Skip Richter, based in Houston, is a popular speaker for garden clubs, Master Gardener programs, and other gardening events across Texas. He has...Full Bio


When you water is important in this heat

If you’ve listened to the GardenLine radio show, read my books, or followed these weekly tips for any length of time, you probably know I’m passionate about sharing information. And most of the time, I really enjoy my job. Sure, I sometimes find myself up against knuckleheads like crape myrtle murderers and dyed mulch lovers. But the heavy-handed bullying tactics and blatant stupidity of some homeowners’ associations really get to me. I could write a whole book about them.

Here’s a perfect example a friend (I’ll call him Big Rob) told me about at church last Sunday. His HOA is not just limiting the number of days residents can run their sprinklers (and I understand water conservation), but the association is demanding that they only water between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. Wait!!! What?????

That makes me question their ignorance or their purposeful senselessness. Empirical research has shown that watering in the middle of a hot summer day is wrong on so many levels.

Irrigation specialists, horticultural experts and even meteorologists all agree that early morning is the best time to have your irrigation system do its thing. And at this time of year, we also discourage people from watering in the evening. That’s especially true for lawns, so as not to invite fungal diseases like brownpatch in the autumn months.

Big Rob’s HOA, is not just limiting the days he can water, but they’re restricting irrigation to the absolute worst times of the day!

If you are part of an HOA that’s demanding this bone-headed practice - or maybe you’re on that HOA board and thinking this plan could benefit your community – here are my Top Five Reasons why watering early in the morning is best for Southeast Texas landscapes in August, September and early in October:

  1. Early watering allows plants to face the heat of the day well-watered. And when I say early in the morning, I mean 5-9 a.m.
  2. Watering at night (7 p.m. through midnight) often invites fungal diseases. They actually thrive in moist conditions, especially when overnight temperatures get down below 70. Fungal diseases like brownpatch can often be traced back to watering at night, so develop good habits now - don’t wait until the temperature changes.
  3. Water pressure is usually best in early morning, so you get better coverage.
  4. It’s less windy in the early morning, so there’s reduced evaporation.
  5. If you have an irrigation leak, improper runoff or poorly aimed sprinklers, you’re more likely to spot them in the morning and make adjustments or repairs. Problems occurring during night are often missed and rarely get fixed.

Some may claim they can’t water early in the morning, but I don’t see why not. Most people have irrigation systems that can be timed, and even "hose draggers" can choose from countless programmable timers. But, if you still can’t water in the mornings, at least water late in the day - but before the sun goes down. That way the grass and plant leaves can dry before night time temperatures take hold.

And here are some very important additional rules for smart irrigation:

If you’re using hoses, please use impact or pulsating sprinklers. Oscillating devices result in the most evaporation, simply wasting water and money.

Water deeply and less often. That allows roots to naturally grow deeper into the soil. Light, frequent irrigation results in shallow roots, which are more exposed to high summer heat and susceptible to fungal diseases in September.

If runoff occurs a few minutes after irrigation starts, you should aerate and improve the organic enrichment of the soil, so water will penetrate deeper. This problem happens frequently in Southeast Texas because of our clay soils.

Drip irrigation or soaker hoses are the smartest way to irrigate vegetable and landscape beds but a poor choice for lawns.

If you want to avoid watering altogether, most turf grasses will go into dormancy in the summer, just as they do in the winter. They can be revived within 30 days through irrigation or sufficient rain. But once you start watering again, keep it up - discontinuing again will be hard on the grass.

Lawns with healthy soils and proper irrigation do not need to be watered every day. Once every three days should work, even in our summer heat. And if you have organically enriched soil, you should even be able to get away with once a week!

Each lawn is different, since not everyone has the same soil profile. So, you should perform tests on in-ground irrigation systems and determine how long it takes to provide the right amount of water. Learn how at

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