It’s time to think about turning on our irrigation systems. Now is a good time to give them a test run for the season and make sure everything is running well. Fine-tuning your irrigation has big impacts on both the quality of your yard and your water bills. Rainfall has been abundant, but will likely taper off soon.


source: weather-us.com

So, how much and how often should I water? Some choose to let their grass go dormant over the summer. Dormant grass just needs about 1″ of water per month. If your goal is to keep your lawn green (not let it go dormant-brown) then it is recommended to water 1″ per week total, between rainfall and irrigation. Time to calibrate our sprinklers…

If you don’t know the water output of your irrigation system, you can set out a shallow dish, such as a tin can, and measure the depth of water after your sprinklers have run for 30 minutes, and adjust accordingly. It can be helpful to check a few different points in your yard. We advocate for a fine-tuned system because 1″ of water over 1,000 sq ft is 625 gallons.

It is important to water less frequently and deeper, rather than to water daily. This method ensures that water gets to the plant root zone and beyond, and encourages the plants to reach further into the soil to obtain water. A deeper root structure gives lawns the advantage of being able to access more water and more nutrients. For lawns, we recommend 2 to 3 waterings per week for established lawns (more than 2 years old). If you’re able to fine-tune your irrigation system, we also recommend a specific technique.

One very effective technique of using water efficiently is called “Cycle and Soak.”  Because watering infrequently causes the upper soil surface to crust over and not readily accept water, this method applies water in pulses. The initial pulse helps soften the surface crust allowing subsequent pulses to penetrate into the soil.

We water a little…

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And then we wait…

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We have found the best results if each watering day is applied in three equal pulses. Our in-field experience says to allow a 15-60 minute pause in between pulses. It is pretty common that we would program an irrigation system to run through each zone and then start right back over with the next cycle. This normally falls between our 15 minute and 1-hour threshold.

For more information on Cycle and Soaking, Rain Bird has a nice summary at Smart Watering by Rain Bird

We hope this post will help you achieve the green lawn you are desiring, the deeper root zone we are looking for, and keep your water bills moderate. Don’t forget, our lawn grasses are designed by Nature to go dormant in our dry season so while your HOA may have a problem with that, your lawn will recover nicely once the rains come back. If you do decide to let your lawn go dormant it still needs 1″ of water per month which is a normal year will be supplied by natural rainfall.

Additionally, if you’re looking to save money in the long-term, you can consider switching over to a Highly Efficient watering system and a drought-tolerant lawn. Drought-tolerant lawn alternatives, like this Fleur de Lawn seed mix, are a mixture of grass and low-growing plants that don’t need as much water to thrive:

Happy Summer Solstice!

Earthdance Organics
Servicing South King, Pierce, and Thurston Counties
(253) 927-2523   |   [email protected]