Lisa's Landscape & Design

Saving the Planet One Yard at a Time
Moisture meter

Landscape Watering 101


Low water Landscape Design, Lisa LaPaso

We’re Challenged

This is a much-needed blog I have been dreading to write because it is so important, but tough to explain. Watering your plants, lawn and trees is a challenge no matter where you live but in Central Texas it is really rough. We have poor soil, extreme heat, lack of resources, no rain then bursts of rain, and frequent winds that don’t give our plants much to work with.
Here is the landscape watering 101, fast class. 

Low water landscape design, Lisa LaPaso,designer

Potted Plants

Since so many gardeners begin with pots this is a great place to start for us too. Pots are a much larger challenge than most people realize because there are a dozen variables at any time. Light and wind conditions, whether it is a plastic (which I do not recommend), clay pot or coco liner and so on. Each factor has a lot to do with how often you water. For more of this information you should read my blog on potted plants.

Potted plants require water more often.

Potted plants require water more often. Cactus and succulents can last much longer without a drink.

Lawn Watering Care

For those of you with lawn and irrigation, a once a week or every five-day watering is best to the depth of one inch. You can measure the length of time you need to achieve one inch by placing a shallow, flat sided vessel (like a tuna can) by the spray nozzle (in several areas) then count how long it takes to fill it to an inch. Now you will know how long to set your timer on your irrigation.
Why do you water deeper and less seldom you ask? Those who water shallow and often are training the roots of the sod to stay at the surface for water and become more susceptible to heat and extreme temps. Those who water deep and seldom train the sod/grass to send roots deep into the ground for water, hence protecting them from extremes 😉 If your irrigation or water sprinkler is pouring water down the street your grass is obvioulsy not absorbing it, so you will need to water in shorter sessions allowing for the sod to absorb before you continue, for more info on sod and my general opinion of it read more here.

Lawns on a slope need a different watering strategy

Lawns on a slope can be really challenging to water and may require more frequent short watering sessions instead of one long one to achieve 1′ of water. If your yard slopes, set your irrigation to 2 or 3 cycles for shorter durations to achieve the necessary minutes.

Watering Our Trees

Trees are an important asset to our properties and they need to be protected. Trees that are young or newly planted require special attention for the first few years. If you have planted or inherited the right trees for our area, watering should be little to none once a tree is established. If you have newly planted trees they will need watering daily for the first couple of weeks (planting season is in winter when the trees are dormant), not over watering but keeping the soil moist allowing the roots to take a grip in the soil. Then you taper off to every three days, then to five and to once a week for the first year or so, then to an as needed basis. For details on how to care for newly planted trees and watering protocol click here.

Beautiful and majestic mature oak tree

Even beautifully majestic, mature trees may need our help from time to time.

Proper mulch and watering technique for mature trees

for newly planted trees up to the first two years, drip line or handheld watering will be necessary until established. After the first two years your tree will be mostly independent unless there is drought, and it’s time to remove the stakes and let the young tree stand on its own. 

Proper watering technique for new trees

Watering of Edible Landscapes 

Finally, we want to talk about our veggie and flower beds. Very similar to one another in that you want to plant like-minded plants together. In other words, you wouldn’t plant a water hog near a cactus and expect them to be sympatico. You need to be conscious of the plants water needs before you plant so you can get them all on the same watering cycle which should be once a week to the depth of an inch (as a general rule) much like your lawn. This is also on an as needed basis which could be as seldom as once a week or once every other week.
My xerophytic beds ( I have only native and adapted flowering plants and fruiting trees) can go several weeks without water, but when it is time to water they all have the same needs which make the process much easier to manage. The same is true with your veggies. Tomatoes require consistent moisture as do melons and gourds.  On the other hand, many herbs and veggies like onions and bulbs do not like wet feet for an extended period. So understand the needs of your plants and plant them with like-minded plants and veggies.
Soaker hoses and drip lines are superior when it comes to watering your perennial and annual beds. You get the most concentrated form of water without overspray and evaporation. It’s important to invest in good hoses to get the most of them. Time the hoses and check the plants for saturation to understand how long your plants need to be watered. There are excellent hose end, digital timers to help with this task. 

Xeriscape design, Austin, low water color

Privacy and low water beauty, all in one.

Watering Perennial Beds

Newly planted beds should be watered much more frequently until established which can take a couple of years depending on the plant. Fingers in the soil is the best way to tell what your plants need and when. If they look droopy, don’t assume they need water, they may have gotten too much water and showing signs of stress from over wet feet or you may be checking them in the middle of the day when they wilt from transpiration.
By feeling the soil you can more accurately determine if it is wet or dry. If it’s wet, let it be for another day and check again. If the soil is excessively dry and you need to water the plant, but be sure to water slowly to allow the roots to absorb the water, over watering can result in root damage.

Creating exquisite Xeriscape and edible gardens that are organic, low maintenance and low water. There is no place for chemicals here.

Creating exquisite Xeriscape and edible gardens that are organic, low maintenance and low water. Many veggies have low water requirements and can be hand watered or separated by water needs as this bed has been.

Use The Right Sprayer Head

If you are hand watering your lawn, trees, pots or plants be sure to use a hose end sprayer that mimics rain. Time and time again I see home owners and clients with hose end sprayers that are in pure power wash mode and I say if you can’t spray that kind of pressure in your eyes then don’t use it on your plants. Believe it or not, the first thing to remember when watering is the soil, not the plant. The soil is a living organism and when you power blast your soil you are forcing the water through the surface, pushing out oxygen and disturbing shallow roots and mycorrhizae (good fungus that spreads thousands of threads just beneath the soil {rhizosphere}to provide food to your plants in exchange for some sugar, Google it, its super cool) doing more harm than good. Water your beds with the same pressure as a good soaking rain. Save the pressure for cleaning cars. If you are using a hose end sprinkler, make sure it is well fitted and only covers a small area at a time without huge sprays in the air that are mostly blown away or evaporated. A small concentration of water is much more effective than a huge spray.


Proper Timing

Timing on watering is also important. Watering in the evening (except for St. Augustine lawns which can promote fungus) is beneficial because it allows your plants and trees to absorb the water before the hot sun beats down on them. Never water in the middle of the day when water beads on the leaves can act like magnifying glasses and burn. If you do water in the mornings, earlier the better for the same reason. It will allow your plants to absorb the water before the heat kicks in and evaporates most of it.

Moisture Meters Matter

If you are still unsure, the best advice I have for you is “fingers in the soil”. If you are testing the soil with your hands ( at least a couple of inches deep, pots included) you will become intimately in tune to your gardens needs and will have a better knowledge of dry and wet spots and micro-climates (sunny or windy places/odd soil, bad drainage, etc.) that need more attention on watering day.
Another great way to test your soil is with a moisture meter that reads the moisture retention with a dry/moist/wet reading.

Moisture meter

Remember not to over water, plants need to dry between watering to keep roots from rotting and to prevent damage to the soil by removing oxygen and nutrients necessary for feeding your plants, not to mention it is a waste of good water. Order a water measure meter online to assist in firm soil and deep pots. Once you learn the best timing, be consistent and learn to adjust over each season.

I hope this helps 🙂 Be sure to tell me what you think!

Lisa LaPaso

Lisa’s Landscape and Design (“like” me on Facebook)

“Saving the Planet One Yard at a Time”

Check me out on YouTube!


  1. Scovill Allan

    Hi Lisa. I planted some of the moonflower seeds you gave Letha and here’s the result. It took forever for them to sprout. Should I put them in the ground now or wait till spring?


    • Hi Scovill, I would probably wait until it gets a little cooler and maybe plant them late september. They are really hardy seeds and I usually don’t do much more than to throw them in the beds.If you guys can;t get them to to make it until then let me know and I will give you more seeds. I have about a million of them 🙂

  2. Michelle

    Hi Lisa: Just saw your video about the Pride of Barbados. I have an exquisite one in my front garden that just keeps on coming back year after year, bigger and better. Wondering this: Can anything be done with the seeds? I have planted them after drying, fresh, broken open, ect. but never any luck. Do you know anything about this? I live halfway between Dallas and Houston on I-45, about 4 hours from you. This is really East Texas but considered part of central Texas in the weather map. Thanks for the information. Love your blog. Thank you so much. Michelle

    • Michelle I don’t have much luck with them either. You might try scoring or soaking the seeds prior to planting to see if that helps at all. Glad youre enjoying the blog, happy gardening!

      • Michelle

        Thanks for the information. I will try and let you know what happens. You should see my confederate rose. Holy moly, it’s havin’ a party in my yard. Absolutely stunning this year with hundreds of blooms! Michelle

      • How fun, I am noticing all my plants are so happy for the cooler temps. I am a big fan of fall and the blooms are an added bonus! Enjoy…

      • Lezley

        I scrape my POB pods HARD. Scraping is best done on concrete but a nail file or emery board is ok too. Just scrap on ‘seam’ edge until the color starts to change and then quit. Soak over the next day or two and then plant, keeping them moist the first week. They are slow to germinate but this takes off a month of waiting.

      • Lesley, that’s good to know. I know some people just seem to have the magic touch.

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