Water Strategies for April into May

Below is a copy of the Designscapes Colorado and ALCC’s Tip of the Week:

Recent heavy snows have gotten us off the hook for watering our lawns for awhile.

Still, the growing season and watering restrictions are just around the corner.  Here are early-season watering tips:

  • You won’t need to water until well into May, depending on the amount of precipitation in your area and the weather.  Check plants that get a lot of sun and don’t water until the soil starts to dry out.  If a screwdriver inserts easily into the soil, don’t water yet.
  • Don’t water just because you can – it’s OK to skip your watering day.  Spring is when the grass roots need to be trained to grow deep in search of water – over-watering only makes the roots lazy and less drought-hardy.
  • Know what kinds of sprinkler heads you have on your system and set the timer to water accordingly.  

With the weekend warm-up, this is a good time to get to know your sprinkler system better than ever.  If you can only water twice a week, you need to make it count by knowing your water delivery system well.  
In one minute of time, different kinds of sprinklers will put out different amounts of water.  If you don’t know the difference between one that quickly puts down 2-3 gallons a minute and the one that emits only a half gallon, you will over water and waste water.  Or, you will under-water and stress your plants.    
Know basic difference among these three common types of sprinklers before you set the timer.

Spray heads

– emit the most water over one area in the shortest time. They spray one area continuously (they don’t turn).   In one minute, they emit 2-3 gallons of water and it all falls within one small area.  Running these heads too long will give the soil more water than it can drink in and you’ll have water running down the street.

Rotor heads – oscillate back and forth.  Because they’re constantly moving across the lawn, it takes more time to water the lawn thoroughly.  This is why you need to set the timer to run longer in the areas with rotor heads.

Drip emitters – not for lawns – but the most efficient way to water veggies, flowers, shrubs and trees.  Small tubes on top of the soil emit water very slowly, but very efficiently because no water is lost in the wind and there’s little evaporation.  Areas watered with drip need a much longer operating time.  In many areas, drip irrigation is exempt from the twice-per-week watering restriction for annual flowers and veggies.  That’s another plus for drip.

Cycle and soak is the best way to water
Rather than setting the timer to water each part of the landscape only one time on your designated day, water each area more than once, but for a shorter amount of time in each cycle.  Scheduling multiple cycles, but with shorter times in each cycle, allows the water to settle into the soil and provides more thorough watering.  That’s an efficient use of water and it keeps more water in the soil where the plants can use it.

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