Do you want to be a water-wise gardener? Are you looking for effective ways to properly water and reduce unnecessary water usage on your property? It’s easy to have a beautiful landscape and save valuable water when you learn a few tricks of the trade.
Just the facts
Do you know where our water on Long Island comes from? Aquifers, deep in the earth, contain the ground water that we rely on. It takes many, many years for rain water to percolate through soil and reach the aquifer. How much rain do we get? On average, Long Island receives about 44-48 inches of precipitation each year, some as rain, some as snow. July tends to be the driest month of the year; March usually is the wettest.
Ways to conserve water
• Use mulch on landscape and garden beds. One to two inches of organic mulch conserves needed soil moisture and easily gets the job done.
• Water early in the morning. Good gardeners know not to water during the heat of the day when valuable water can be lost to evaporation.
• Use a soaker hose to deliver water right to where it’s needed – the roots! (If you don’t like the look of a soaker hose, bury it under the mulch.)
• Make sure your garden needs water before you water. Sounds a bit silly, but you can’t put plants on a set watering schedule. And when you do water, water deeply; daily sprinklings do more harm than good. If the soil is moist an inch or two below the surface, water should not be needed!
• Keep weeds to an absolute minimum. Besides competing with desirable plants for needed soil moisture, weeds also rob nutrients for plant growth!
Tools that make watering easier
Invest in a rain gauge and eliminate the guesswork. Read the gauge after you’ve watered or after it rains and aim for 1 to 1 ½ inches of water per week. Ideally that amount should be in one rainfall or watering; never daily dousings!
Dramm and Ray Padula water wands make watering hanging baskets and hard to reach places a snap. Shut-off levers avoid waste and keep patios and decks dry. No gardener should be without one!
Soaker hoses are the most efficient way to water landscape and garden beds. Made of recycled rubber, these porous hoses ooze water right where it’s needed – in the root zone areas of plants. And if you’re trying to keep certain leaf diseases like black spot or powdery mildew at bay, soaker hoses are the way to go.
Dramm, Ray Padula and Claber® nozzles that deliver water via spray, mist, jet or sprinkle have many uses in the garden and around the home.
Claber®, Ray Padula and Dramm sprinklers are a necessity if you have a lawn, whether newly seeded or sodded or established. Need to water larger areas? Use a sprinkler to get the job done.
OXO Good Grips® watering cans are useful indoors and out! Consider liquid feeding plants using a watering can with a rosette attached to the end.
Claber® and Dramm timers attached to the water spigot can be used to turn water on and off when you can’t. Going on vacation this summer? Buy and use a timer to assist with your watering chores.
Want to save water at the end of the hose? Use a brass shut off valve to turn water on and off easily when watering plants or washing the car.
How to water
The short answer – it depends on the plant and the soil conditions. Some plants require more moisture, others require less. Sandy, porous soils generally need more frequent irrigation as opposed to clay soils that are heavy and slow to drain.
Lawns need 1 to 1 ½ inches of water each week. The best way to apply this is in one application – running the sprinkler for as long as necessary to apply that amount. Daily sprinklings are NOT the way to water! And if we have adequate rainfall during that week, then no supplemental water should be needed. However, lawns grown on sandy soils, especially during periods of high heat, may need to be water more frequently.
Established trees and shrubs in landscape settings need about an inch of water each week – again as much, if not all of it, in one application. The use of mulch on landscape beds should help conserve needed soil moisture. And if Mother Nature comes through with adequate rainfall, you don’t need to water! Established perennials will enjoy the same care.
Vegetable gardens and annual flowerbeds need to be monitored a little more closely for water. These annual plantings have shallow root systems so their need for water is greater! Check every few days for water. Soil moisture is needed in the top 6-8 inches of soil.
Hanging baskets, planters and window boxes need to be checked daily for water. Wind, exposure and minimal soil are all reasons they tend to dry out quickly.
A word or two about new plantings… their water requirements need to be monitored more closely until they become established. Newly seeded or sodded lawns should be checked daily for water. New plantings of trees, shrubs, perennials need adequate moisture but not saturated soil conditions. Check the soil before you water. And when you do water, make sure the root ball of the plant and surrounding soil is moist.
When to water
That’s easy; water early in the morning. Doing so allows the leaves to dry before evening. Why is this important? If you want to minimize certain fungal disease problems in your landscape, water early in the day, not in the evening. Sunshine will dry excess moisture on the leaves that could otherwise spread disease.
Water is a non-renewable resource, so it’s up to each of us to conserve! Be aware of water restrictions that exist in Nassau County. No watering between 10am and 4pm daily. During all other hours, watering is permissible – on either odd or even days – depending on the house number. Fines can be imposed. There are no stated water restrictions for Suffolk County. Don’t guess; it’s wise to check with your town or village to see if any restrictions do exist.