the system. Remember that watering is all about the soil under the grass and how deep the roots are. Use the heel of your foot and walk the lawn every day and you will get good at it.

Plant Materials

Plants are different from grass; they need less water because the roots are in the ground deeper than grass roots. When watering plants, look at the slope of the grass. If the grass slopes toward the plants in a certain area, chances are those plants will not need as much as the other side of the yard above the grass. The water from the lawn may be enough to water them.

It is really important when you install a new water system or adjust your current one that it covers the areas that it is intended for, grass, plants, shade and full sun areas.

Watering Schedule

For grass, the ideal schedule is to water thoroughly through the root zone. The problem with this is most folks’ roots are so shallow that after about 5 minutes of watering, the water is already past the root zone and running onto the street, or has so thoroughly saturated the clay soil it cannot handle any more water and runs off onto the plants, street or soaks the foundation of your house, or your neighbors’. Ideally, 8 to 10 minutes is more than enough for most lawns once per day or every other day. If the soil is really bad and the roots very shallow (and, unfortunately, this is the case with most lawns ), some controllers have a cycle and soak setting on the clock which allows you to set a schedule at 2 to 3 minute intervals. If not, there are usually 3 to 4 start times on program A, B or C. You can set your controller to start on that lawn station and water it for 2 to 3 minutes, 2 or 3 times per day and less water will be wasted.

Plants will do well with 1 or 2 waterings per week depending on soil conditions. Check by taking a shovel and making a deep slice at the root zone or drip line of the plant opening up the root area, allowing you to determine if there is water and how much at the roots.

In Conclusion...

I carry a shovel in my truck when checking maintenance accounts to determine how much water is needed, and our crews will check them every week and report back on the condition of the soil, plants and grass.

The most important thing is to know your soil. This takes time and it’s called maintenance. People constantly tell me they want a low maintenance yard. Well I’m sorry to break the news to you but there is no such thing as a low maintenance yard in Oregon with our year round season. So good luck, and if you are tired of maintaining your yard give us a call!


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