Our area has had more than its share of rain in recent weeks.
By The Conservation Committee of the Rye Garden Club
Our area has had more than its share of rain in recent weeks. Our yards have enjoyed the nourishment, though we have been longing for sunny skies. A silver lining to the storm clouds is that the use of automated sprinkler systems has been unnecessary lately. Mother Nature has supplied all the moisture our plants need for now. Systems can be left off, and our water bills will reflect the savings.
Studies show that households with irrigation systems use 50 percent more water than those without. Very often, systems are set to overwater. Overwatered lawns are more susceptible to fungal diseases, need more mowing, and contribute to environmental pollution because they cause pesticide and fertilizer run-off.
Here are some tips to help you use your system wisely, which will be better for your plantings and for your pocket.
Get a Rain Sensor
There are “smart” irrigation systems that track local weather and adjust settings accordingly. Most of us don’t have such an advanced system, but a rain sensor can be connected easily to measure rain and turn off watering when necessary. Make sure you or your irrigation contractor place the sensor in a place not covered by building eaves or tree canopy. The cost of the sensor will be quickly recouped with savings on your water bill.
Watering plants during the day wastes water due to evaporation. Set your irrigation clock to start watering before dawn. There is little demand for water at that time, so water pressure will be better. Because the wind is lighter at night and there is no sun, less water will be lost to evaporation.
Long, Deep, and Infrequent
Water only once or twice a week for a good long spell. An established lawn needs only an inch of water a week, including rainfall. Place a small cup in your grass to measure what falls and adjust your system accordingly. When no rain falls in a week, your system will probably need to run for about 30 minutes in a zone to create a half-inch of water. A long slow watering of grass, shrubs, bushes, and young trees fosters deep root growth. Deep roots help plants withstand times of drought and give them stronger bases to bear wind, erosion, and periods of inclement weather.
Different Watering for Different Plants
Native plants are adapted to this area and require less supplemental watering than imported species, so go native whenever possible. Use spray irrigation units on grass. Annuals, shrubs, and bushes, and new plantings of trees should be watered with a drip irrigation system that slowly leaches water into the soil. Annuals require more water than perennials, so put them on their own zone in your system to be run more often than other areas. For all plants, if an inch or more of water falls in a week, no supplemental irrigation is necessary.