Monday, May 19, 2014

Use Water Wisely

A Pound O Rain sprinkler in use.

         Proper watering has become a matter of controversy, as many people think that watering is optional and wasteful of water that someone somewhere else can use.  You cannot waste water in Grants Pass by irrigating properly, which means all over the ground and plants.  The water either evaporates from plants and soil, is sucked up by plants and transpires, or sinks into the water table and recharges wells and the river.  That which goes into the air humidifies the air, cools it, and contributes to rain.  The only real way to share it with people in other places is to use it and send it downwind to make rain.

Some think that if they don’t water, they won’t have to mow.  But weeds don’t care about watering, even thrive on dryness, and once they have taken over a lawn, one must mow more often to keep their flowers from seeding the neighborhood and making the yard uglier yet. 

Some say to use plastic mulch and drip irrigation.  Plastic mulch is ugly.  Drip is unreliable and incomplete.  You can’t really tell how well drip is working if it is covered, and it’s delicate.  You can have a leak and not know it; voles chew holes in it; shovels break it; tree roots and rocks pinch it.   You lose the benefit of evaporation from wet plants and soil and don’t wash the dust off your plants, causing fungus on leaves.  People think that it is bad to water paths, but trees, shrubs, and even large annuals like tomatoes send their roots under paths and suffer when they are not watered.  And it’s not cheap or easy to build a drip system. 

The best watering is also cheapest and easiest: sprinklers.  Automatic sprinklers are the most expensive system to build, though most reliable.  But poor people can get by best with hoses, sprinklers, and mechanical faucet timers.   Watering by hand sprayer rarely works well; one must hold a hose too long.

The best sprinklers are also cheap: Pound of Rain, a pound of metal with a big hole in the middle, which blows out a nice, even circle of water and can pass BBs.

Water an inch per week for good growth and beauty of lawns, vegetables, most ornamentals and fruits, and it’s best to water any one spot only once a week, twice at most.  One can move a sprinkler or two around a yard to hit everything once a week.  For even watering, one must set the sprinkler on the edge of the previous wet spot, as no sprinkler sprays completely even.  Automatic sprinklers are set up to water to the next sprinkler to cover an area completely; even watering is double watering, so you only need ½ inch at a time on each spot.

Last, but not least, do not skip watering because it is going to rain.  When it rains half an inch or more, skip watering for a few days.   It may sound superstitious, but if you don’t water, it won’t rain enough to matter.  Call it insurance.