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Measuring Irrigation Depth

During the last few weeks we’ve been talking about how to remove your turf grass and replace it with drought tolerant alternatives. But even if you remove all of your grass, you may still have plants and other landscape features that require watering. This week we’ll talk about how to measure your irrigation depth to make sure that water infiltrates into the soil, feeds the roots, and grows a healthy plant!

If you prefer visuals we have summarized two easy soil moisture tests in a two-minute video. Click to watch and keep your eyes peeled for a handsome young gnome….

If you prefer to read a description, we’ll talk through it as well. There are two recommended methods to measure your irrigation depth.

The more technical method is to use a soil probe which is a hollow tube that you can push into the soil to harvest a soil core.

Soils probes can easily be found at most home improvement stores or online. A soil core is a cylinder of soil pulled straight from the ground so that you can see how deep the roots extend and how far down the water has infiltrated. If the water has gone as deep as the rooting system, you’re irrigating enough!

(As a bonus, if you’re trying to figure out what type of grass you have with the goal of physically removing your turf grass, a soil probe will show your root depth. If the roots go deeper than you can remove, the turf will grow back and another method will be required to prevent grass from growing back.)

A second method to gauge how deep the water is infiltrating the soil just requires a screwdriver.

Simply push the screwdriver into the soil. If it is very difficult to push the screwdriver in more than three or four inches, then you probably haven’t irrigated long enough for water to infiltrate into the soil. This method is less technical, but is a great first step to gauge watering depth.

Both methods seek to help you to not be fooled by a dry soil surface. Just because the top looks dry (and it will more often during a drought and summer heat) doesn’t mean that the soil below isn’t plenty moist. Don’t forget, you can always help keep even more moisture in your soil simply by adding mulch!

Test your soil to stop overwatering and let me know how it goes!

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