In the Garden:
Choosing the right sprinkler for the job makes the best use of water.
Watering the Garden
We're at the height of summer and one of the biggest demands on my time, bank account, and mind 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, I follow a number of garden practices and use a variety of water saving garden products.
Water Reducing 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 now nurseries and garden supply catalogs offer all ranges 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 hose that has brass fittings that will last many years. Look for lightweight, special high quality hoses. If you have several outside faucets, get at least an equal number of hoses as outlets so you don't have to drag them from faucet to faucet. If you must change hoses frequently, get a quick-connect hose and faucet adaptor. I also find using a hose holder to keep the hoses from tangling and using a dual hose distributor makes life a lot easier.
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.
Sprinklers and Soaker Hoses
Overhead sprinklers are common, but most aren't very efficient. Most sprinklers can claim only a 40 to 50 percent efficiency of delivering water to the plant roots. Much is wasted through evaporation and leaking. Drip irrigation is up to 90 percent efficient. The simplest drip irrigation delivery device is a soaker hose. These work well in perennial and vegetable gardens and for trees and shrubs. If you have a special tree, consider getting a soaker ring for it.
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 keep our garden looking beautiful during any dry summer.
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