KC Gardens

To properly water your lawn, you have to know your sprinkler output. Here’s how

Different types of sprinklers have different flow rates of water. To determine your sprinkler’s flow rate, measure the output with a rain gauge or straight-sided can.
Different types of sprinklers have different flow rates of water. To determine your sprinkler’s flow rate, measure the output with a rain gauge or straight-sided can.

More typical summer weather patterns are here, which means an increase in temperatures and a decrease in rainfall.

The effects of this combination quickly become apparent as lawns lose their lush green appearance and start showing shades of brown. Wilting is also evident in flower and vegetable gardens.

When nature does not provide the water, it is time for many of us to step in.

Irrigation systems are excellent tools to facilitate the task of watering. Some of us, like me, are not fortunate to have an underground system. Instead, we rely on a portable system. That is just a fancy way of saying we drag a hose around the landscape.

No matter what system is used, there are a few tips to ensure we are wise water users. Proper watering is not only good for the plants and the environment, but it also saves money.

Extension research shows on average, most plants thrive on about 1 inch of water per week.

One inch of water will soak our clay-based soils to a depth of about 6 inches. The majority of plant roots uptake water and nutrients in this 6-inch zone. By keeping this area hydrated, plants thrive and drought stress is minimal.

The challenge becomes how to effectively apply 1 inch of water per wee . Clay soils are slow to uptake water and runoff occurs if water is applied faster than it can soak in.

Irrigation systems, whether in-ground or portable, do not always evenly distribute water. There is a time factor for how long it takes to apply the water. Many do not have any idea of how much water they are applying when irrigating. They simply turn the supply on and off.

Simply put, proper irrigation means applying one inch of water in as few applications as possible and slow enough so that it is absorbed into the soil. It means knowing how much water is applied in a given time, so we know when the magic one inch per week goal is met.

You might be scratching your head, wondering where to start.

Begin by measuring sprinkler output. Use rain gauges or tin cans set in several locations in the pattern of the water. Measure the output of water for a given amount of time.

Once this is known, set your schedule. How long a sprinkler runs is based on time, but really it is output that determines the length of time.

The goal is to have beautiful lawns and gardens that efficiently uses water. Let’s hope Mother Nature will also continue to provide water for a healthy landscape.

Dennis Patton is a horticulture agent with Kansas State University Research and Extension. Got a question for him or other university extension experts? Email them to garden.help@jocogov.org.

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