How to Water Your Landscape Using the Cycle and Soak Method:
This method of irrigation applies water slowly so the soil actually absorbs all that is applied. Instead of running each sprinkler zone for 15 or 20 minutes each, run each zone only the amount of time that the soil can absorb the water (which means it’s not running off onto the sidewalk or street).
Depending on the slope of the yard, this could vary widely from zone to zone. Each landscape owner will have to test their zone run times to see when the water begins to run off.
Once you have determined the maximum amount of water each zone can take before runoff, split the total irrigation time into two or three parts. This involves irrigating the zone, shutting it off to allow time for the water to soak in and then irrigating the remainder of the time.
Schedule the run times about one hour apart until the soil is moistened to a depth of 6-8 inches. Most sprinkler system controllers can be programmed to automatically run the cycle and soak method.
Hint: The lawn has been successfully watered when…
About an hour after watering, push a soil probe (or a very long screwdriver) into the soil. It will slide easily through wet soil but will be impossible to push through dry clay. The landscape has been successfully watered when the probe easily slides to a depth of 6 – 8 inches.
What is the purpose of this method?
Local soils have difficulties absorbing large amounts of water at one time. You may feel that more is better when watering, but in actuality the soil is only absorbing a small portion of water that is being applied. Once the soil reaches its max saturation point, the water then flows off and into the nearest storm drain.
By using the cycle and soak method, the plant's root system will reach for moisture deep within the ground and be well protected from the summer heat. It reduces frequent irrigation needs and watering should be reduced to every 3-5 days or more, depending on weather conditions.
The image shown to the left demonstrates how deep, infrequent watering could have a positive outcome for your lawn. For lawns that have not been watered this way in the past, you should gradually work towards building a strong root system. It is not something that happens over night.
Watch the following video to learn more on the cycle and soak method of watering.
Cycle and Soak