Watering your lawn and garden beds too much or too little can cause a lot of problems. And that often means money going down the drain, when it comes to the cost of maintaining your yard.
Water too much, and you’ll end up with a high water bill – and you’ll be depleting a natural resource. Water too little, and you may end up with unhealthy, dying plants.
Three Wichita-area landscapers agreed that one of the common problems homeowners ask about is how to effectively water and control drainage.
Be water wise
“One of the biggest problems we come across has to do with watering – too much, not enough or at the wrong time of the day,” said Daniel Kusmaul, a horticulturalist and landscape designer with Suburban Landscape. “Water is one of the main issues that affects a plant’s health and longevity and even soil health.
“People are thinking even more about water now,” said Kusmaul, referring to drought and Wichita’s dwindling water supply.
The best way to water a lawn is deeply and less often, Kusmaul said. Most plants and turf grass will require about 1 inch of water weekly, even during heat. Train plant roots to go in search of water and they’ll get a deeper root system and be healthier. He waters his yard twice in one day, giving it an early morning watering and then waiting two hours to give it another drink.
A couple of real water-wasters are watering for frequent short periods every few days, which doesn’t allow for a good, hearty drink, or overwatering by homeowners with wells who aren’t held back by the thought of higher water bills, Kusmaul said. Overwatering drives oxygen out of the soil, making conditions ripe for root rot.
For more efficient watering, use a mix of sprinklers for turf areas and more targeted drip irrigation or soaker hose systems for garden beds, said Dennis Strole, a landscape designer with Legacy Landscape.
“Plants like to be watered differently than grass,” Strole said.
With targeted watering systems, you can water plants more efficiently. Pop-up sprinkler heads in garden beds waste water since they spray water between plants. Soaker hoses installed below mulch material lead to less water loss due to evaporation.
To avoid watering issues altogether, “hardscaping is trending more,” said Strole, with more homeowners installing patios, pathways, deck areas and pondless, endless waterfalls.
To help conserve water, put more of your yard into landscaped beds, said Jason Steele of Steele Landscaping. Lawns tend to be heavier drinkers than established beds, he said. A common problem is what he calls “underscaping.” He recommends a homeowner consider installing garden beds in 40 percent of their yard. Less lawn means less mowing, too.
Drain it right
If you’ve got water pooling in your yard, consider installing French drains, said Kusmaul and Strole. The drains are named for Henry French, a judge and farmer who described the system in his 1859 book, “Farm Drainage.”
Before digging into this project, make sure you won’t run into utility lines or that your rerouted water flow won’t affect neighboring properties.
French drains tend to be shallow trenches filled with gravel or a drain pipe, with a slight slope, and 6 to 8 inches wide. Most experts recommend laying 3 inches of gravel into the trench, stretching permeable landscape fabric on top of that and then installing the drainage pipe. Cover with dirt and put landscaping stones at the end of the pipe.
More difficult drainage problems may require installing a sump pump, Strole said.