Vibrant green hills roll around my home these early June days, sage infusing the air in crisp spring shower smells. My arms stretch involuntarily outward, reaching to take in the moisture, and my skin acts like the organ it is by absorbing nature's best agua. Living in this present moment, all is good in the garden, all is good with our lands.
How ironic then that I find myself concurrently installing the last bits of irrigation in the garden. All too soon, bluebird skies will aggressively grace our summer days, to the sheer delight of all who worship the sun's warmth, but to our gardens' dismay. It's not just any plant that's ready to face such blistering high-altitude conditions. Though we may find reprieve via a quick dunk in the Wood River, our garden plants need regular drinks. But remember that the river naturally decreases in flow over the course of the summer; we live in a water cycle that provides little for all the people, plants and animals who reside here, and it decreases gradually.
Despite the fact that the city water supply seems endless and your water bill may not scare you yet, the big flow picture remains relevant to our lot-sized gardens. Consider using appropriate irrigation for the sake of others' needs downstream, and chances are you'll keep more dollars in your pocket, too.
Here are a few ways to do so:
· Don't have an underground irrigation system installed? Try a soaker hose for your perennial plants (flowers, shrubs and trees), and try drip line (also known as tape) for your container and food-garden areas. Soaker hoses resemble regular garden hoses, but have a permeable, mesh structure. Drip line is thin plastic tubing that emits water from miniscule, laser-burned holes. Drip systems generally measure water emitted in gallons per hour, as compared to the gallons per minute boasted by an overhead sprinkler system.
True, if using overhead, you can schedule the watering to occur in the wee morning hours, thus avoiding much evaporation from sun, and hopefully wind carry as well. However, the drip methods deliver water to plants much more effectively and can also be put on timers; instead of soaking from above, the water is delivered directly at the plant root zone, over a longer period of time. This eliminates most evaporation and causes the water to go deeper into the soil, encouraging root growth downward, instead of laterally, which is what plants tend to do when showered from above with too little water. Less overhead water also means reduced weed growth, and plants are not as prone to foliar disease.
A home's regular water pressure is more than sufficient for these systems, as drip should operate at 10 to 30 pounds per square inch and house water pressure is typically between 40 and 100 PSI. So you won't have to worry about pressure drops inside just because you are irrigating, though you may need a pressure regulator at the outdoor faucet. No clamps or other special tools are required on this system, and the components should be re-usable for many years with good care-giving.
For containers, hook up a micro-sprinkler or mister to the drip system and you'll avoid water pooling out the bottom; again, it's a question of rate of application. Going slower allows the water to be absorbed properly. And yes, these are do-it-yourself options to attempt according to your budget. Once again, get yourself down to ground level with your watering and you'll get more familiar with how the garden grows.
Lynea Newcomer is a gardening enthusiast and writer. You can find out more about her at www.seedsimple.com.