Watering 101 - Established, Mature Landscaping

Keeping your outdoor space beautiful doesn’t have to be costly or high maintenance. Knowing when and how much to water can keep your mature yard beautiful.

Outdoor watering can increase your home’s water use between 30 and 40 per cent in the summer months.

Make sure you are only watering when it’s needed can help keep an increase on your monthly water bill to a minimum, and helps plants become more resilient.

Regularly check all watering tools, including automatic irrigation system to make sure a leak isn’t causing an increase in your water bill.

Are you starting a new yard? Visit Watering 101 – New, Developing Landscape. For other landscaping tips, including what plants grow best in Calgary, visit YardSmart.

Tips for watering your lawn

Water is best applied according to your soil type, weather and plant type.

Plants prefer rain water over water from the hose. Set up your rain barrel to collect rain water to use on your yard. Learn more at YardSmart - Rain Barrels.

Always water low and slow and never apply water faster than your soil can absorb.

Water before 10 a.m. or after 4 p.m. to reduce evaporation.

Overwatering can lead to plant death. Soils in Calgary are generally clay-based, and retain more moisture. Always check your soil moisture before watering.

Sun, shade and wind affect how much water evaporates from the soil. Adding mulch to cover soil around plants, shrubs and trees helps retain soil moisture.

For more information on irrigation, please visit Irrigation Setup and Maintenance Tips.

Track your water use

Knowing how much water you currently use outdoors can help you track water savings in the future.

Compare your average monthly water use over the winter months, to the months you are using water outdoors in the summer.

The difference between summer and winter consumption is the volume of water that you are using outdoors.

To compare to the previous year, look at past bills, or at the historical water use graph at the top of your water bill to get a year over year comparison.

Watering and types of soil

Soil texture changes how much moisture the soil can retain and for how long. This affects how long it takes to moisten roots, and how quickly the soils will dry out again.

Checking soil moisture with a soil moisture meter both before and after watering is the best indicator of adequate watering.

Amend your soils with compost to improve soil texture and health. See our free Green Cart compost pickup dates.

Increase the amount of top soil where ever possible. Having a minimum of eight inches of top soil will improve water absorption and drainage of your soil.

Visit Top Soil Calculator to determine how much soil you need for a project.

Watering and plant needs

Some plants need regular watering, others less. How you water new plants affects the root development, which affects how much water they will consume in the future.

Always read the plant tag to know what each plant specifically needs depending on their location requirement, and put the right plant in the right place (eg. full sun, part shade, shade, etc).

Avoid planting in hot, dry weather as this easily stresses plants and can place highly demands on watering needs.

Select plants appropriate for your growing zone – native and drought-tolerant plant species will require less water. See our list of recommended annuals and perennials, and trees and shrubs.

Homeowner Water Guides for established, mature landscaping

Need help designing your garden?

Not sure which plants to use or the right spot to plant them?

Download our step-by-step pdf guides or click on the image below to learn how to create beautiful and low maintenance garden beds which work in all areas of your yard:

Once established, these gardens take little time, effort, and water to maintain.

Watering guide for mature landscaping

(> 8 weeks)
(> 3 weeks)
(> 3 years)
(>8 weeks)
(>8 weeks)
When to start watering
Look for new growth and soil warmth Upon planting or seeding Once ground is not frozen and buds are starting to swell Once ground is not frozen and buds are starting to swell Do not begin until you note visual cues.
Soil may have extra moisture from melted snowpack
When to stop watering
When first hard frost occurs When plant dies, petals fall off When ground is frozen When ground is frozen When day length shortens and nights are cool. Lawns will start to become dormant and growth will stop.
How often to water Species dependent, about every 10 days Every one to two days as long as soil is drying out between Bi-weekly (check for dry soil) Bi-weekly (check for dry soil) Twice a week at most and only if needed.
Where to water At base of plant At base of plant At the drip line At the drip line Over entire area
Right watering tool for the job Drip irrigation
Watering can
Watering wand
Drip irrigation
Watering can
Watering wand
Garden hose
Soaker hose
Drip irrigation
Garden hose
Soaker hose
Drip irrigation
Garden hose with sprinkler
Automatic irrigation system
Visual cues to indicate water needed? Wilting leaves
Plant reaching for ground
Check for dry soil near base of plant
Wilting leaves
Plant reaching for ground
Check for dry soil near base of plant
Wilting leaves
Dropping branches
Wilting leaves
Droopy apperance
Grass fails to spring back after being stepped on
Dull green colour and wilted
Pushing a screwdriver into soil is difficult
Grass feels warm in the evening after sun has set
How much to water Until soil is moist to the base of the root system (about 1-2 inches down), low and slow Until soil is moist to the base of the root system (about 1-2 inches down), low and slow
Containers - until water is coming out bottom of pot
Water your tree for about 30 minutes with water flowing at just a trickle.
Water needs to penetrate about 10 inches below the surface.
Stop if you see water pooling or running off the surface.
Deep enough to moisten the entire root zone.
Check for dry soils before watering.
Apply water low and slow, for short intervals (5-8 minutes) to ensure all water is being absorbed.
Reapply at these short intervals until water starts to run off or pool.
What else do I need to know? Check the soil moisture around plant base to determine whether plant needs water. Potted plants dry out more often and require more water than plants in the ground. For more information, visit Tree and Shrub Care For more information, visit Tree and Shrub Care For more information on irrigating your lawn, visit Irrigation Setup and Maintenance Tips.