In the Garden:
Drip irrigation makes the most efficient use of the water you put on your garden.
Watering the Garden
We're at the height of summer and for many gardeners, one of the biggest demands is watering the garden. On average, half of all household water use is for the lawn and garden. In order to reduce the use of this limited natural resource as well as to make it easier on your pocketbook and time, follow these suggested garden practices and consider using a variety of water saving garden products.
Water Saving Practices
The most important water saving practice is to choose plants that are water-thrifty and adapted to your area. Once you select the right plants, work in plenty of organic matter prior to planting. Organic matter improves water retention in sandy soils, drainage in clay soil, and soil texture in any type of soil. The best organic materials to use are compost, composted manure, or shredded leaves. Keeping a 4 to 6 inch thick layer of organic mulch around plants helps reduce moisture evaporation.
Even if you've added organic matter and mulched with compost, you may still need to do some supplemental watering during the heat of summer. Obviously, a simple hose and watering can are the most common watering devices, but garden stores and garden supply catalogs offer a wide range of watering equipment for the home garden and lawn.
Best Watering Products
If you're starting with simple hose, it's wise to invest in a quality one with brass fittings that will last many years. Look for lightweight, special high quality hoses. If you have several outside faucets, get at least as many hoses as you have as spigots so you don't have to drag a hose from faucet to faucet. If you must change hoses frequently, get quick-connect hose and faucet adapters. Use hose holders to keep hoses from tangling. A dual hose distributor attached to the spigot makes it easy to keep one hose hooked up to a sprinkler and the another free for hand watering.
What you put on the end of your hose is important, too. The old-fashioned hose-end nozzle shoots out a strong stream of water that is good for cleaning decks, but not watering plants. Choose a hose-end nozzle with adjustable settings. One setting should be a gentle spray so the water will slowly soak into the soil. A watering wand lets you reach plants without bending. If you have lots of hanging baskets to water, a wand with a shepherd's crook shape to makes irrigating overhead a lot easier.
Sprinklers and Soaker Hoses
Sprinklers are practical for watering a lawn, but aren't very efficient. Most sprinklers can claim only a 40 to 50 percent efficiency of delivering water to the plant roots; the rest is lost through evaporation and runoff. For garden beds and landscape planting, drip irrigation, which is up to 90 percent efficient, is the best option The simplest drip irrigation delivery device is a soaker hose. This works well in perennial and vegetable gardens and for trees and shrubs. Soaker rings are available for watering individual trees and make it easy to give newly planted trees the consistent moisture they need to become well established.
Don't overlook the possibility of collecting water from rain. Use barrels under downspouts to collect rainwater. Over 150 gallons of water runs off a 1,000 square-foot roof from just a 1/4-inch rainfall. It's the ultimate in watering saving devices that will help keep your garden looking beautiful during dry summer weather -- and reduce your water bill!
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