Save water …. By watering? Practice DIW
Sometimes we overhear people say, “I am not a lawn person; I never water my lawn.” To be honest, there have been times in my gardening life, when I’ve been prone to this custodial withholding of love. Maybe it’s done in the name of saving water or just not wanting to be a weekend-warrior gardener. But the reality is that the best way to save water is to practice DIW – DEEP INFREQUENT WATERING.
A healthy plant that is the most resistant to drought is one with a vigorous and full root system and thriving leaf canopy. Deep and infrequent water fully saturates the soil at all levels of the root system – including slightly deeper than the deepest roots. Then – you’re going to love this – don’t water! Not watering is essential to making this work. Not watering not only opens the soil pores to oxygen (which they need to grow) it also puts the root system under stress which leads to more root growth and deeper root growth.
If you don’t water at all you will eventually reach a tipping point where the plant goes into a cycle of decline. The root system gets smaller leading to less ability to take in water and the plant canopy gets smaller, which leads to more soil exposure, hotter soil temperatures, more erosion, more compaction and makes the plant more susceptible to insects and disease. It also will lead to more weeds. And counterintuitively, the soil become hydrophilic – it actually becomes resistant to water infiltration.
So how do you practice DIW? Here are some ideas:
- Choose one week a month in the summer and water every day for 3 or 4 days. This will force water down deeper into the soil and enable strong root growth.
- On a weekend – water twice a day for both days.
- Water before it rains! Do you look like the crazy neighbor? Yes! But watering before it rains opens up the soil to allow for more infiltration right away from the rain as well as allowing the rain water to push the soil water deeper (common theme!).
So, invest in your lawn, trees and landscape plants with DIW throughout the spring and summer. You will develop a healthy root system and overall plant health and you will have to water less to avoid the tipping point during drought periods.