Water. Tangled hoses, kinks, drips and bills! As we enter the hottest time of the year this article deals with watering: saving money, needing less, holding what you apply and distributing it efficiently.
Lower Your Costs: The economic and ecological approach is to select plants which do well with our natural rainfall. When designing beds group plants with similar needs together to reduce overwatering plants which don’t need it.
Go Drought Tolerant: Aside from our native plants there are many beautiful drought tolerant ornamentals you can use to create a landscape with low or no water needs once established.
Key to Success: My 98% success rate growing a variety of plants on almost pure sand is due to thorough watering during the first 1-3 years after planting to establish. Even drought tolerant plants need water initially to build a root structure that can sustain them in a drought.
When Is Enough? A good method to tell whether you have watered enough is putting your finger into the soil 2″ deep around the root ball of your plants. If its moist (not just cool) you’re OK. If not, water deeply. Do this test in each area of your garden because soils often vary considerably in one garden from hard pan to pure sand.
Rains Don’t Count: Don’t assume when it rains lightly for a few hours that you don’t need to water. Unless we have at least ½ inch of rain you still need to water, although perhaps not as much as otherwise.
Keeping Water once Applied: Topping your soil off with a 1-4″ layer of organic mulch, be it compost, rotted leaves, bark or chips, will improve your soil over time and stop the surface drying out. This reduces water needs about 25%. Keep the mulch a few inches away from the trunks of shrubs and trees to prevent rot.
Application: The best distribution system is a properly installed drip system which can cut water use as much as 3-5 times that of manually operated overhead sprinklers. Installing these to cover areas evenly is a science and I recommend a professional – at least to go over your plan with you before you begin installation. The next best method for watering beds is soaker hoses, which you can adjust until the finger test indicates your are evenly covering all areas. Overhead sprinklers are often inefficient, losing water to evaporation but are appropriate for lawn watering and temporary needs.
What to Buy: Moisture master makes a good soaker hose from recycled tires. I like Flexogen garden hoses because they don’t leak and are light but tough with a lifetime warranty. Melnor makes simple battery operated timers. Gardena makes the only “Y” I’ve found which does not leak over time and a manually operated timer. The best circular sprinkler I’ve found is “whisper quiet” made by Naan.