The following guide provides an overview of the most effective and efficient ways to be successful with watering within established hydrozones.

Zone 1: Routine Irrigation. The principal hydrozone is the area that experiences both the greatest impact on the land and the largest water and energy use. For example, your backyard as a whole would be considered the principal hydrozone, because this is probably where you spend most of your time when you’re outside.

Ideally, a lawn should be watered just before it begins to wilt. At this stage, most grasses take on a dull purplish cast and the blades begin to fold or roll. If your area is under a drought, grass tends to show tracks after someone walks across the lawn.

Early morning is considered the best time to water. The wind is usually calm and the temperature is low so less water is lost to evaporation. The worst time to water is in the late evening because the lawn will stay wet all night, making it more susceptible to disease.

Most grass lawns can go five to seven days or longer between watering.  And when watering a lawn, wet the soil to a depth of 4 to 6 inches.

Zone 2: Reduced Irrigation. Areas that are visually important but used less for activity are considered the secondary hydrozone. This zone generally includes shrub and flower beds near the main entrance of a home. The amount of water that flower beds and shrubs need depends on a number of things, including if the bed is in the sun or shade, how mature the plants are, and how much mulch is around them. The one constant is that you want the soil to remain somewhat moist, not crumbly dry and not dripping wet. When watering, you want the plants to receive enough water to replenish the moisture throughout the plant into the root zone. The soil after watering should feel like a damp paper towel.

Zone 3: Limited Irrigation. Minimal hydrozones are the areas of your yard that receive little or no human use, and therefore justify little irrigation. These include buffer zones between homes, directional delineators such as strips of grass between the sidewalk and street, and embankments. For best results and easiest maintenance, these areas should be matched with native plants that will survive with mostly just rainfall. If you notice these areas looking dry, offer a light watering as an effective way to enhance the plants’ health.  

Zone 4: No Irrigation. The elementary hydrozone describes the area of your yard that receives only natural rainfall and no supplementary water supply. Here the human use intensity is lowest. These areas include utility areas, mulched parkways, and naturally existing vegetation.

Whether you elect to hand water or irrigate your landscape, maximize the benefits from hydrozones, with a carefully considered plan for when and how to water.  It may take a bit of time to tweak and modify the plan  but after some initial trial and error, you should have an environmentally friendly, thriving landscape.

Photo with Kane Landscapes, Sterling, VA.

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