Be water-wise and still have a beautiful garden.

Time to “fall back” on you irrigation controller

The days are shorter and cooler, and with any luck more winter rains are on the way. Consider increasing the time between irrigation events. For many people that could mean removing one day a week from the schedule. For some it could mean turning the irrigation off altogether.

One of my pet peeves with many so called “smart” controllers is that they simply adjust the run times in response to changing weather. Ideally they would keep the same run time, and adjust the interval between watering events. For any given station the run time (or cycles of multiple run times) should to get water into the soil deep enough to cover the entire root zone and encourage deep rooting. By reducing the run times some “smart” controllers are putting down less water but are watering less efficiently. Irrigation events with short run times tend not to penetrate the soil as deeply, evaporate more quickly and don’t encourage the plants roots to go deep to seek moisture. Shallow rooted plants are less drought tolerant.

Depending on your garden you may want to irrigate even though it has rained recently. How do you know? Stick a shovel in the soil and see if it’s wet. Here in San Diego we often get light rain which may not penetrate the mulch layer and get down deep into the soil.

Irrigation scheduling can be tricky but by using gardener smarts and a your own five senses you can go a long way toward conserving it.


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