The Q&A Archives: watering

Question: All experts recommend watering 1 or 2 inches per week, make sure soil is moist to 12 inches deep, make sure soil drains, cover with mulch to retain moisture, and so on. First, if you are soaking with soaker hoses how do you know what 1 to 2 inches per week is? Second, do you need to water every other day or just when the soil feels dry? Third, How would you know if your soil is moist 12 inches down unless you physically dig it up (ruining the root system)?

Answer: Doug,

Good questions. Watering is difficult to prescribe due to differences in soil type, plant type, temperature, sunlight, etc. all of which impact water needs and use by a particular plant. The one inch rule of thumb is a good guide if you have a sprinkler and can put out a gauge to measure application. With a drip or soaker system you basically need to dig down about 6 inches and feel the soil out somewhere between drip emitters or soaker lines. You can do this in a small spot or using a soil probe so you don't have to uproot plants in the process. Water until the soil between lines or emitters is moist to at least a 6 inch depth, even deeper is better. This may take 30 minutes or several hours depending on how much water your system puts out and the texture of your soil. Sand wets deeper faster but doesn't hold water as well as clay soil and thus has to be watered more often. Once plants area established you should be able to get by with one or two good soakings a week with your irrigation system.

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