Friday, July 20, 2007

Water wisely

Express Staff Writer

No one in the valley really needs reminding about the lack of precipitation we've had over the winter, spring and summer. That weather pattern, along with high temperatures and wind, has resulted in a drought.

This is (backhanded) good news for the folks at Native Landscapes, in some ways, because they can steer clients—with proof, not just talk—to native drought-resistant plants and away from large, thirsty gardens and lawns.

On the other hand, people should know themselves the right and wrong way to deal with these situations.

Wrong would be sprinkling landscapes of any kind from above during the heat of the day.

Right is giving the landscape a good soak early in the morning. It's the coolest time of day, which means evaporation is at its lowest. In the afternoon, the winds pick up and strongest and evaporation is greatest due to heat.

Trees and gardens, rather than lawns, should be given highest priority during drought times. Grass can go dormant for periods and still return, a condition not true for garden plants and trees.

If you need to maintain your grass and¾let's face it, we all do since brown straw on the front lawns isn't very appealing¾use low-pressure, low-angle sprinklers. Otherwise, soaker hose and drip irrigation is the most efficient means of watering trees, shrubs, flowers and groundcovers as they deliver water near roots.

Mulch is essential for gardening in the high desert. It helps keep plants' roots cool, prevents soil from hardening up, minimizes evaporation and reduces weed growth.

Finally, be smart and not cocky. Plant wisely and demand buffalograss, or blue grama grass rather than the greener but highly thirsty Kentucky Blue Grass.

The right fertilizer can help hugely. You can buy bottles of organic worm poop, TerraCycle Lawn Fertilizer, for $17.97 at Home Depot to apply yourself, or give Whitehead's Landscaping in Bellevue a call and have them give your place a spray every month. The worm compost helps to reinvigorate soil with microorganisms, bringing the soil literally back to life, and making it more able to absorb and hold water.

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