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Water your lawn every day or in the evening? Not so fast.

by Timber Press on August 30, 2012

in Gardening

Image courtesy of Neil Palmer

Tomorrow is the last day to enter to win the Garden Problem Solver grand prize (a new iPad). Be sure to enter your question on the Garden Problem Solver page and good luck!

This week’s question is from Joey of Clemson, South Carolina. Joey asked:

Why is it not a good idea to water my lawn every day or in the evening?

Jeff Gillman and Meleah Maynard, authors of Decoding Gardening Advice, answered:

Roots grow where there is water. If water is not available in a particular area, roots will not grow there. This means that if you sprinkle the surface of the ground every day, the roots of the plants will only grow in that upper layer of soil. Moisture in the top layers of soil is depleted more rapidly than in deeper layers due to heat and wind.

If you want roots to grow more deeply—and you do—you have to water for longer periods and less frequently to encourage them to grow down to greater depths. Once plants are rooted more deeply, they require less water because they are better able to take up water that lingers further down in the soil.

Plants with shallow roots may look fine most of the time, but when a drought comes or you go on an extended vacation when there is not much rain, your plants will suddenly look terrible because that top layer of soil will not hold the water the plants need.

To get nice deep roots you need to water deeply just often enough to keep plants from showing any signs of water stress, such as wilting. How frequently? Well, obviously, plants have different watering needs. For example, grass needs to be watered more often than trees.

Each time you water, soak the top 5 or 6 inches of soil, which adds up to about 1 to 1.5 inches of water. Get a rain gauge or use an empty tin can to track how much water Mother Nature offers up, and then add the rest yourself.

As for what time of day to water, it has long been said that morning is the best time to water, and there are some good reasons for that. First, there is usually less wind in the morning, so if you are watering with a hose or sprinkler the water is less likely to evaporate. Cooler temperatures in the morning also help to alleviate evaporation.

Morning has a lot of things going for it, not the least of which is that it’s more environmentally friendly to water in the morning in terms of conserving water. However, if the only time that you can water is in the afternoon or evening, then you should water at those times. When a plant needs water, it needs water. Waiting until morning to give it that water may be a bad idea for the plant.

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