Mulch All Planted Areas
Mulch is like icing on a cake because mulch keeps the soil moist the same way icing keeps a cake moist. Mulch slows evaporation of water from the soil, allowing water to infiltrate the soil efficiently; moderates the soil temperature; and breaks down into nutrients for the plants. Maintain a 2 to 4-inch mulch layer in all planted beds and containers.
Efficient Irrigation is Essential
If your irrigation system is not working properly, no matter how much you water, the landscape suffers and water is wasted. Check for pipe and valve leaks (indicated by greener faster growing grass), breaks, clogged heads, sprinkler heads not working, misaligned heads, misting versus spraying due to too much pressure, water spraying onto hard surfaces and runoff into the street.
Judge Irrigation Requirements in the Morning
High afternoon summer temperatures cause plants to wilt, be off color, drop leaves and/or shrink even if there is significant moisture in the soil. Once the sun sets, the lawn and plants look normal. If in the morning the lawn and plants look like water is required, irrigation is justified. When in doubt, use a long screw driver to test for moisture in the soil. Push the screw driver into the soil (like a toothpick into a cake) to see how much moisture is in the soil. The screwdriver will push easily into moist soil and will not push easily into dry soil.
Soak and Cycle Irrigation Method
Some irrigation systems apply water faster than the ground will absorb 1 inch of the water. This is especially true in lawn areas. Mulched areas absorb water more efficiently. To avoid water running off the landscape into the street, you may need to run these stations several short times instead of one long time. Use the soak and cycle method by:
1. Determine how long to run each zone. (see ‘Catch Can Test’)
2. Water these areas in 2 or 3 short cycles or 4 cycles if on a slope instead of 1 long cycle.
3. Wait 20 to 30 minutes between cycles.
Most irrigation controllers have a way to set different start times. If you have trouble programming your controller, visit the irrigation controller company’s web site or contact their customer service for instructions for soak and cycle. Some newer controllers have a soak and cycle setting, so this may be a good time to upgrade your irrigation controller.
Always water after 6:00 pm and before 10:00 am
Mow at a Higher Setting
Adjust the height setting on your mower up one or two notches. Taller grass will create shade which will reduce evaporation of water from the soil and protect the roots from excessive heat.