Monday, July 20, 2009

Western Landscape Extras

By Thomas Fryd

In the West the landscape and garden cannot depend on natural rainfall to supply adequate water. So it is necessary to water artificially. There are many ways in which this is done. Long gone are the days of furrow irrigation, but... it does work well good where a garden is fairly level. Where water is available under pressure, overhead sprinkling is often used but more efficient methods are being employed like micro jets and drip irrigation. Still other gardeners use soil soakers and these water small areas effectively.

There are arguments pro and con about overhead sprinkling versus applying water at soil level. With sprinkling, the foliage becomes wet, possibly inviting diseases. Watering during the early part of the day so the foliage dries off helps to overcome this problem. One of the advantages of overhead watering is the fact that the water is warmed slightly before it enters the soil. Overhead sprinkling systems work better on uneven ground than furrow methods and mirco jet and drip allow you to directly apply the water where needed with lower waste.

Too many gardeners have the idea that a light sprinkling with the garden hose each evening does the job of watering the garden. This is a harmful practice. Enough water should be applied at each watering so it penetrates the soil deeply, particularly for our deeper rooted garden plants. This means running the sprinkler or irrigation system in one place until the soil has received an equivalent of an inch to two inches of rain. How do we figure an inch of rain?

The U. S. Department of Agriculture has suggested this formula:

1. Determine in how many seconds it takes to fill a ten quart (2.5 gallons) container from your garden hose.

2. Then multiply this number by the number of square feet of area covered by the sprinkler you plan to use.

3. Divide the value obtained in #2 by 240.

4. The figure you come up with will be the time in minutes required to water that particular area to give the equivalent of one inch of rain.

When do we decide to water again?

That depends on a lot of different conditions: type of soil, size of plants, weather, and type of crop. Or you can have a self watering plant containers to make it easier for you. With most of the garden crops, wait long enough between waterings to let the soil dry out somewhat. This allows the soil to become well aerated. Water more often on light sandy soils, and soils low in organic matter. Also, water more often during warm weather. Shallow rooted plants like strawberries demand more frequent irrigations than deeper rooted plants. To determine whether the soil needs water, dig down to the six to 12-inch level and examine the moisture. It is impossible to tell if the soil needs water just by examining the surface. Wilting is not a good indication of water needs, since frequently this may be only temporary, due to a hot day when transpiration of water from the plant exceeds water uptake.

Maintaining a generous supply of decayed organic matter in the soil also enhances water holding capacity. Mulching helps reduce evaporation and discourages weed growth. Summer fallowing part of the vegetable garden each year (a practice borrowed from strip farming) aids in boosting available moisture in dryland soils. Another important practice for the xeriscape gardener is to use kinds of plants that are most drought tolerant.

Crabgrass Season

Crabgrass seedlings will be showing in lawns about this time of the year. The pre-emergence weed killers should be used before the crabgrass seedlings germinate, if possible.

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