December 2, 2023

How Much Water my Landscape Really Needs?



 The Georgia Water Stewardship Act went into effect statewide on June 2, 2010.  Learn more at


Please, be waterSmart with the following tips:

Beautiful yards take a lot less water than you think.  In fact, more Southern lawns are damaged each year from over-watering than they are from lack of water.  When you use water wisely, you can provide your lawns and landscape plants with the water they need, even during the hottest part of the summer.  It just takes some common sense and watering know-how.  Read on to learn how to water your landscape wisely.

Water in the early morning.  Watering between the hours of 4am and 8am will reduce evaporation, saving you money and conserving water.

Attach a water breaker to the end of your water hose for a gentle flow.  Direct the water breaker to the roots, which spread two to three times the width of the top growth. A typical garden hose can deliver five gallons of water per minute.  Do not use water to mist foliage, and avoid shallow watering practices.

Use soaker hoses or drip irrigation “snaked” throughout a bed or placed around a tree under the “drip line” (the outermost branches) are extremely efficient ways to water.  A soaker hose distributes water one foot wide on either side of the hose. Adding a timer at the hose bib takes all the remembering out of the entire process. Drip irrigation uses 50% less water than a sprinkler.

Spread a 2 – 3 inch layer of mulch over the plant’s root system to help conserve moisture.  Pine straw, pine bark nuggets, ground pine bark, or cypress mulch are all easy to use.  A three cubic foot bag of mulch will cover seven square feet three inches thick.  If you have shredded paper available to you, consider using it under the mulch you select. Shredded paper will allow the water to penetrate and will decompose, enriching the soil that lies beneath.

Give priority to trees and shrubs planted within the last five months.

If restrictions do not allow you to water at all, prune back trees and shrubs by one-third to one-half when they become severely wilted and begin shedding leaves. This will reduce water demand on the roots and increase their chances of survival.

Note: If runoff occurs before you are finished watering, move on to another spot and return to continue watering after the water has soaked in.

Plant Type Time to Water
Small Shrubs (4 feet or less in height) Hand watering – One minute / 5 gallons – per shrub a weekIrrigation – 1.5” inches per week
Large Shrubs (4 feet or taller) Hand watering – Increase watering time by 15 seconds for each foot of height (i.e. an 8 ft. shrub needs 2 minutes or 10 gallons)Irrigation – 1.7” inches per week
Trees Hand watering – Apply two gallons for every inch of trunk diameter (measure 4 ½ feet above the ground)Irrigation – 2 inches per week
Flowers Hand watering – Five gallons of water per 10 square feet / one minute at medium pressure per plant. About 10 minutes for a regular flower bed. About 1 minute per small pot.Summer: 3 to 4 times a weekFall and Spring: 2 times a week

Winter: 1 time a week

Irrigation – Summer: 1-2 inches per week. Fall: 1 inch per week

Bermuda Grass ½ to 1 inch per week
Centipede & Fescue Grass 1 inch per week
Zoysia Grass 1 inch per week


Automatic irrigation system owners should change controller run times to meet seasonal plant needs. Plants require less water in cool spring and fall periods and more water in the heat of summer. For example, zoysia and Bermuda grass may require 0.6 – 0.9 inches of water  per week in spring and fall but need 1.25 – 1.5 inches per week in midsummer. Wetting the soil to a 6 inches deep requires 1 to 2 inches of surface water (will vary with soil type, compaction, and slope). So for plants between 3 to 15 gallons you will need about 2-3 inches of water in hot days. Observing plant conditions and using judgment is very important to avoid loses in your landscape and overwatering.

In order to measure the rainfall or the irrigation water you will need to purchase a rain gauge. Make sure it has a mounting bracket to attach to a fence or post. It will consist of a clear straight sided cylinder, usually plastic. Now you will be able to record the exact amount of rain that has fallen in your back yard. You will also be able to control the growth of your garden, by adding additional water if needed.


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Plants must have water to survive. Water in a plant is like blood in an animal. Water carries dissolved nutrients, sugars and hormones throughout the plant’s system. Some plants can go for long periods receiving only minimal water. Others require water every day. Here are some guidelines to help you determine when, where and how much to water.

During drought or watering restrictions, consider the replacement cost of the plants in the landscape and do what you can to save the most valuable plants.

Hand Watering

During watering restrictions, selectively hand water shrubs showing drought stress. The direct application of water to the base of the plant, provided it is applied slowly enough to be absorbed by the soil, uses less water and is more efficient than sprinkler irrigation.

To avoid runoff when using the hand-held hose, use a water wand or other nozzle that divides the spray into rain-size droplets. Some nozzles have built-in spray pattern adjustments.

>Small shrubs (less than 4 feet in height) 1 minute (five gallons)

>Larger shrubs (4 feet and up) Increase the watering time by 15 seconds for each foot of height exceeding four feet. Example: an 8 foot tall shrub needs 2 minutes of watering (10 gallons)

If runoff occurs before you have applied the correct amount of water, move on to another spot and come back after the water has soaked in.

Soaker hose

A soaker hose can effectively water a swath one foot wide on either side of the hose. A 50 foot long hose can water 100 square feet of flower bed. Apply 50 gallons of water per 100 square feet when plants show water stress.

To determine how much water your soaker hose delivers:
> Coil it up and put it in a large plastic garbage bag.
> Cut a small hole in one corner of the bottom of the bag.
> Connect the soaker hose to your garden hose. Turn on the water.
> Suspend the soaker hose (in the bag) above a five gallon bucket. Allow water to drain into the bucket.
> Time how long it takes for the hose to apply five gallons of water.

If restrictions do not allow you to water outdoors at all, prune back shrubs by one-third to one-half when they become severely wilted and begin shedding leaves. This will reduce water demand on the roots and increase their chances of survival during drought.

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