Irrigation Help Center
JWA
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Congratulations on Your New Landscape!
Six weeks following the completion of your landscape you will be contacted by JWA to schedule a follow up check on your lawn, plants and your irrigation controller.  Usually our clients will take this opportunity to get a second tutorial on controller programming and on the general issues of plant establishment and seasonal irrigation adjusting.

In large part we have this meeting is to decrease plant mortality rates.  Plants taken from containers and placed into a new environment die with rates that are a factor of the skill of the people planting them, the skill of the people caring for them and the environmental stresses they encounter (in our service area, mainly poorly draining, low-organic matter sub-soils and dry heat).

The following is an example of the settings you may arrive at on your second summer after planting.  This is the time when they can be considered fairly "established" - that is, death at this point is more likely to occur from an irrigation disruption (line break and loss of pressure, or, the controller fails or is turned off), disease, or over-watering/poor drainage. 

P  Annuals, herbaceous perennials, high-water shrubs, shallow-rooted ground covers.
High-Frequency:  20-30 min., 5-7 days/wk.


S  Shrubs, shallow-rooted and high-water trees.
Medium-Frequency:  30-45 min., 2-4 days/wk.


T  Trees, drought-tolerant shrubs and ground covers.
Low-Frequency, Deep-Water cycle:  45-90 min., 1-2 days/wk. Duration to increase and frequency to decrease with plant age/root depth.



The example above is based on a three station set up.  You may or may not have this.  If you only have two, then refer to the P station as it is and average the S and T to come up with a setting that is something like:

S/T  Shrubs and Trees and Drought tolerant, woody ground covers.
Medium-Frequency: 40-55 min., 2-3 days/wk.

Note:  The difference in total water in each grouping is compounded by emitter size.  One gallon perennials are typically given (1)1 gal/hr emitters, shrubs may be given (2) 2 gal/hr emitters, trees, adjustable bubblers producing 1 - 6 gal/hr and drought tolerants on the T station, (1)1 gal/hr emitter.

Remember, these settings are intended to provide a relative difference between the stations.  The following are variables that affect the water needs of plants:
     1.  Species
     2.  Shade
     3.  Soil's quantity of organic matter
     4.  Soil's ability to drain (generally, poor draining soils are prone to killing plants in the warm season by holding water in the root zone, starving the roots and their bacteria/fungal friends of the oxygen they all need).
     5.  Seasonal abnormalities (three or so years into the landscape's life, June 15 to September 30 and November to march 15 will be very simple and predictable for most irrigation programmers, including yourself.  It's the dates in between, where summer comes early or late, or winter rains hit heavy and early or hardly come at all, that you'll see most of your year to year variation.  That said, there are varieties of plants - and whole landscape styles - which will bare these variations in climate without any irrigation tailoring on the part of the owner (granted you're three or so years into the scape's life).
     6.  Age:  The older a woody shrub or tree, the more extensive the roots and therefore, the longer it can go between watering.  This does not mean it needs less water, simply that you can give it more water in a serving and not have that water wasted.  It also means you use increasingly LESS water over time.  This happens first because the excess water one plant leaves behind is picked up by its neighbor with deeper roots.  The second reason has to do with the deep water left over from winter rains - we'll get to that shortly - the important thing is that you want to take advantage of this phenomenon with your trees and large, woody shrubs. Why?  First, many trees planted near a lawn (in time, this means even the trees planted 25 feet from your grass) will find your lawn and drink from it (this means surface roots and balding in the turf).  Secondly, stretching the watering frequency out - and this means stressing the tree a little - forces the tree to go after the water it didn't use right away and missed - that now lies below it.  This does several things:  First, the tree becomes better anchored with deeper roots.  It has access to more nutrients.  And,the tree, with the help of the softening effect of the water, breaks up the hard-pan sub soil below the hole we dug, diminishing the possibility of death by over-watering, or root rot.  Eventually this property of your woody shrubs and trees will have a marked effect on how far into the warm season you can go before beginning irrigation.  This is because the winter-time earth soaking lasts well beyond the last rain.  Five feet down your soil may still have moisture on a 90 degree day in early July.  Your tree can have roots there - sooner if you help it. 


If your job was planted in the fall, then your first summer will not be far from the settings shown above.  (Fall planting is the least stressful on plants and  many plants will come into the following summer well established).  You will, however, need to give your plants a little extra duration and frequency.  The first summer after a fall or winter planting is a good time to use the second summer settings ALONG WITH frequent observation and hand watering just those plants that appear to need it.*  Remember, it's more difficult to bring a plant back from the brink of death-by-water than it is to bring it back from the brink of death-by-thirst.

If it was planted in summer, then you'll have settings, for the first two weeks after planting, that look more like this:


P  Annuals, herbaceous perennials, high-water shrubs, shallow-rooted ground covers.
High-Frequency:  20-30 min., 2-3x's/day, 7 days/wk.


S  Shrubs, shallow-rooted and high-water trees.
Medium-Frequency:  30-45 min., 5-7 days/wk.


T  Trees, drought-tolerant shrubs and ground covers.
Low-Frequency, Deep-Water cycle:  45 min., 6 days/wk. Duration to increase and frequency to decrease with plant age/root depth.



OR,

S/T  Shrubs and Trees and Drought tolerant, woody ground covers.
Medium-Frequency: 55 min., 7 days/wk.


After two weeks and for the next month you might be:


P  Annuals, herbaceous perennials, high-water shrubs, shallow-rooted ground covers.
High-Frequency:  20-25 min., 2x's/day, 7 days/wk.


S  Shrubs, shallow-rooted and high-water trees.
Medium-Frequency:  30-45 min., 4-5 days/wk.


T  Trees, drought-tolerant shrubs and ground covers.
Low-Frequency, Deep-Water cycle:  45 min., 4 days/wk. Duration to increase and frequency to decrease with plant age/root depth.


OR,

S/T  Shrubs and Trees and Drought tolerant, woody ground covers.
Medium-Frequency: 55 min., 7 days/wk.


Most of our plant experts could take any plant and plant it at any time of year, at their own house, and expect to do this time after time without ever having a plant fatality.  They expect, however, a certain percentage of loss on the jobs which they plant and lay out the irrigation for. 

The reasons for this have mainly to do with their ability to predict what a particular kind of plant needs in every season and throughout its establishment (getting rooted and behaving more or less typically for its kind, with respect to water).  But, most important, is that they are seeing the plant every day and know by its appearance when to pour it on and when to back off - they are not relying completely on the controller during establishment.

This is the challenge for the landscape installer wanting to give homeowners the excellent plant designs their customers saw in a magazine.  They know how to put it in - but then they have to leave the rest up to their client.

Your JWA plants are guaranteed for three months.  If your plant designer is concerned about any particular plants he may visit the site prior to the Six-Week Checkup, or, he may ask you to watch out for certain signs of stress. 

STAY TUNED FOR MORE IN THE IRRIGATION HELP CENTER!