Watering tips to keep your garden in great shape and save money

Rescue your garden and your checkbook with some practical watering advice.

Is summer gardening causing your water bill to skyrocket as you strive to keep your plants healthy in the heat? Autumn might be lurking around the corner, but here are ideas to rescue your garden and your checkbook by bringing you some practical advice about saving water while hydrating your plants on dry days.

These useful methods for effective summer watering can save time, save water, and save a dehydrated plant — no matter where in the country you might live!

•  Automated watering systems with a timer give you back your life because they are extremely convenient. When properly set and maintained, they provide plants with the appropriate amount of water — no more and no less.
• It is important to put plants with similar watering needs on a single station (valve). When you water all plants, trees, shrubs, perennials, and succulents from one valve, some plants starve for water and some become inundated.
• While an overhead sprinkler is an inefficient way to water, it does have the advantage of covering a lot of space with one spraying unit. This type of watering generally does not deliver enough water for large trees or shrubs and is more suitable for perennial beds or lawns that are intensely planted and have shallower roots.
• Drip irrigation systems can be helpful for establishing trees and large shrubs, but will soon become woefully inadequate, and mineral-laden water can cause salt buildup.
• Workers at the University of Arizona reported that for every inch of rain that falls, 0.6 gallon (2.4 liters) of water is collected per square foot. So in one rainfall, a modest house with a roof of 1,500 square feet sheds about 900 gallons of water. That is about what a 10-foot tree needs in a year.
• Harvest your rainwater using your roof and gutter to direct water into a holding tank, a cistern, or a lower area of the garden.

– Mary Irish is the author of Trees and Shrubs for the Southwest (Timber Press 2008, $34.95)

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