How to Use a Rain Gauge to Monitor Irrigation Needs

  • jack Officer
  • Jun 04, 2023

Right here’s a common rule of thumb within the gardening world:

Most vegetation want round 1 inch of water each week.

Whereas this sounds easy sufficient, it’s onerous to know what 1 inch of water appears to be like like. And and not using a rain gauge, you actually haven’t any manner of figuring out.

A rain gauge permits you to hold monitor of precipitation and irrigation output, in order to not overwater – which isn’t solely wasteful, however might encourage illness and trigger hurt to vegetation.

A clear graduated cylinder marked with measurements in tenths of an inch is attached to a wooden base to serve as a rain gauge.

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There are some fancy fashions available on the market, however for the house gardener, high-tech tools isn’t actually obligatory.

In actual fact, you’ll be able to even make your individual if you’d like. Right here’s every little thing we’ll cowl on this article:

With this primary software, you’ll be higher in a position to care on your backyard and spend much less time watering unnecessarily.

What Is a Rain Gauge?

It’s a software used to measure precipitation, most frequently rain. There are a number of sorts, however as a gardener, you’ll simply want a typical gauge.

The essential mannequin is a graduated cylinder that captures rainfall. It’s marked with measurements, often inches within the US.

When the rain stops, you simply learn the cylinder very like you’ll a measuring cup. It’s that straightforward.

A ruby-throated hummingbird with orange throat and green body and head is perched on the clear cylinder container of a rain gauge, with a plastic base that is clamped to a wooden deck railing, with a green lawn in soft focus in the background.

Different fashions embrace the tipping bucket, weighing gauge, and optical gauge. All of those can do greater than the usual model, and are used to realize extra subtle readings.

As an illustration, the tipping bucket can measure the speed of precipitation.

The weighing gauge measures precipitation mass through a sensor. As a result of it makes use of mass, it may well measure snowfall and hail too.

A professional rain gauge with a large plastic catchment container, metal pole for support inserted in the ground, and a beige control box, in a greenish-brown lawn with pruned hedges forming a wall to the left.

And the optical gauge is loopy superior and detects optical irregularities. I’ll be trustworthy –  this one is over my head and much past what is important for gardening functions.

Let’s hold issues easy!

The right way to Use It (and The place to Purchase)

Rain gauges are nice for measuring not solely rainfall, but additionally water put out by sprinkler programs.

Stratus Precision Rain Gauge through Amazon

There are a number of totally different variations of the usual fashions, from costlier ones geared in direction of professionals to very primary ones that you just simply stick within the floor.

When you select one to stay straight into the bottom, be mindful it’s possible you’ll get some splashback that would skew the studying.

AcuRite Magnifying Acrylic Rain Gauge through Amazon

Additionally, leaves from any vegetation overhead can block rain from reaching the cylinder, and even drip moisture from their leaves into the cylinder, throwing off your studying.

Due to these components, put the gauge a little bit methods off the bottom and in an open space to make sure a extra correct studying.

Closely cropped image of two hands removing a clear graduated cylinder canister from a metal stand holder, with blue and yellow flowers and green foliage in the background.

The mannequin that I’ve is bolted to my deck. It’s in a spot that’s straightforward to see proper after I stroll out of my door, so I don’t must exit of my method to test it.

Ornamental choices are even out there, like this ornamental frog, out there from Plow & Fireside, so as to add a contact of caprice to the panorama.

A close up of a decorative frog with an umbrella rain gauge outside in the garden.

 Ornamental Frog, out there from Plow & Fireside

As soon as the sky clears, I test it, take a psychological word, and dump it right into a plant. That’s it.

If it has a minimal of 1 inch of water in it, I don’t fear about my perennials that week. And actually, I don’t fear about my perennials anyway except it has been dry for at the least a few weeks, or I see indicators of wilting.

Many perennials can deal with a prolonged dry spell. However it’s good to know your vegetation. Hydrangeas and different heat-sensitive vegetation might have to be babied throughout drought.

I wish to persist with native perennials myself, that are extra tolerant of drought and native soil circumstances.

As for annuals and edibles, you’ll wish to be extra diligent in checking your soil’s moisture degree.

Measuring Sprinkler Output

If you wish to measure sprinkler output, it may be a little bit tough to discover a good open location on your gauge – except you’re targeted in your garden.

Within the backyard, do your finest to maintain gauges out from below vegetation however nonetheless in the midst of the motion.

When you use a sprinkler regularly, it’s useful to get an thought of how lengthy it takes on your system to supply an inch of water.

To do that, set your rain gauge out within the garden. Then begin your sprinkler up in order that the gauge is inside the sprinkler’s path.

A green plastic sprinker attached to a red rubber hose waters a lawn lit by sunshine.

After quarter-hour, test the quantity collected. Take word, after which dump it.

Repeat this course of two to 3 occasions and take the common of the outcomes. The ultimate measurement offers you a common thought of how a lot water your sprinkler produces in a 15-minute time span.

Use this measurement to determine how lengthy you’ll must run your sprinkler with the intention to present your backyard or garden with an inch of water.

It could be annoying to must run out and test on a regular basis, so getting an thought of your sprinkler’s circulate charge will permit you to set your system on a timer and neglect about it.

Remember the fact that sprinklers end in extra runoff and evaporation than different types of irrigation, like drip irrigation.

Supplemental Watering

It doesn’t matter what, I all the time test the soil, particularly round my annuals and edibles.

Checking the soil is one of the best ways to get an thought of moisture wants. If the highest 2 inches are dry, it’s time to seize the hose.

And whereas 1 inch of rain per week is adequate generally, there are some exceptions.

If it’s a heavy, quick downpour and there’s vital runoff, it’s possible you’ll be shocked by how little penetration happens.

Pouring rain falls on green grass and a backyard patio with a wooden table and chairs, with a house, wooden fence, and white cloudy sky.

Additionally, when you have a raised mattress, the soil will dry out sooner than a backyard planted at floor degree. So plan available watering raised beds extra ceaselessly than floor degree gardens within the absence of rain.

One inch of water ought to penetrate the soil someplace between 6 and 15 inches deep. However your soil kind can dramatically have an effect on this.

Clay soils, that are denser, received’t be as deeply penetrated by a 1-inch rain occasion as loamy and sandy soils.

Additionally, if temperatures are persistently above 90°F, moisture wants might bounce from 1 inch per week to 2 inches per week.

Immature light green head lettuce growing in hay mulch in dark brown soil.

As a common follow, attempt to water within the morning earlier than the warmth units in. It will assist to ease the warmth stress positioned in your vegetation.

It would additionally give your vegetation time to dry out utterly in the course of the day. Moist circumstances within the coolness of night time make a pleasant, cozy surroundings for illnesses to develop – and we don’t need that!

Mulching your backyard with wooden chips, pine straw, or natural matter can also be a beautiful method to retain soil moisture and cut back the necessity for hand watering.

Take the Guesswork Out of It

As primary and important as water is to your backyard, it’s not all the time straightforward to know when to complement, or how a lot your backyard wants.

And for some cause, it’s straightforward to assume your backyard wants extra water than it truly does.

Utilizing a rain gauge is a good way to take a few of the guesswork out of it.

This straightforward software offers you a common thought of how a lot water has hit the soil, which can restrict how typically you end up reaching for the hose.

A hand squeezes the handle on a garden sprayer attached to a hose, watering staked tomato plants in the garden.

And paired with checking your soil earlier than you water, it gives you much more confidence in caring on your backyard.

I don’t find out about you, however I typically have a tricky time remembering what I did yesterday, not to mention the final time it rained.

So having a rain gauge as a reference retains me from drowning my backyard and offers me extra confidence in how typically I do select to get the hose out.

Have you ever used a rain gauge? Do you discover it useful? Share your favorites (or DIY development ideas) with us within the feedback!

And for extra gardening fundamentals, take a look at a few of these guides subsequent:

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