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Be water wise

It's time to conserve water by using it wisely on home landscaping.

Posted: May 10, 2008 1:45 a.m.
Updated: July 11, 2008 5:03 a.m.
 
With our water supplies being as tight as they are, it is definitely smart to water our gardens and lawns less often. It's the right and only choice, otherwise we'll all go without.

Let's try to understand a little more about water use in our yards. Most of us in the Santa Clarita Valley have a very hard, clay-like soil , which can be difficult for water to penetrate. When we water a little at a time, every single day, the water does not properly seep down to the roots of our plants. Since our plants have weak, shallow roots, they rely on an almost constant flow of precious water in order to survive.

To properly saturate the soil, tilling and adding large amounts of compost and other organic ingredients are an essential beginning. Once this has been done low-flow sprinklers can be used to not overspray onto areas outside those intended.

Plants do not absorb water in the evening, because the are not photosynthesizing. So try to water as close to the crack of dawn as you can in order for your landscaping to make proper use of the supplied water. Additionally, the wind doesn't usually blow early in the morning, so you won't have your water pushed onto areas where it would be wasted.

Watering deeply, once a week, can sustain plants very easily, even in the hottest parts of the year, as the clay in our soils holds water for a long time. As the top of the soil dries out due to sun and wind, the roots will reach down deeply for the water.

The harder the soil is, the slower we need to apply water. Therefore we may need to apply it in short increments, perhaps of five to 10 minutes, until we've soaked the soil at least six to 10 inches deep, where the main core of the roots are. They will have a reservoir to tap into for a good period of time, even in the hottest weather.

In the winter, we can almost get by without watering at all because of the rain, and becauseplants don't need nearly as much water during the cooler months.

If you live in the parts of the SCV where the soil lets water pass through easily, the same basic rules apply. But you need to increase the amounts of organic matter in the soil in order to hold the water in the root zone.

With these simple tactics, you can begin to create truly beautiful, water-wise gardens that need less chemicals, and suffer fewer insect and fungus problems created by too much water.

Jerry Wittmann is an Advanced California Certified Nurseryman.

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