The most important part of watering is figuring out how deep you need to water your plants. Once you figure that out, you can easily follow our chart that tells you how often to water.

Here are six simple steps to figuring out your watering depth:

Step 1: Water your landscape for the usual amount of time. If it’s the first time you’re watering, start with the number of minutes found in this Irrigation Advice Chart.

Step 2: Wait 24 hours after watering so the water has a chance to percolate into the soil.

Step 3: Grab a measuring tool, such as an 18” depth screwdriver, soil probe, barbecue skewer or 24” long piece of rebar, and probe your tool into an area you didn’t water to check the soil resistance. Next, go to an area that you watered the day before. Push the probe in until it stops. It should go in fairly easily. Don’t try to push it in further once it stops because you can accidentally break a pipe. Mark the spot it went into with your finger, tape or a permanent marker. Pull out the probe and measure the number of inches. Those inches represent your current watering depth. Using the Seasonal Watering Recommendations chart you can find out the depth you need for your type of plant.

Step 4: Adjust your watering time to correctly determine the watering depth. Did you only water 4” but needed a 12” watering depth? If so, then add more time to your watering schedule and perform the test again. Did you water 24” but only needed 18”? If so, then subtract time from your watering schedule. Water again and wait 24 hours to retest.

Step 5: Once you figure out the amount of time you need to water so the water penetrates to the correct soil depth, you are set.

Step 6: Set your controller for the correct amount of time. Use our handy Seasonal Watering Recommendations chart to see how often you’ll need to water your plants.

Don’t overthink it. Our local, desert-friendly plants (native and adaptive plants typically found in our local nurseries) usually thrive in our native soil. 

Learn more by checking out these other useful drip irrigation articles:

Author: Jill Brown, ASLA, is a Landscape Architect and owner of My Landscape Coach in Albuquerque, NM. Have A question about the article?