Monday, May 30, 2011

Watering Part Two

As promised in last week's article, I am going to write about different ways to measure water that you are putting out on the landscape.

“My irrigation system runs for 20 minutes per zone three times per week, is that enough water?” This is a question I get asked frequently, and the answer is not a yes or a no response. Different irrigation systems have different gallon per minute nozzles so the rate varies according to the type of nozzle installed. Water pressure also varies depending on where you live and whether you have a well. Some irrigation heads pop up and mist and others pop up and spray in a rotary fashion. The difference is enormous to a yard. The pop ups that are spraying a constant mist can flood an area very quickly. The rotary head can run for an hour without too much water being applied.

Ideally your soil should be moist down to six inches. Moist…not saturated. A soil probe is an excellent way to determine the moisture levels in the soil. Soil probes are available at garden centers. Soil probes will allow you to check the moisture as well as the profile of your soil. You can also determine how much thatch you have using these probes. Soil probes also make taking a soil test much easier.

Measuring the amount of water your sprinkler or irrigation system is putting onto your landscape is very easy. A few coffee cups that have an equal diameter on top as the bottom is all you need. If you are not a coffee cup person, you can also use tuna fish cans, soup cans or other containers that have an equal diameter on top and bottom. If you don’t want to look like a hillbilly, you can invest in several rain gauges.

Simply place these throughout your lawn and run the sprinkler for 15 minutes, then measure the amount of water in the container. If you have an irrigation system, you will have to measure each zone separately to get accurate measures. If you collected a quarter inch of water in 15 minutes and you wanted to put out a half inch of water, simply increase your irrigation time to 30 minutes.

By applying organic products and/or wetting agents you can greatly reduce the amount of water you need to apply. Cotton Burr compost is a great organic product that will reduce your watering bill, and increase the soil’s nutrient holding capacity making your fertilizers more effective. Cotton Burr compost will also help reduce runoff of fertilizers and other control products into the environment because the products penetrate the soil.

Wetting agents allow water to penetrate deeper into the soil resulting in deeper rooting grasses, plants, and trees. Wetting agents will also help reduce runoff of fertilizers and other control products into the environment because the products penetrate the soil. Although water is very inexpensive here compared to other parts of the country and world, you still don’t want to waste it. Wetting agents have been shown to reduce water usage by 30-60%. Fungicide use can be reduced with less watering.

The most important aspect of watering is keeping the soil moist to a depth of six inches. Add the appropriate amount of water for your yard with your soil, wind exposure, slope or yard, and exposure to sun.

Remember the sun screen while you are out in the garden. Scale, mosquitoes, chinch bugs, white flies, mites, aphids, fire ants, roaches and flies seem to be out in full force.

Always read, understand and follow product label. The product label is a Federal Law.