The KPRC Radio Gardenline Tip By Randy Lemmon For 05-26-05 Printer-Friendly Version
Water Wise Irrigation Practices
I remember 20 years ago, when I first started working for the Texas Farm Bureau in Waco, one of the first stories I covered for our own news network was all about water conservation. This was especially important for the agricultural sectors we reported on. I remember quoting a lawmaker in Austin, appealing to his fellow legislators "I've got good news and bad news when it comes to water conservation at the turn of the century. The good news: We're all going to be drinking recycled sewage water by the year 2000. The bad news: There's not going to be enough of it to go around."
20 years later, while it isn't quite as bad as that lawmaker wanted us to believe, we still have some major water shortage issues that will no doubt garner headlines for the next 50 years. And believe it or not, as a homeowner, you can honestly help. It begins with water smart landscaping and water smart irrigation practices.
First, if you have not done so, check your sprinkler. Make sure there are no small leaks. Also, make sure your irrigation system is up-to-date, so that there is a more effecient use of the irrigation in the spray heads. Make the changes needed and make sure that you are watering long enough to encourage deep root growth. A shallow root system is no match for the Texas sun! Also make sure that your soil is not too compacted and causing immediate runoff during the irrigation time. You can help correct that by aerating the soil and in some cases adding organic matter like compost to improve the soil profile.
You can even check with some of the more innovative irrigation companies and even do-it-yourself hardware stores as they start to install and sell water conservation devices on automatic sprinkler systems including rain shut-off devices, flow meters and soil moisture sensors for precise control.
As summer time temperatures set in, remember to water early in the morning. This allows the turf and landscape to actually use the moisture during the heat of the day. This is also when water pressure is at its best. Early morning hours are also statistically when there is less wind, and that reduces the evaporation effect you might get on a sunny, windy afternoon.
If you don't have a built-in irrigation system, please keep in mind that "impact" sprinklers heads are much more effecient than oscillators at the end of the hose, especially during the heat of the summer. Research has shown that the oscillators -- the ones that throw the water straight up into the air, and swipe back and forth -- can have as much as 35% of the moisture evaporate. Leaky hoses, or drip irrigation hoses are extremely water effecient for landscape and flower beds.
There are many other things you can do (and research) that will help make your landscape more water effecient. One of the best websites is www.waterwisetexas.org. This is a great source of information that was birthed from the 1996 and 1998 droughts here in Texas. Unfortunately, most homeowners don't tend to recall how serious those situations were, and have been lulled into that false sense of security since 2001 , (remember Tropical Storm Alicia?) when we've had more than our fair share of moisture.
Landscape water conservation has another name in the horticultural circles -- Xeriscaping! Unfortunately, most people automatically associate Xeriscaping with desert plants and rocks. It's so much more than that these days, and in Texas , Xeriscaping may the be true answer to making everyone water wise in their landscaping efforts. Here's a great link to get you started.
< http://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/extension/xeriscape/xeriscape.html >
I would also like to encourage you to check out these other websites for more information on just being "water smart."
< http://www.tnrcc.state.tx.us/permitting/waterperm/wrpa/conserve.html >
< http://www.mastergardenproducts.com/sustainablelandscape/waterwise.htm >
Until next issue, here's to
Great Gardening from the GardenLine, heard
exclusively weekend mornings from 8 to noon
on Talkradio 950 KPRC.