28 July 2011

Water efficiencies

In a normal year, summertime watering is a time to take a look at your plants, pull a few weeds and notice problems to address.

Drought and extreme heat make watering more of a necessity.  This year we have to pay attention to shrubs, trees and perennials as well as annuals and containers.

Shrubs and trees do not have to be watered every day or every week. In fact, regular, shallow, watering can cause roots to grow to the soil surface where hot sun will scald them.
Hand watering is the best method of caring for plants. And there are many hand watering tools to help with the chore, including bubblers, adjustable spray guns and sprinkler attachments. Unfortunately, for busy people, hand watering is too labor intensive and time consuming, so other methods have to be used.
There's no better way to water a corner and fill a bird bath than a handheld hose.

There are several ways to water a garden include flood, drip and sprinkler.

Drip irrigation is one of the most water-efficient but it requires set up and maintenance. For many home gardens, flood watering is a good alternative but it has to be watched or it will waste a lot. Automated sprinklers require mechanical set up and if they are installed correctly they are efficient.

Drip irrigation was popularized at vineyards where tiny emitters consistently put a drop of water onto each vine’s root. Do-It-Yourself systems are available now for homeowners to use in patio pot gardens and in perennial flower beds.

They are great for times when you will be away, but not a good solution for normal summer use.  Over the course of several weeks, the plants’ roots will hug the area around the emitter and shrivel in the soil not directly watered.
Soil that is not getting water will deteriorate. The microorganisms, worms and insects that keep the soil healthy and provide nutrition to plants, need water to thrive.

Soaker hoses minimize water waste but provide moisture only in the immediate area. In order to be effective, soaker hoses should be looped around rather than strung out in a straight line.
Sprinkler systems are useful tools to reduce the time and labor involved in watering. Rotor sprinklers used on large lawns pop up 4-inches above the ground and can throw water 25 to 60 feet.  Spray head sprinklers throw water 15 feet and are used for small lawns and groundcover.

Overhead sprinklers waste water in evaporation but can be useful when there are shrubs in the area that get in the way.
In a year of normal temperatures and rainfall, established trees and shrubs do not need to be watered. But during periods of extreme heatand drought,
 it is a good idea to water all the valuable plants in your landscape. During a drought,
even evergreens need to be deep watered at the root zone.

Root zone watering is applying a large amount of water directly to the soil where the roots of plants can use it.  Attach a bubbler to a riser or to the end of the hose where the water will flow a few feet away from the trunk of a tree or shrub.

Flowers and vegetables need an inch of water a week. New plantings and moisture loving plants need more.  The soil around fruiting vegetables such as peppers and tomatoes should be soaked.
The surface of the soil will always look dry, so dig down an inch to check for moisture before watering. When you water, water deeply to keep the plants’ roots moving down.  Overhead sprinkling causes plants to send their roots to the surface, making the plant weak and vulnerable.

Water as early in the morning or as late in the evening as possible.

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