Did you know that just by making one change in your garden that you will benefit not only the earth, but also your plants, your back and your pocketbook? The one change I am talking about is making sure that you are watering your plants at the recommended rate for your area.
Okay, first the benefits to the earth. The first one is fairly obvious….by watering at the proper rate and frequency, we are conserving water – a precious resource.
Each time I consult with a homeowner, I often go over what their current irrigation schedule is. Believe it or not, over 90% of the time, I find that their trees and plans are being over-watered. In fact, one of my horticulture professors did a study and found the same statistics. Naturally, that is understandable; we live in a desert, so logically we think that more water will help our plants.
But, the truth is, is that the majority of plant problems we see related to irrigation is due to over-watering NOT under-watering.
Irrigating (watering) correctly not only causes your plants to grow at a healthy rate, but also encourages roots to grow deeper where the soil is cooler and moister and helps to flush out salts in our soils that can build-up around the roots of your plants. As a result, your plants will be better able to withstand the stress of summer.
The length of time for each irrigation cycle can vary depending on your individual system. So, to do this, all you need is a 3 ft. piece of rebar, (seriously, that is it). Once you have irrigated (watered) your plants, gently push the rebar down to see how far the water has penetrated. It will slide easily down through the moist soil. When it stops, measure the distance on the rebar to see how far it penetrated and you can see how much longer or shorter a time you will still need to water.
*The average time the water should be turned on for shrubs is approximately 2 hours at a time, but this can vary depending on your irrigation system and soils.
Even though the specific recommendations of this post are geared for the desert gardener in Arizona, the broader principles can apply to us all. For those of you who do need to provide supplemental water to your plants, take the time to make sure that you are watering them correctly.
I would like to offer one word of caution, when changing your current irrigation schedule, gradually wean your plants from the excess water they have been receiving – you don’t want to shock your plants and it will take them some time to adjust to the longer length of time between each watering cycle.
I am joining with Jan from Thanks For Today and other fellow garden bloggers in sharing ways to garden sustainably in honor of Earth Day and this is my submission :^) Please visit her blog to see links to other posts honoring Earth Day.
*For landscape watering guidelines in greater Phoenix area, please visit AMWUA which is an excellent resource on irrigation which has more specific information on how often to water seasonally.
Sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words. Especially in terms of planting the right plant in the wrong place.
I took a drive this past fall around a neighborhood near our house and found many examples of beautiful plants that had been butchered in order to fit into a small area. I spoke about this in an earlier post, Read the Plant Label or You Might End Up With Cupcakes. But, I have more pictures to share of what went wrong by those who did not read the label.
So, even though I do love to ‘talk’ – I think I will let the following pictures speak for me….
We had three different landscape sessions and the focus was on ‘living green’ in the desert landscape but all gardening questions were welcomed.
This feature area consists of only succulents such as Soaptree Yucca, Purple Prickly Pear, Desert Spoon, Opuntia robusta, Agave colorata among others. There is no regular irrigation in this area. We hand-watered the cactus monthly during the first two summers until they were established.
There were some excellent questions, and I will highlight the most popular ones.
Question #1- When and how do we prune our shrubs. Are they supposed to look like ‘balls’?
There is an epidemic in the Arizona desert where desert shrubs are pruned into round ball shapes, or as we in the landscape industry refer to as “poodle or cupcake” pruning. Those of you who have been reading my blog for awhile have seen me get up on my “high-horse” more then once, and rail against this practice. I will not repeat myself here, but you can read my previous post where I dealt with this unfortunate practice – Shrubs Aren’t Meant To Be Cupcakes.
This was my favorite part of my job; designing new landscapes and seeing it all come together.
Although the plants are very small when first planted, they grow very quickly in our climate.
Question #2 – When should I fertilize my plants?
Actually, most of your arid-adapted plants do not need to be fertilized. I only fertilize my plants if they show signs of a nutrient deficiency. We do fertilize our container plantings and fruit trees. Compost can be applied to all plants as this ‘feeds’ the soil.
Purple Trailing Lantana, Mexican Bird-of-Paradise, Parry’s Penstemon, Desert Spoon and Angelita Daisy brighten the entrance to the clubhouse (2005).
Question #3 – Is it possible to have plants in my landscape that do not require any water?
The answer is yes you can if you use native plants. But, you will have to water them until they become established. Keep in mind that all native plants will look much better when watered periodically. That is what is done to the plants at the Desert Botanical Garden.
For excellent guidelines as to how long and often you should water your plants, please check out this excellent site, which has information about irrigating your plants in the Arizona desert, including a schedule you can put in your irrigation controller – Landscape Watering Guide
The native plants were watered in this area monthly until they were established. Periodic water was supplied during the summer months (2005).
Question #4 – Is it possible to have a winter landscape with flowering plants?
The answer is absolutely! Many residents of this community are winter visitors and are away in the summer when most plants are flowering. You can read more in a previous post of what types of plants flower during the winter months – Colorless Winter Garden…No Way!
Question #5 – How often do I need to water my citrus trees? They are currently being watered twice a week.
When I am asked to consult with a homeowner regarding their landscape, over 90% are watering their citrus too frequently and not deeply enough. For example, in the winter months, citrus trees should only be watered once every 3 – 4 weeks. Many were shocked. I will cover citrus irrigation in more detail in the future, but there is excellent information which can be found here – Citrus Irrigation Guidelines.