From the Ground Up: Watering your Garden

watering garden with soaker hose

by ISU Extension and Outreach Linn County Master Gardener Becki Lynch

With the lazy, hazy days of summer, the gardens are in full stride, and we want to make sure they have enough moisture – BUT, how can we conserve water at the same time?  Generally, we hear that plants, lawns, and trees/shrubs need 1 inch of water per week – what does that mean?  And is it true?

In a perfect world, yes, 1 inch per week of rainwater would be ideal, typically as we move through July, we can expect less than that amount, even if we do not experience the dryness of the last few years.  So, in order to maintain our landscape while conserving water, here are a few tips: 

1.    The inch of water each 7 days can be stretched to 10 – 14 days for most plants and lawns. 

2.    In the event of a sustained drought period, lawns should be allowed to go dormant. 

3.    What is an inch?  It translates to 10-12 inches of moisture in the ground.  A simple way to measure how long it will take your watering system (soaker hose, sprinkler, direct) to reach that depth is to wait until the ground is dry, and then turn it on for 15 minutes.  Come back the next day and dig to the bottom of the moisture and then measure.  Say, the moisture reaches 3 inches – it will take four 15 minute intervals to reach 12 inches or one hour. 

4.    A direct water or soaker hose system is the preferred method of watering.

5.    The best time to water is in the cool of the early morning.

6.    For first year trees and shrubs, direct water at the foot of the trunk, 10 gallons for each diameter inch of the trunk each week.

7.    For second year plantings, the watering is moved to every 2 weeks.

8.    Be sure that all bare soil is covered with 2-3 inches of mulch.

These are just a few of the tips found at the ISU Extension and Outreach website at  

Soaker Hose Photo via Flickr

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