Watering The Lawn and Plants Trickle-Down Economics

What would you do with your garden and lawn if you are used to watering it a lot, and then a drought creates a watering ban? Would all of your plants die? The answer, if you start watering wisely before that happens, is NO.

It is very important to water efficiently, so all of the water you put on your plants is actually benefiting them and not being wasted. Common sprinklers and timers can help any gardener nurture impatiens, petunias, or any other plant.

How to Water

In a typical home of someone who waters their own lawn, the water use for landscaping makes up over half of the water used in the whole house in a year. Not just any sprinkler will work with your irrigation either. Some sprinklers waste around 50% of the water they use, not even allowing it to get to the plants.

The best way to avoid this and save water is to use a perforated garden hose. This is called a soaker hose, and it will shoot up hundreds of little jets of water. Run the rose in a snake-like pattern through the planting bed, close to the plants, and let it run to water your plants.

This system helps with waste, but wind and evaporation can still be wasteful factors. By pointing the holes down towards the soil, you will help reduce some of this waste. The other waste factor here is you are watering the entire bed, not just the roots of the plants.

A weep hose is another option. It is similar to the soaker hose, but instead spraying water into the air, this hose "weeps" water out of the holes slowly. This eliminates the wind and evaporation problem. It still has the problem of not distributing the water solely to the plants roots, however.

Drip Irrigation

Another option is true dip irrigation, which uses small "emitters" to create a small drip or spray pattern – into the soil. The emitter is attached on a water main or at the end of a small hose. The drawbacks to this type of irrigation are clogged emitters and constantly buying new emitters every time you buy a new plant.

Oscillating Sprinkler

The common oscillating sprinkler is a common option but not a good one, since it seems to water streets and driveways more than plants. Sprinklers like this (overhead irrigation), are up to 35% less efficient than those that put water directly in the ground.

Sprinklers using small drops or a mist are even less efficient than overhead sprinklers putting out large drops of water. With a mix of misting water, wind, and sun, 50% of your water does not even reach the lawn or plants!

To help with this problem, you should use multiple sprinklers with a lower volume of water per sprinkler. This will help keep the water low to the ground, reducing the wind problem. Large rotary types of sprinklers such as those installed in the ground are the most efficient type of overhead sprinkler, with about 70% efficiency.

Overhead sprinklers are not perfect, but work well and are the cheapest for grass. For flowers, shrubs, or vegetables, however, the water should be put only where it is necessary. "Drip" or "trickle" irrigation will do this for you, and it has about 85% efficiency.

When to Water

You should water between 5:00 a.m. and 10:00 a.m., when the air, sun, and wind are calm and cool, reducing loss due to wind and evaporation. A timer is a great investment to make sure the landscaping is watered at the correct time of day and for the right amount of time.

They cost between $10 and $40 for a simple one and go up from there. Irrigation timers can be as simple as a timer to control flow or a mini-computer. Most importantly, this device will automatically turn off your watering when it is done, so you don’t accidentally leave the hose running all day and night.

Another way timers help with efficiency is through "pulsing", or turning the water on and off multiple times when watering. Instead of watering straight through, it will split the watering session into a few sessions spread out slightly. This will help allow the water to seep into the soil instead of running off of it.

Water is a precious resource we all need to use wisely for not only watering our plants but also personal daily use.

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