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Caring for Your Plantings While Conserving Water

Efficient Water Use on Outdoor Plantings.

The use of water has become more and more of an issue for many communities. All across the country we see rationing and restrictions. And why not? Water takes valuable resources to process and make potable. Have we become much too reliant on a cheap source of clean water? We water our lawns to keep them fresh and green. We use chemical fertilizers that increase the amount of water required and do it, with little regard to how, when and why we water our plants.

What can we do? Here are some tips to make the most of our water use.

Watering Lawns

  1. Allow your lawn to experience natural cycles. Well established lawn grasses are tough and resilient. It is their nature to become dormant under drought conditions. Watering keeps them active and dependant upon an artificial source. In addition, if done incorrectly, it will encourage roots to grow nearer to the surface where they are unable to seek moisture effectively. If outdoor watering is limited to the extent that it is not possible to irrigate the lawn properly, it would be advisable not to water at all and to allow the lawn to go dormant.
  2. Only seed your lawn in the fall. Seed and new grass require almost constant moisture. Often times spring is too short or dry to provide what is needed. In addition, weed germination is at a height in the spring and competition is fierce.
  3. If you are inclined to water your lawn, water slow, long and deep. A sprinkler should spread water evenly and slowly. Run off is considered very detrimental to your water use as well as your soil.

Lawns require an inch of water weekly for best growth, either from rain or irrigation or both. Inexpensive rain gauges may be purchased, or a coffee can be used to measure the amount of water applied. It takes about 625 gallons of water to apply an inch to 1,000 square feet of lawn area. The soil should be saturated with water to a depth of 3 to 4 inches.

Use of a good all-natural fertilizer is recommended. Chemical fertilizers draw roots shallower and reduce valuable microbes that your grass needs for survival. This combination greatly increases thatch, an ideal condition for disease.

Watering Trees, Shrubs and Flower Gardens During dry seasons, watering is necessary to maintain healthy plants. Water is more important for new planting than for established ones.

Established trees and shrubs do not require as much water as new plantings, but during extended dry spells some watering may be necessary. Some principles of watering are as follows:

· Watering with a hose and nozzle is not recommended. Merely syringing the plants and soil is of little value to the root system through which water is absorbed.

· An open hose placed at the base of a tree with the water flowing slowly will provide needed water to the root zone. If the water is allowed to trickle into the soil gradually, it will seep down and saturate the area around the roots. Since the composition of soils varies, the rate of absorption will vary, but the water pressure should be as high as possible without surface run-off.

· By saturating the soil around the plants, less frequent watering will be necessary. Each plant or bed should be saturated approximately once every two weeks or less depending on the weather.

New plantings will require more frequent watering than established plants. The same type of saturating should be exercised, but once a week may be necessary for new plants.

A ring of soil around newly planted trees and shrubs in the form of a saucer is recommended. This could be built from gravel or excess soil after planting. Fill the ring at each watering to allow gradual seepage into the soil. For the first month, water new plantings twice a week, then weekly for the rest of the season.

Mulching can help to reduce water loss. The use of mulch on new or established plantings is an excellent method of conserving water. Beds, which are exposed to the sun, and drying winds without cover will dry out rapidly. Trying to keep these areas moist by watering is not adequate, and a great deal of water is wasted.

Some of the more common materials used for mulching are peat moss, wood chips, straw, salt march hay, sawdust, pine needles, hay, leaf mold, compost, dried bark, leaves and many others. Much less water will be required to maintain vigorous plants with the use of a 2-inch mulch.

Overall Watering Program for Outdoor Plants.

In trying to conserve water and to realize greatest benefit from water used, it is wise to set up a regularly scheduled program.

· Do not try to water all planted areas at each watering.

· Section off your areas, and concentrate on these areas individually for maximum benefit.

· Saturate each area, and then allow to dry out before watering again.

· Plan to use mulch around all planted areas to reduce water loss.

· Do not allow plants to wilt before beginning a watering program.

· Remember—two hoses at low pressure without a nozzle is the best method of watering.

· Over watering can be more harmful to plants than under watering. Roots need air as well as water. Do not keep soil saturated with water continuously.

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