Our Soil: Here in Carrollton, we live in a region called the “Blackland Prairie”. This name comes from the rich, black clay soil beneath our feet. There’s good news and not-so-good news when it comes to irrigating this kind of soil. The good news is that once we get water deep into the soil, it has a tendency to hold it for a while which is good because it means we can water less. On the other hand, getting the water deep into the tightly packed particles of clay takes a certain technique. No worries, it’s not difficult at all, just a little different than most of us are used to. This technique is called the “Cycle Soak Method” of irrigation and is widely recommended by plant and soil experts in our area.
Cycle Soak Method: Clay soil has a very slow water absorption rate. In other words, it must be watered slowly. More often than not, running an irrigation zone for 15 – 20 minutes at a time is too much water for the soil to absorb and it just ends up running off the yard and down the street. Try breaking the run time into 3 shorter cycles. For example, instead of running the zone for 15 or 20 minutes straight, break the watering cycle into 3 cycles of 5 or 7 minutes with about 30 – 60 minutes in between cycles. This gives the clay soil time to deeply absorb the water that you have applied and will be ready to absorb more during the next short cycle.
Make it a Habit: Do this for all of the zones in your system. Remember, each zone has its own water requirements based on plant materials (turf versus planting beds), degree of slope, and which direction that side of the house faces (north, south, east or west). Many irrigation controllers can easily be programmed to automatically run the Cycle Soak Method for all of your irrigation zones. If you have trouble, just call the manufacturer and usually they will have a customer service representative who can help you.
Happy Plants! The plant’s root system will reach for this deep moisture and will be well protected from the summer heat. A deeply irrigated soil bed creates long, healthy plant roots that will not only survive in the Texas heat, but will flourish!
Good Water Stewardship: By using this method, irrigation should not be necessary again for at least 3-5 days, depending on weather conditions.