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Watering the Garden Wisely

Updated on July 8, 2012

Water is the most valuable resource on our planet, which is why it is so important to use this resource wisely. Here are some techniques for getting the most mileage out of your water. Sprinklers, hoses, and watering cans may be fun in the summer sun, but water should be conserved and used intelligently.

Trickle or Drip Irrigation

Overhead or sprinkler irrigation wastes tremendous amounts of water-much of the water is sprayed on areas other than the root zone around a plant, and the water is usually sent high into the air leading to a significant amount of less by evaporation. Drip, trickle, or soaker hoses can save up to 50% of the water lost by overhead sprinkler irrigation.

Irrigate in the Early Morning

If you must use a sprinkler or a hose-end sprayer, early morning is the best time to water. The early morning hours typically have higher humidity and lower temperatures, conditions that minimize evaporation. Another benefit of irrigating at this time of day is plant foliage, wetted by the irrigation, will dry during the day, reducing the risk of plant diseases and fungi.

Water Infrequently, but Deeply

If water puddles or runs off the landscape and down sidewalks, driveways, and the edges of flowerbeds the irrigation delivery is too fast. To correct this, reduce the speed of the water flow at the valve or reduce the size of the nozzles. You can also use on-off periods to allow water to soak into the soil before more water is applied.

Make Sure Water Penetrates

Once soils become very dry, they turn powdery and are hard to wet. Unwetted soils can force water to run off and be wasted. One way to overcome this is to use a comercially available wetting agent. Dishwashing soap may be used as an alternative, but wetting agents are less likely to harm plants. Another technique is to water lightly an hour or so before applying a full irrigation. The initial watering will give the soil time to become moistened so the next watering will penetrate.

Irrigate During Mist or Light Rain

Often a light mist will only wet foliage, leaving the soil dry beneath shrubs and trees. This is actually the perfect type of weather to water in. Mist or light rain maintains high humidity, keeping evaporation low. The surface tension of dry soils, which keeps water from penetrating easily, is also broken by light precipitation.

Reduce Irrigation During Late Summer and Fall

In the early part of the growing season, plants require a significant amount of water to achieve growing potential. The creation of new leaves causes a plant to use up a lot of its water. Also, plants growing without an adequate water supply produce less shoot and root growth.By late summer and fall, however, growth decreases. Leaves and stems harden off and lose far less water.

Watering wisely and efficiently can help keep yards healthy and beautiful while not having to pay a hefty water bill or worry about the environmental repurcussions.


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    • watergeek profile image

      watergeek 5 years ago from Pasadena CA

      I like the way you take insect life into account in your recommendations. I've seen many people recommend watering late afternoon, which I would never do, especially in an already humid environment. In Southern California we have clay soils, which need a different irrigation pattern, but watering in the morning is still important.

    • Lipnancy profile image

      Nancy Yager 5 years ago from Hamburg, New York

      Very useful hub. Proper irrigation is the toughest part of the garden in some areas. Unfortunately, we cannot control the weather. Voted Up and Shared.