Thursday, April 14, 2016

Water Wisely and Well

A round, yellow Pound O' Rain.  They come in dark green and square as well.  
The square does not water as evenly.
          Proper watering has become controversial, as many people think that sprinkler 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 into the air, or sinks into the water table and recharges wells and the river.  That which evaporates or transpires humidifies the air, cools it, and makes rain.  This is the only practical way for ordinary people to share water with other places.  Sprinkler irrigation is loving your neighbor, near and far.  Our river has plenty.

Results the following spring from not watering for a few years.  And perhaps using Roundup to kill weeds.

Some think that if they don’t water, they won’t have to mow or weed.  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.  But no one likes to maintain ugly and people tend to ignore it, so such yards often go unmowed.
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 or blockage and not know it; voles chew holes in it; shovels break it; growing tree roots and rocks pinch it.   You lose the benefit of evaporation from wet plants and soil and don’t wash off the dust, which grows fungus on leaves.  Some 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 or maintain a drip system. 
The best watering is also cheapest and easiest: sprinklers.  Automatic sprinklers are the most expensive system to build, though the most reliable.  But one can get by with hoses, sprinklers, and cheap mechanical faucet timers.   Watering by hand sprayer rarely works well; one must hold a hose too long.
 The best sprinklers are also cheap: Pound O Rain, a pound of metal with a big hole in the middle, which blows out a nice, even circle of water.  Twin-circle aluminum “owl eyes” work much the same, but not as evenly, and the lighter sprinkler flips easily.  No moving parts means a longer life, though Pound O Rain can rust out so much that it no longer holds onto a hose.
Water an inch per week for lawns, edibles and most ornamentals.  Use a tuna can to estimate the proper timing. It’s best to water any one spot only once a week, twice at most to promote deep  rooting.  You can move a sprinkler or two around a yard to hit everything once a week. 
For even watering, set the sprinkler on the edge of the previous wet spot, as no sprinkler sprays evenly.  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.
To sprout seeds, water lightly every evening until they sprout, allowing the water to soak the seeds all night.  Using a hand sprayer works well here.
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 day.   It may sound superstitious, but if you don’t water, it won’t rain enough to matter.  Call it insurance.
April 2016, online at  Like Garden Grants Pass on Facebook.
Gardening is easy if you do it naturally.  Litter is tagging, marking the territory of the disorderly.

Rycke Brown, Natural Gardener          541-955-9040