Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Landscape Watering by the Numbers

Ok, it’s mid July and the Monsoons haven’t made much of an appearance yet. Recently we’ve had the hottest days of the year (so far) and some of your plants are probably looking a little sick. Many of us actually over-water this time of year because we worry about our plants out there suffering in this heat. So, in the spirit of hot air and since July is now Officially National Smart Irrigation Month, here is the beginning of a series on how to water your plants.

There are some pretty good guides and pamphlets out there that cover the subject very well.

This is the best pamphlet I’ve seen so far and you can download a PDF here.

The problem is these guides take time and to read and follow and we are all busy, right? Sometimes it’s just easier to add more time to the controller. And so this is how it happens that people get big water bills and many times sick plants from over watering.

Would you like a quick start guide? OK!

I have a fairly simple process that is part of a program I use on almost all of the properties where I manage the Landscape Irrigation. I have developed this process because everyone’s yard, garden and landscape is unique. Every yard is a micro-climate all its own. Plus the irrigation system is almost always different too. Sometimes they need some work, but I’ll cover that in another article.

However, the goal is almost always the same. We must deliver just enough water to wet the root area of the plant plus just a tiny bit of extra. Then to let the root zone dry a bit, then repeat. I’ll show you how to do that in your yard in three steps.

You will need a soil probe for this process. I think every gardener should have one. It doesn’t have to be spiffy. A very long screw driver or a piece of rebar with a point on one end works great. A three foot long soil probe is best, but a 24” probe can work. I use an old piece of rebar with a “T” welded to one end and grind stripes every 6”.

Here is a picture mine. It’s old and not real trendy.

You don’t need a “T” on the end. Rebar bent to an “L” on the end will also work great. I think almost any hardware store that sells rebar, sells shorter pieces and can bend an “L” on one end for you. Concrete installers use bent rebar all the time to brace concrete slabs. Very long screw drivers are cooler looking but they can be expensive.

**** A word of caution. ****

My soil probe is all metal. Yours doesn't have to be all metal. I have used all metal soil probes for many years without a problem. Used properly, they are about as safe as any other tool. However, there is a chance you or I could make contact with an electrical wire, conduit, irrigation line, sewer line, or water line that has been buried in your yard. There is a chance you could come into contact with a lethal amount of voltage. If you decide to use a soil probe of any kind, use it at your own risk. Never use a hammer or anything else to drive of force your soil probe into the ground.

In the next article, I will cover the proper use of a soil probe. Used properly, I believe they are about as safe as any other tool. There are some really cool soil probes on-line that range from $80. on up. There are a number with fiberglass shafts that should insulate you in the event you strike a high voltage line on your garden.

So go find one in the garage, build one or buy one and then come back for step one.

1 comment:

  1. Special thanks to Jared for sending me a heads up and reminder that a soil probe can hit an electrical line and possibly shock the life out of you, literally.

    Jared is a Landscape Architecture Student and a Blogger. His blog is called "Dig It!", here is a link: