Sunday, July 4, 2010

Watering lawns, gardens, and trees

As I biked out to my Sunday morning activities today, I was saddened to see sprinklers on several lawns. There is no faster way to ruin a lawn than to water it when the sun is shining. If we should have a water shortage, the problems are compounded. The easiest way to improve your lawn is to never water it.

I have never watered my lawn in 35 years. Its roots go down deep, and when we have a drought, it stays slightly green after the watered lawns go completely brown during the watering ban. It greens up much faster than the others when the rains return. If you MUST water your lawn (because it's become dependent on your attention), do so ONLY in the evening, when the water goes into the soil and not the atmosphere.

Gardens are a different matter. I haven't used a hose on my garden for three years, but I just placed mine to use this evening on newly bought seedlings that I planted this week. They don't have the root structure yet to sustain themselves even with this much drought without my help.

When I first started gardening, one of the old guys who had been running a garden center for generations told me that you only water a garden when the tomatoes look tired in the evening. "If they droop during the day, just tell them to cheer up. Life will be better before long."
"When you do water, do it in the evening and only face-on for a full hour." Then he sold me a spout that sends a spray face-on. I have always followed his advice before, but this evening I'm catering to late-in-season-bought seedlings although my tomatoes, which have been there for weeks, look perfectly happy during the day. The newcomers don't.
If you don't have a face-on spray and must content yourself with a rotating sprinkler, let it go for three hours in the evening. I figure that gives as much water to any one place as the face-on one does in an hour.

If you haven't planted out in the past couple of weeks I suggest taking the late Mr. DeVos' advice and water only when your tomatoes look tired in the evening.

Trees are yet another matter. Montclair's arborist has told me to tell people with new trees planted in front of their house to water evenings when the weather is hot and dry. A bucket gently dripped on the base of the tree so that it goes as far into the soil as possible and doesn't just wash away might do the trick. Obviously, a hose dripping water gently would be even better.

The goal whenever you water is to get the water as far down in the soil as you can. This is done best in the evening, when it can sink in instead of evaporating, and in large quantities at one time not very often. And don't water your lawn ever!


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