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Best Practices for Outdoor Irrigation

By Lindsay Wochnick

Here in the Portland metro area, water consumption is at its highest during the summer months due to outdoor watering.

Oftentimes this is because people don’t know how much water their landscape needs. It’s one reason why irrigation is a key component to water conservation efforts.

Best practices for irrigation include:

  • Preparing the soil to ensure proper drainage and holding capacity by adding organic materials such as compost. Healthy soil needs less water than poor soil.
  • Grouping plants with similar irrigation needs together and selecting plants that are appropriate for the location and condition of the site.
  • Watering when the potential for evaporation is low – late in the evening and early in the morning.
  • Actively managing and maintaining irrigation systems by checking regularly for leaks and misdirected spray.
  • Using a watering gauge (or tuna can) to help indicate when lawns have been watered one inch of per week (lawns may require more during long, hot dry spells).
  • Watering lawns and other landscapes with appropriate amounts. A good rule-of-thumb for watering perennials and shrubs is to apply 50 percent of what is used on lawns and for vegetables to apply 75 percent of what is used on lawns (although new starts require more water).

To get helpful brochures on general landscape planning and maintenance, or information on finding an irrigation contractor, visit

Not sure how much to water? Visit and sign up to receive a customized Weekly Watering Number that will help you determine the amount of water in inches that your lawn will need for that week.

Water Efficiency Team


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