Basic knowledge of garden irrigation important for homeowners

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Natural resource specialist goes over questions from residents

There is a common Ozarks observation that says this region is always two weeks away from drought during the summer time.

According to Bob Schultheis, a natural resource engineering specialist with University of Missouri Extension, the saying has some accuracy.

"Soils in the Ozarks store 1.5 to 2.5 inches of water per foot of soil depth and lose about 0.25 inch per day through evaporation and plant use," Schultheis said. "Our shallow soils only absorb water at about 0.3 inch per hour in a rainstorm, so the rest is lost to runoff if it rains harder than that."

That means it is important for gardeners and homeowners to understand some basics about landscape and garden irrigation.

The following are some of the most common questions Schultheis gets on this subject:

Q: What is a simple way to check if the soil needs water?

A: "Push an 8 to 10 inch long screwdriver into the ground. If it goes in easily, soil moisture is adequate. Another sign is if footprints remain in grass after it is walked on. By the time you see plants wilting, it is past time to water," Schultheis said.

Q: Lacking rainfall, how much water should be applied and when?

A: "Apply about one inch of water per week. Use a rain gauge or shallow straight-sided cans to measure the amount applied. Apply the water early in the morning to reduce evaporation and plant diseases," Schultheis said.

Q: What are good ways to apply water slowly to trees and container plants?

A: "Use a soaker hose and turn on the faucet until the water seeps from the hose wall or use empty milk jugs or 5-gallon buckets with a tiny hole drilled in the bottom. A one-eighth inch hole will apply water at 5 gallons per hour and a 5/64" hole will apply water at two gallons per hour," Schultheis said.

For more information on this topic, people may contact the nearest University of Missouri Extension Center and ask for MU Guide G6720 "Home Lawn Watering Guide" and G6912 "Water-Efficient Gardening and Landscaping." These guides are also available online at http://extension.missouri.edu.