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Soak, Cycle, Repeat: Diving Deeper Into Our Watering Guide

Watering: It’s a hot topic when it’s hot! Unfortunately, most homeowners have been misinformed when it comes to watering practices. That’s why we are here to simplify things with our watering guide - AKA the soak, cycle, repeat method!

What are the steps to our watering method?

First, let’s determine what type of system you are using. Our watering guide is tailored for sprinkler systems with pop up and rotary heads. If you do not have a sprinkler system you will need to get creative. We suggest investing in a digital controller box which can be found at any home improvement store. If you have a drip irrigation system, consult your drip irrigation installer for proper watering regimens.

Second, let’s analyze how you’re watering. Do you water your lawn all at once and if so, for how long? If you’re only watering using one cycle, then all of the water you deliver may not get absorbed.

Our tough clay soil presents unique challenges when it comes to lawn irrigation. Due to our seemingly nonporous clay soil, the trick is to split up your watering times into multiple cycles, all in the same day. Clay can only soak up so much water until its pores close up and water begins to sheen off. Therefore, after an allotted amount of time (which is anywhere between 3-10 minutes depending on the slope and compaction) runoff occurs and water becomes wasted.

Why is water runoff bad?

Irrigation water that can’t be absorbed into the soil will drain off into the street, down the storm drains or into our lakes, rivers, and drinking water supply. This is bad for many reasons. First, it is a huge waste! There’s no sense in wasting all of that irrigation water if half of it is just going to end up in the storm drains. Plus, water runoff takes a lot of desirable and undesirable things away with it: nutrients your plants need plus toxic pesticides and fertilizers. Even if you are 100% organic in your garden, there is still soil sediment (erosion), pet waste, and other toxins that make their way to your yard to be carried away by the runoff.

 When you see it start to runoff, shut it off! 

Make yourself a cup of coffee on Saturday morning, stand outside, and start your stopwatch when the sprinklers turn on. Once you notice water running off onto the street or sidewalk, stop your watch and now you have your optimum water time for each zone.

Third, now that you have figured out your optimum cycle time, it’s time to program your cycles on your controller box. Most controller boxes allow for 3 or more start times. The key is to water each zone for a total of 30 minutes. You’ll want to break the cycles up into factors of 30. See sample below for more clarification. 

Timing Sample: If your system allows for 3 start times, then you will water each station for 10 minutes, 3 times - breaking for an hour or two in between cycles to allow for deeper penetration. Less watering time at more frequent intervals is recommended if your system allows. In other words, if you can water each station 5 times for 6 minutes, that is better than watering each station 3 times for 10 minutes. Optimum watering window is midnight-10 am.

Be sure to adhere to local watering restrictions and assigned watering days.

Healthy soil that is part of our Soil Building Program is naturally better at absorbing and using water efficiently. When your soil is healthy, well fed and full of organic matter, drainage and moisture retention is improved.

Is Your Summer Lawn Stressed Out?

If you’re wilting from the summer heat, chances are your lawn is too. Even though we had heavy rains this spring, temperatures now are soaring and rainfall has become more scarce. Our soils will dry out quickly, leaving your lawn more thirsty than you may think.

Let’s face it: Most of us don’t water our lawns the right way - and probably haven’t for years. Too often, lawns are watered frequently, but for only short periods of time. This leads to shallow and weak root systems. We see many lawns across North Texas suffering from poor water management and compacted soils, which lead to all sorts of additional problems such as diseases and insect infestations.  When your lawn is in a weakened state, it becomes more susceptible to pests and diseases. Plus, thin, weak lawns leave room for weeds to move in. Only a thick, healthy lawn will outcompete weeds naturally. How do you know your lawn is in need of some extra TLC? Here are a few signs...

Chinch bugs in a Dallas lawn.

Your lawn is drought stressed if…

It’s easy to tell if landscape plants are thirsty. A pale cast and wilting foliage is the most noticeable sign. Here are some other ways to tell if your lawn is water stressed:

  • Push a screwdriver into the soil in various areas of your lawn. If it pushes easily into the soil 5-6 inches deep, and soil seems moist, you’re good. However, if you can’t push the screwdriver that far into the soil, it may be dry and heavily compacted.
  • If brown patches in the lawn don’t pull out of soil easily at the roots, then the grass is most likely brown due to drought, not Brown Patch disease.
  • If there are areas of your lawn lush and green, especially near a sprinkler head, but there are other areas that are turning brown, then it could be that your irrigation is not reaching all zones of the landscape. Now could be the time for an irrigation check up.

Insects could be the culprit if…

Insects will attack weakened lawns due to drought stress. Right now, summer lawn pests include chinch bugs, grubs and armyworms. Healthy soil full of beneficial predators will keep many lawn pests at bay.

  • Have you pulled up patches of brown grass easily only to find hardly any root system? Could be an infestation of grubs below the surface. Learn about grubs HERE.
  • Chinch bugs are most common in St. Augustine lawns, but they can also damage Bermuda and Zoysia lawns. You could have chinch bug damage if you notice yellowing on the edges of grass blades that eventually brown out in large swaths, especially when you notice the damaged areas are closest to driveways and sidewalks where the temps are warmer.

Can lawns go into summer dormancy?

Did you know that lawns can go dormant in both cool and warm seasons? To protect itself from heat and drought stress, you lawn can go to “sleep” in summer, reducing the need for nutrients and water. If your lawn turns brown due to lack of water in summer, it’s possible it may green up again in fall once temperatures cool and rainfall returns. However, some of the root system may be damaged and this could leave your lawn more susceptible to cold damage in winter. To bring grass out of dormancy, it could take up to three weeks of consistent moisture and a boost of liquid compost extract or other organic nutrient to come out of dormancy.

When you recognize the signs of stress, then you are ahead of the game and can begin to adjust your watering and maintenance regimen. Ready to begin your organic soil building plan that will help to grow a beautiful lawn and landscape? Contact us this summer.

Celebrate Smart Irrigation Month in July with these Water Saving Tips

With temperatures soaring and no rain in the immediate forecast, soils are drying out quickly in our area. It’s time to revisit your irrigation controller and see if you’ve got it set up to deliver the what your lawn and landscape needs. Follow these tips to water like a pro!

Water Restrictions

First off, it is a good idea to reacquaint yourself with your city’s water guidelines for summer. Over the last few years, many cities have reduced their restrictions, but that doesn’t mean you water conservation isn’t an ongoing priority. The City of Plano, for instance, used to limit watering to only twice per month. Now, Plano residents can water twice per week. Visit your city’s official web page to familiarize yourself with any changes that have been announced.

In most cities with water restrictions, supplemental hand-watering for new plants, container gardens and vegetable gardens are allowed at any time of day during the week. But again, check your city’s current water regulations.

Tips to Conserve Water

Soil health is #1. Without healthy soil, plants won’t thrive. Healthy soil full microbes, earthworms and other beneficial organisms will help improve soil texture that in turn helps to retain water, reduce runoff and help plant roots properly uptake nutrients. We apply humic acid, liquid compost extract, worm castings and other organic amendments to keep soil healthy.

Timing is everything! If you are watering during the hottest part of the day, from 10am and 6pm, you could be wasting up to 30 percent of your water through evaporation. Plus, cities like Dallas prohibit watering during this time period. It’s best to water early in the morning, but after 6pm is acceptable in the hottest part of the summer, especially if you’re using drip irrigation.

Water where it needs to go. Are your sidewalks and driveway constantly wet? Is water running from your lawn down the street? It could be that soil is not absorbing water properly, you have a break in a head or line, or there is too much pressure for the watering zone.  Not only is watering the concrete wasteful, but it could also earn you a city citation. Save water with the cycle and soak method.

Check your irrigation system annually. Only a licensed irrigation specialist can properly audit your system. They’ll ensure your system is set correctly, check for leaks and broken sprinkler heads, and look for ways your system can be more efficient. Remember, a properly working sprinkler system will save you money and water in the landscape. More on why you must check your irrigation set up yearly.

Mulch. One of the easiest ways to save water in the summer landscape is by adding two to three inches of mulch to all garden beds and around the base of trees and shrubs. Mulch helps to retain moisture in the soil, suppresses weeds, regulates soil temperatures, gives the landscape a tidy appearance, and improves soil health as it decomposes back into the soil over time.

Each season has its own method for watering just as plants have different water needs throughout the year. Questions about summer watering and how healing your soil could help you save water and money? Give us a call.

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