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Wed Jul 10, 2013, 12:13 PM

Questions about watering landscape during drought and hot weather

In the part of the country where I live, we've had two years of excessive heat and drought, and we're running way behind on rainfall again this year, heading into the hot summer months.

I have almost an acre, with about 160 mature trees, mostly oaks. I bought my house last year and it had been sitting empty for several years. I have an automatic sprinkler system that covers the entire yard, but it was off most of last summer due to the city installing new water lines, streets, and improving drainage in the neighborhood. The city relocated sprinklers that were near the street to install a drainage ditch, and in the process damaged several of the water lines for the sprinkler system underground. The owner of the house turned the sprinklers off, since they weren't working properly.

Because of the heat and lack of water, several of the big trees died last summer and a lot of the grass did as well. My yard is mostly fescue, due to the shade of the trees, although a few areas have bermuda grass as they have sun most of the day.

This spring, I put down seed and have had less than spectacular results. Some of it grew, but some of it didn't. I've been watering in small amounts frequently to keep the new seed moist. Now, it is too hot and dry to put down seed and I want to water for longer periods of time, less frequently to allow the water to penetrate down into the soil and encourage deep root growth.

Do I just change the watering cycles from short cycles daily to longer cycles twice a week? Or do I need to "ramp up" by watering slightly longer, but fewer days a week?

The ground is DRY. I can water for an hour, which puts down about 1/4th of an inch of water, and within an hour or two the soil looks like it hasn't been watered in weeks.

I also have clay soil, so I have to water the foundation of my house. I have mostly boxwood and azaleas around the house. In order to keep the soil around the foundation evenly moist, it must be watered at least daily for a few minutes, and will likely need to be watered twice a day or possibly more as the heat and lack of rain continue over the next couple of months.

I know boxwood and azaleas don't like to sit in water, and that they have shallow roots. I hope that I won't be giving them too much water, but it will be necessary to prevent foundation damage to the house. Relocating the boxwood and azaleas isn't an option, as there are a LOT of them and the cost would be prohibitive at this point.

I would appreciate any advice, as it seems like I'm putting down a lot of water, and it's not doing much good.

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Arrow 12 replies Author Time Post
Reply Questions about watering landscape during drought and hot weather (Original post)
AndyA Jul 2013 OP
NRaleighLiberal Jul 2013 #1
xtraxritical Jul 2013 #2
AndyA Jul 2013 #5
xtraxritical Jul 2013 #8
JDPriestly Jul 2013 #10
northoftheborder Jul 2013 #3
kentauros Jul 2013 #4
AndyA Jul 2013 #6
kentauros Jul 2013 #9
Curmudgeoness Jul 2013 #7
XemaSab Jul 2013 #11
BlueToTheBone Jul 2013 #12

Response to AndyA (Original post)

Wed Jul 10, 2013, 12:21 PM

1. Wow - quite a challenge - my expertise is not in landscaping - but I feel your pain....

Even with veggie gardening we seem to be in uncharted territory - modifications to the climate are game changing, and I think we are all learning (the hard way) what may and may not work going forward. Growing tomatoes used to be easy for me - but the hotter, more humid - and this year, wetter - summers are causing so many attacks by so many different diseases that I am not sure what to do at this point.....and the weed growth (mostly from non-natives) is staggering...

Hoping someone will pipe up and offer more help than I can - but, yes, if it is really dry, nothing that you can do will have a fraction of the impact of what deep natural rains can do - spot watering just creates an opportunity for it to quickly disperse so that the area achieves some sort of equilibrium....

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Response to AndyA (Original post)

Wed Jul 10, 2013, 02:10 PM

2. It sounds just like my area in So. Cal.! I don't understand about

 

watering your foundation? Why do that? I'm on a slab btw.

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Response to xtraxritical (Reply #2)

Wed Jul 10, 2013, 05:00 PM

5. We have clay soils which expand and contract according to moisture level

So, think of your slab being built on a sponge: too wet, it expands and heaves upward; too dry, it shrinks and can't support any weight. We have to keep the moisture level in the soil around the house evenly moist, so one side isn't too wet, and the other side too dry. This causes concrete slabs to crack and shift. Maintaining steady moisture prevents the heaving and settling movement.

Watering foundations is common in Oklahoma, Texas, Missouri, etc., due to the soil.

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Response to AndyA (Reply #5)

Thu Jul 11, 2013, 12:06 AM

8. Wow, thanks for the info., I never knew.

 

My slab is cracked already too!

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Response to AndyA (Reply #5)

Fri Jul 12, 2013, 03:46 AM

10. That is definitely the case in Southern California.

There are times of the year when one or the other door is hard to shut. We know it is because the soil has shifted. Moisture or lack of it is one of the factors that determine whether the soil shifts and how.

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Response to AndyA (Original post)

Wed Jul 10, 2013, 02:49 PM

3. My irrigation company made the following suggestion:

This especially applies if you have water restrictions to one day a week. (If you have a timer for your sprinkler system). Water in the middle of the night for half of what you think your plants need. Wait several hours, then water again. If it all goes on at once, it will not soak in as well on hard dry soil and some runs off. The first water will sink in and soften the soil and allow the next watering to be more beneficial. It's really hard to see your trees die. If it is allowed to let a hose run around them, then water a longer time, less often.

I'm in Texas, building a new house; I will not be planting any grass, whatever is there will be green if it rains; they had severe water rationing the last two summers here; only hand watering and drip irrigation; I want to have some plantings of xeric native plants and grasses with drip irrigation. No more azaleas and roses in this climate.

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Response to northoftheborder (Reply #3)

Wed Jul 10, 2013, 04:03 PM

4. The method for proper irrigation I also read on this site:

Organic Lawn Care For the Cheap and Lazy, with their example being how the technique also works for wetting a sponge, equating your soil to that of a sponge (it is, in a way, especially when it's rich and deep soil.)

And for your xeriscaping needs, have a look at this Texas site, Native American Seed

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Response to kentauros (Reply #4)

Wed Jul 10, 2013, 05:09 PM

6. Thanks for the links! Very informative.

I'm going to let the yard dry out for a few days, only watering things that look like they need it (plus the beds around the house to keep the foundation happy). Then I'll start watering early in the morning, doing 1/4 inch, waiting an hour or two and doing another 1/4th inch. I'll do that twice a week and see how it goes.

Thanks again, it makes sense to go back while it's still damp and water more.

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Response to AndyA (Reply #6)

Thu Jul 11, 2013, 09:23 AM

9. You're welcome! :)

Now, there was another watering method I used, way back when I had access to some dirt and a yard, in order to water my little food garden.

I used one of those weep-hoses, put it under a layer of straw, and basically set it to "drip." The way I managed that was to turn it on full, in order to fill the hose, and then shut it off, only to 'crack' open the tap to a literal drip. Then I'd leave it on for 24 hours to give the ground a deep soak.

I would think that technique (minus the straw) could work for a lawn, too, seeing as how most people don't ever seem to think of using those hoses that way (people use them like any other watering-system: full on to flood their yard.)

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Response to AndyA (Original post)

Wed Jul 10, 2013, 06:46 PM

7. I lived in Houston for several years

and went through drought and water restrictions a few times, so I understand the need to water your foundation. I would not worry about the plants around the foundation----they are not as important as your foundation, although if it is that dry, you probably have no problems since the plants will not be really be sitting in water all the time with how dry everything is.

I did not worry about my grass. With several years of drought, keeping the grass in good shape just isn't going to happen. When (if) the drought breaks, work on the grass at that time. Seeding grass at this point is a waste of money. If it were me, I would be thinking of minimizing the grassy areas and moving toward drought-resistance plantings and rock gardens.....this water problem seems to be something that you will have to deal with more often than not. There are so many interesting things you can do instead of grass lawns.

As to the trees, I trenched around the drip line (the outermost area of the branches), then I watered into the trenches. This was advised by a tree specialist, and it seemed to work well at focusing the water where the trees could use it without just throwing water all around the trees.

Here's hoping that this drought situation doesn't continue much longer.

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Response to AndyA (Original post)

Thu Jul 18, 2013, 11:31 PM

11. Rent an aerator

It'll poke holes in the lawn and make it look like geese pooped on it, but it will create holes that will allow water to penetrate into the soil.

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Response to AndyA (Original post)

Sat Jul 27, 2013, 11:20 PM

12. Drip irrigation is the best way I know to water directly

where it needs to be. Here is the greatest drip system company I know. http://www.dripworks.com
Good luck!

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