Why we water early in the morning

posted by Randy Lemmon - 

When GardenLine listeners ask why I’m so adamant that it’s best to water lawns and landscapes in the morning, my usual pat answer is “so they can use the water during hot summer days.”  But many folks may be thirsting for more knowledge on the topic. (Pun absolutely intended!)

So, here are my top five reasons for watering early in the mornings in Texas.  (I’m also throwing in a few additional tips about irrigation during the hottest time of the year.)

  1. The main reason, as I said above, is to allow the plant life to face the heat of the day well-watered.
  2. Watering at night (let’s say 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 September.
  3. Water pressure is usually at its best in early mornings, so you get better coverage.
  4. It’s also less windy in the early morning, so there’s reduced evaporation.
  5. If you have an irrigation leak or improper runoff, you’re more likely to spot it in the morning and take steps to make adjustments or repairs. Problems occurring at 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/won’t/don’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 additional very important rules to live by for smart irrigation practices.

  • If you’re using hoses, please employ 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 turfgrasses 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 www.talkingsprinkler.com/water-conservation/.  

PHOTO: Getty Images

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