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Hand Watering vs. Irrigation

This month’s blog is a starter guide to the process of comparing the pros and cons of watering by hand versus using an irrigation system. This is a common question we receive and in order to help decide which is more beneficial for your landscape’s needs a few further details about watering basics need to be covered. Before we compare these two watering methods, we will dispel some common misconceptions about watering in general.

Watering each plant for 5-10 second a few times a week is sufficient.

This method of watering often leads to shallow roots, less than ideal plant growth and health, and can waste water. When the water is coming out of the hose at full speed, it often leads to run off since the soil does not have enough time to absorb the water, leading to the development of shallow roots since the roots have to grow closer to the top of the soil in search of water. The top of the soil dries out the quickest, leaving the plant thirsty more often.

Plants do not need water in the winter.

Even though it occasionally snows in the winter, we mostly get a dusting of less than an inch of snow when it does snow. This is less than ideal since most plants go dormant in the winter and focus on building their root system instead of leaf growth and flower production.

It rained today so I don’t need to water.

As we know all too well in Santa Fe, the weather is completely unpredictable (especially in monsoon season). Just because it rained doesn’t necessarily mean that the water needs of your plants have been met. Depending on wind direction, rain often misses plants near homes or under trees, while completely saturating plants and trees in open areas.

Drought tolerant plants do not need to be watered.

Drought tolerant plants are what their name implies, able to tolerate drought. This does not mean that they are invincible and do not need water. Young, unestablished plants are not very drought tolerant and need time to establish the root system necessary to make them drought tolerant.

There is nothing wrong with watering plants in the middle of the day.

The main problem with watering in the middle of the day is the heat, which causes the water to evaporate faster, leaving the plant unable to absorb as much water as it could have. Watering in the evening is ok but can cause some disease problems from water sitting on the leaves all night. If you water in the evening make sure there is enough time for the sun to evaporate the water off of the leaves. It is ideal to water plants in the early morning; not only does this prevent the water from evaporating, it helps prevent heat stress rather than treat it with an end day watering.

By following the watering wisdom above, you can help ensure you are maintaining that critical hydration balance for your plants. Next month we will build off of our landscaping truths to help identify whether hand-watering or irrigation is best for your landscaping needs. Happy gardening and enjoy the last few weeks of summer!

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