Top Watering Tips for Maintaining a Healthy Landscape in the Desert

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When you live in the desert for any extended period of time, there are a few things you learn that are different here than anywhere else on Earth, and the most important of these lessons is the value of water. Be it for drinking, bathing, or keeping your landscape hydrated and healthy, without water we cease to exist, and when your natural domicile is in the desert, water is not as readily available as it may be in other places.  As such, we’ve compiled a list of watering tips dedicated solely to the preservation of your Arizona landscape and ensuring that your lawn and plants will continue to thrive and flourish throughout the years!

1-2-3 Rule

The first question most people ask is how much water is appropriate for plants and landscaping. Most people understand that not watering enough is a bad thing, but few realize that watering too much is just as bad. In addition to wasting a valuable resource, watering too much is costly and can cause your plants to die, as the roots will not be able to get enough oxygen.  The 1-2-3 Rule is simple and works as follows:

  1. Smaller plants, groundcover, and cacti should be watered to a depth of 1 foot. Grass is the exception to this rule, as it only should be watered to a depth of 10 inches.
  2. Water medium sized plants (shrubs and bushes) to a depth of 2 feet.
  3. Trees and other large plants should be watered to a depth of 3 feet.

It may take a little trial and error to determine the amount of time to water to the appropriate depths, but using a soil probe about an hour after watering will give you an idea if you have done it correctly.  Push the probe into the soil until you encounter resistance…the wet soil should allow the probe to slide through easily, while dry soil won’t and you can measure from that point.

Sprinkler Systems and Timers

For those of you with lawns, the use of a sprinkler system with a timer can help you save water, money, and energy; once you’ve determined the correct amount of water needed and the number of days you should be watering (a schedule for Bermuda grass lawns is provided below), program the timer and basically forget it about it. The exception to this rule is during rainy times (yes, we do get rain in the desert!). When it rains, turn off your sprinklers; many timers have a rainy day temporary stop – you push a button and it won’t sprinkle on that day, but will return to the regularly scheduled system the next day.

  • During the summer, water once every 3 days. In winter, Bermuda goes dormant and does not need to be watered. Watering every day is not necessary and is wasteful.  Watering every three days ensures a strong root system, guaranteeing a healthy lawn.
  • Use the soil probe to determine the length of time needed to run the sprinklers. It should go easily into the ground up to 10 inches; when this happens, you know you have watered the optimal amount of time. Start testing in 15 minute increments.
  • During the hottest months, water at night or early morning. Watering in the heat of the day is not recommended.
  • Shaded lawns need less frequent watering.

Other Tips

  • Keep your yard weed free to keep weeds from stealing precious water needed by your plants
  • Trees should be on a separate watering system from plants and grass
  • You’ve under-watered if your Bermuda turns blue-gray or still feels warm to the touch long after the sun has set
  • You’ve overwatered if your lawn smell musty, has puddles, is mushy when you walk on it, or if you see mushrooms growing
  • Watering needs change as your landscapes matures

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