First posted on 06-28-2012
Now that summer has officially started, many gardening enthusiasts are wondering how much water is enough when the temperatures are in the 90s and even triple digits.
Knowing when and how much to water is just as important as the watering process, said David Hillock, Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension consumer horticulture specialist.
“A minimum of one inch of water per week is usually required to maintain optimum growth of most plants,” Hillock said. “This will obviously vary depending on the type of plants, the type of soil and weather conditions. We are already at consistent temperatures of upper 90s and low 100s, and two or more inches of water may be necessary. Hopefully we won’t experience the drought conditions we did in 2011.”
It is important to know exactly how much water a sprinkler produces in a given amount of time. This will help gardeners determine the amount of time needed to irrigate to the correct depth. Gardeners who are on city water systems pay for the water they use, so in an effort to keep the cost down, it is important to know how much you are using.
Hillock said one way to do this is to take straight-sided cans and place them randomly under the sprinkler pattern. About half a dozen cans are sufficient. Turn on the sprinkler and let it run for about 15 minutes. Turn off the water, and using a ruler, measure the amount of water in each can. Average these numbers together to determine how much the watering system is putting out.
If the average is a quarter of an inch and gardeners need to irrigate one inch, the sprinkler will have to run for one hour.
“It’s important to keep in mind the type of soil you have in your garden because some soils don’t absorb water as readily as others,” he said. “If the water begins to puddle, the soil isn’t absorbing the water as quickly as it’s being applied. Gardeners may need to water in shifts in order to get the optimum irrigation depth.”
Another tool available to help the homeowner manage his or her irrigation system is the “Simple Irrigation Plan” or SIP. This interactive tool helps homeowners determine when and how long they need to water based on choices made by the homeowners and the database that collects local weather information. To use this tool go to http://sip.mesonet.org.
When planting a garden, Hillock said it is a good idea to group plants together according to their moisture requirements. This will help ensure that the plants get the required moisture when it is time to irrigate.
While some plants require consistently moist soils to maintain optimum growth, other plants are more drought tolerant and may prefer drier soil.
“Plants that require little water are good candidates for areas that are difficult to reach or water,” Hillock said. “The amount of water needed in the landscape can be reduced by downsizing the areas landscaped with plants that have a high need for water. Plants that require a lot of water should be placed closer to the home where watering isn’t as difficult.”
Drip or soaker hose systems are more efficient than regular sprinkler systems. Drip and soaker hoses keep the water at ground level and put the water right where gardeners want it to go. A lot of water from a sprinkler system can be lost due to runoff, evaporation and wind.
“You might also try watering early in the morning when the temperature isn’t as high and the wind is lower. This will help reduce evaporation,” he said. “Following these tips will help ensure a healthy garden throughout the summer months.”
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