It may still be hot this week, but the days are getting shorter and the temperatures will eventually start to drop down. Now is the perfect time to get the outside ready to withstand those colder months. Water Expert Denise Hickey and Horticulturalist Patrick Dickinson presented several tips on what we need to know about watering our landscape now and into the fall and winter months.
Only irrigate when there is a lack of rain
It’s important to remember the purpose of irrigation is to supplement the lack of rainfall. In other words, when we have rain – especially like we’ve had in September – there is no need to water whether by automatic sprinkler system, hose-sprinkler or hand watering. Irrigation is a general term and can mean any method of watering that doesn’t come directly from the sky.
Soil moisture is the key
Everyone should pay attention to soil moisture and not only on assigned watering days. As temperatures begin to cool off, things dry out slower which means the soil holds onto moisture longer. The best way to determine soil moisture is by using a moisture meter. You insert it into the soil past the first inch or two and the gauge will read if the soil is dry, moist or wet. If you don’t have a moisture meter, a 6” screw driver works well, too. Similar to testing a cake for doneness, stick the screwdriver in the soil and if it comes out wet, you do not need to water. This simple practice conserves water and saves money on water bills.
And, remember, when those cooler months arrive, it is not only okay to turn off your automatic irrigation system controllers, it’s recommended.
To fertilize or not to fertilize
If you have the right plants, fertilizer may not be necessary. A simple soil test will guide you on if you need fertilizer and what kind. Texas A&M Agrilife Extension Service offers a service where you send in a sample of soil from around your lawn or landscape beds, send it in and get results in 7-10 days. You will learn what your soil is lacking and receive a recommendation on what to apply, if anything. AgriLife recommends a 3-1-2 ratio fertilizer like 15-5-10. Learn more at SoilTesting.tamu.edu.
More ways to protect
Another product to consider applying now to your yard is pre-emergent. There are organic and synthetic options, and it puts a protective barrier across the soil to prevent weeds. This also helps prevent additional chemicals used to treat weeds in the spring and summer. Application of pre-emergent is recommended in September and February.
You can clean up and insulate landscape beds for the colder months by adding 2”-4” of mulch annually. Mulch helps hold moisture longer in our soil. It cools during the summer and warms during the winter. And the best part is – it smothers and controls weeds!
Watering days adjust for winter, too
Beginning in November through end of April, many cities alter watering days to 1 day a week. Check with your city and visit watermyyard.org to know when to water, and when to wait. For more information on preparing for fall and so much more visit us at wateruniversity.tamu.edu.