What is Soak and Cycle Watering?
In the Wichita area, dense clay soil is very common. This makes it difficult for lawns to absorb water. As a result, it’s easy to waste water due to runoff. If you’ve ever seen water seeping out around the street, or where your lawn meets the driveway, you may be watering at a rate higher than your lawn can absorb.
Soak and Cycle watering helps alleviate runoff, reduce water waste, and improve root growth. This method divides your watering into short cycles, giving the water time to soak into the soil before repeating the cycle three to four times, as needed.
For example, if you have a watering zone that requires 15 minutes of water. Rather than running the full 15 minutes, you would let your sprinkler run for five minutes over three separate periods. Give the water 20-60 minutes to absorb between each cycle.
How Much Should You water Your Lawn?
Most lawns require about one inch of water per week. For optimal results using Soak and Cycle, determine the flow rate of your sprinklers by collecting water in rain gauges or cups. You’ll need to run the system for a timed period during typical wind/weather conditions. Check the gauges and figure out the output per hour.
Note, your sprinkler system may water at a different rate depending on the zone and head type. You’ll want to take several measurements across your entire lawn. This may result in different cycles from zone to zone.
You will also want to determine how much water your lawn can accept before runoff occurs. Clay soils can typically only absorb about two-tenths of an inch of water in one hour. Your specific soil makeup and the slope of your lawn can impact this rate. While you’re checking your sprinkler’s output, let the system run to the point you see runoff. You will want to stop your cycles before you reach that point.
Once you know the output and runoff point, you can determine how many cycles to run per week. Using the Soak and Cycle method, you only water again when the soils starts to become dry. During summertime in the Wichita area, this will typically be every three to four days.
The Soak and Cycle method only works if your cycles are close together. Don’t water in the morning, and then in the evening. Use 20-60 minute increments. The first cycle loosens the surface tension and allows the water to penetrate the soil. The second cycle reaches more of the root, as water is absorbed deeper into the ground. The third cycle allows for even more absorption, with water filling the root zone. For very dense and rocky areas, or steep areas, a fourth cycle may be beneficial.
Soak and Cycle allows water to better reach a depth of 6 to 8 inches, which is where grass roots are growing. This creates strong roots, and a healthier lawn.