Now that water restrictions are in effect for many of us living on the Front Range, it’s a good idea to be proactive with your yard care this spring. One thing you can do is start to water consistently now.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not promoting overwatering. I realize we’re in a drought and we all need to conserve our precious water supplies. However, it is a good idea to drag the hose out and start carefully recharging the soil moisture as the plants are coming out of dormancy.
Why should you start watering? Isn’t everything dormant?
No. Lot’s of plants have started greening up already, including Kentucky bluegrass lawns. Once the soil temperature rises to 40 degrees F, many plant roots start to become active. These warm spring days start to signal plants that the end of winter is near.
If there is moisture in the soil when they come out of dormancy, they’ll grow a strong healthy flush of roots. It’s these very roots that can help landscape plants cope better with hot, dry periods in mid-summer. If the soil is dry in spring, these roots won’t form as well, which can cause plants to be more vulnerable in July and August.
By watering, you moisten the soil which promotes healthy spring root growth. My experience is by watering early, you can water less later on, especially with perennials, groundcovers and ornamental grasses.
I haven’t yet turned on my sprinkler system. How should I be watering?
If you’re in a community with two day per week watering restrictions, first figure out which days you can water. You can use a sprinkler on the end of a hose to water lawn areas. Before you turn on the sprinkler, put out 3 identical cups in the area you’re going to water. Run the sprinkler long enough to collect about 1/2 inch depth of water in the cups. Move the sprinkler around to a different area and repeat the process until you’ve covered all lawn areas.
I prefer to use a soaker hose for non-lawn plantings like flower beds, shrub borders, tree areas and mixed borders. Simply wind the soaker hose through the area, turn up the spigot just enough to allow it to drip slowly for about an hour. Turn the hose off and repeat in other areas as needed.
Wait 24 hours and use a soil probe or trowel to see how deeply the water moved in the soil. Ultimately, you want to water long enough to wet the soil 8-12 inches deep (shallower for smaller plants and deeper for shrubs and trees). Through trial and error, you can figure out how long you’ll need to water.
These two methods can at least get some moisture in the soil until you turn on your sprinkler system. Even though it seems early to start watering consistently, wetting the soil early will pay off later in the summer. Just remember to not overwater in order to safeguard our water supplies.