Irrigating New Sod and Shrubs
Caring For New Sod
The first 30 days after a new installation, irrigation is extremely critical. Not enough water and things will dry up. Too much water and everything will become diseased. You have made a huge investment in your new landscape and will need to pay close attention to its condition for the first 30 days to insure you have complete success. We recommend walking the property daily and inspection for anything that looks different than the rest. If it looks different there is likely something wrong.
If you have had a new irrigation system installed or reconditioned your system, you also need to be very sure the system is covering everything evenly. Irrigation installers use math to determine head size, flow, calibration, and coverage. Seldom do they actually do a volume test. This is a simple process that you should do in the beginning to make sure what has been calculated is truly what you are getting. Simply take a rain gauge (anything that is cylindrical and has a flat bottom i.e.: soup or tuna can) and let each zone run and see how much water you have hitting the ground. This can also be done in an area or spot later when you feel like an issue has arisen especially when something looks different. Your target is 3/4 (.75) to 1 inch. If you get more, you should adjust that zone for shorter run time. If it is less than increase the run time on that zone.
For example, if you get 1/2 inch in 30 minutes than you would be calibrated by increasing the zone to 45 minutes.
You should also make sure your rain sensor is activated and functioning.
After insuring your volume is correct you can begin your irrigation regiment.
Please understand weather has a major impact on your needs. Hot and dry, you may barely keep up.
Wet and cool, you can easily over water. Rainy 1 week and dry the next. Your plants have no roots and you need to adjust quickly to avoid damage.
First 7 to 10 days: Water all zones for the full time needed 1 time per day.
As you check the plant material daily, if you find wilt in the afternoon you can add a later afternoon/early evening watering for 10% to 15% of the full run time. Remember the turf root system is under great stress and only an inch or less long. You have to keep the surface soil moist.
Second 7-10 days: Water every other day. Your base soil should be very moist and now you are beginning to get new roots, it is critical to do a late afternoon 10% to 15% supplemental watering if you find wilt.
Third 7-10 days: You should be able to drop to watering 3 times weekly. It is critical to do a late afternoon/early evening 10% to 15% watering if you find wilt. While it is less likely at this point it will depend on rain and heat.
After first 30 days: You should be able to switch to 2 or 3 times per week watering. Stop the afternoon watering and let the lawn tell you it is needs the extra water. Each day take a brief walk around the lawn and if you see wilt or hot spots then turn the system on to give it that surface watering. At round 60 days the lawn should be pretty well established and will not require as much attention.
During the first 30 days, you will need to look closely for any areas that have a wilted or greyish look. The wisest thing is to check the soil in these areas and see how dry it is. If the soil is dry you will need to up the water. If it seems like these spots are all over the lawn it is likely just needing more water. You should also pay attention to areas that are repeatedly dry. If it is the same spot every time then the system may have a plugged nozzle or need adjusted. If you do not correct this coverage issue you will end up with damage.
There is no way to predict summer rains. It can rain heavy around the corner and no rain at your house. A good tool to help with the 30-day watering is to monitor a rain gauge to help determine if you can reduce watering.
Caring for New Shrubs
Please be careful when installing new trees and shrubs It seems the growers are using potting material that is courser than we have seen in years past. This is done so nutrients and moisture can be controlled to speed up the growth of the plants while in the nursery. Make sure the root balls are broken up and try to mix a little loose soil from the planting area into the root ball. We have seen many plants die from drought even though the soil in the shrub bed is extremely moist. The course potting soil allows the root ball to dry out much faster than the soil that surrounds it. This is often seen in established plants as well when we enter periods of extreme heat and lack of rain fall. Hand watering the base of the trunk 1 or 2 times per week for the first month or two will help insure you do not a have water problem. If the plant was a 2-gallon plant then it will only need about 2 gallons of water. A 5-gallon plant will need 5 gallons of water and so on.
It is also critical to not install plants to deep. The root flares should be at grade or even a little above grade. You can install a plant too shallow with very little adverse effect. If you install plants even 1/2 inch too deep everything from poor general health, lack of blooming, to premature death will be the result. A simple rule is all trunk bark and root flares should be exposed and above grade when you finish installing a plant. Properly installed mulch is not an issue, just make sure no dirt is covering the areas mentioned.
We always recommend that if you have plants or turf that does not look the same as the rest the wisest thing you can do is check the soil for moisture. With turf is it the first 2 to 3 inches and with plants it is the first inch or so, but you must check at the base of the trunk. With large plants you need to check all four sides of the trunk. It is not uncommon to find 1/2 of the root ball dried out. There is one thing you can always be sure of, if the soil is dry the plant material must get more water. No matter how well your irrigation works, or how much rain we are getting, if the soil is dry-additional water is the cure. If the soil is moist than it very likely is something else and you need to call us.
As a side note, if a plant is dry and you call us, by the time we inspect and you get the needed water back in the soil it may be too late. Plants and turf will take months to recover from dying out if they do survive.
Congratulations on your new lawn and shrubs. Feel free to call out office at any time if you see or think you make have an issue. We may even be able to help you right over the phone saving critical time between an issue arising and being resolved.