Irrigation, “The art of watering correctly.” I probably get more questions about this subject than the rest combined. There seems to be a “mystery” about what proper watering is, and rightly so. The landscape lives or dies on this one single topic. Several years ago we did a landscape for a client who kept coming behind me and changing his timer settings. He was worried about his water bill, but at the same time he was holding me responsible for the plants dying. There is an absolute correlation between plant health and watering techniques. In general, all landscapes need to be watered well, and then have a “drying period.” Trees like to be deep watered and allowed to dry to semi-moist. Plants are the same and this same procedure works well for most lawn types. It encourages deep rooting, because the plant is being “told” that it needs to search for water, and more roots means more plant. In the nursery business, my background, we worried about growing healthy roots, not plant. One follows the other. Now this may sound easy, but there are varying soils, even in the same yard, and some plants prefer to be more moist than dry, and some prefer to be more dry than moist. A good landscaper will group his plants in “irrigation families”. In other words he would not put an Azalea with a juniper, or a daylilly with an ice plant. They are incompatible in their water needs, yet unfortunately I see this happening often. I have two suggestions for this.
1. Purchase a soil probe. Teach yourself. Feel your soil. Do not mistake cool soil for moist soil as they are not the same. Grab a handful from the probe (and probe in several areas) and make a fist with it in the palm of your hand. Moist soil will hold together after you open your hand, and cool soil will fall apart with a slight poke. Most irrigation specialty stores will sell the soil probe. When we install a landscape we review the specifics of proper irrigation and teach you how to “read” your plants. They will tell you whether or not they are being properly watered.
2. Read about your plants. Buy a Western Gardening book and teach yourself. If you do not know the names, take clippings to a nursery and have them identify them for you. Call or E-mail us or any reputable landscaper. The fee would be well spent to learn about your yard, and the specifics to its care. Lastly, Sacramento summers can be tough on plants. The best rule of thumb is to keep everything moist. Do not be too concerned about a dry out period. Moist is best.