It’s spring (I promise) and its time to spring into action. (Did I really write that?) Top Ten lists abound for almost anything and everything, don’t they? If you’re looking for something to do, want a good laugh about why people (and other creatures) do the things they do, or looking for advice on almost any subject, there’s no shortage of these lists. So, why not have a Top Ten list so our Blue Thumb Bloggers can have a water-efficient garden?
Especially at this time of year when there’s no shortage of things that need to be done or should be done in our gardens, it can be downright overwhelming. So let’s narrow that long list down…
Here are some of my favorite things that not only help me feel that I’m accomplishing something, but I can relish the feeling that I am chipping away at that spring time To Do list that will result in my garden being more beautiful, healthy and water efficient:
Here we go…
Number 10. Remove the weeds. Yes, do it now before they’re out of control. Take a stroll through your garden for a few mornings when the air is still cool and hand pull some weeds. Removal is so much easier when weeds are young, their numbers are few, and the soil is still moist (much easier to pull).
Tip: “Handle it once” as the saying goes by carrying a bucket or pop-up garden bag and put those weeds right in it. Visit the UC IPM Statewide Program at www.ipm.ucdavis.edu for more information about weed identification and management.
9. Sweep it. Instead of using and wasting a whole lot of potable water to clean walkways, patios, and decks, use your broom. (Added benefit: More exercise! Now you can justify enjoying that delectable treat.)
8. Move the mulch. Pull back the mulch and leaves that have collected during the winter months around the base of your plants. Move them at least several inches away from the base. This improves air circulation and reduces the chance of damage, disease, and unwanted pests from making themselves at home.
Add a fresh layer of mulch to a depth of two to three inches so your plants, soil, and soil organisms can enjoy the many benefits of this inexpensive and easy action that also gives your garden a fresh look.
7. Plant in threes. Attract pollinators (bees, butterflies, hummingbirds, etc.) into your garden by planting three pollinator plants, such as a Lavender, Rosemary, and Salvia. Last weekend at UC Davis, I attended a Pollinator Gardening seminar sponsored by the UC Davis California Center for Urban Horticulture. Visit www.ccuh.ucdavis.edu. Director of Horticulture Ellen Zagory provided a wonderful list of “Plants for Bees and Other Pollinators”. Many of them hit the “magic of threes” in another way for me because I like multi-purpose/multi-functional plants.
Many plants on the list are (1) low water-use plants, such as, Toyon (Heteromeles arbutifolia); many are (2) California natives; and they (3) support the bees and other pollinators. For more information, visit the UC Davis Arboretum and www.arboretum.ucdavis.edu to see examples of these fabulous plants and the wonderful garden “visitors” (pollinators) in action. Another resource is the Pollinator Partnership at www.pollinators.org.
6. Remove the stakes. According to the Sacramento Tree Foundation at www.sactree.com, if your trees are staked, “remove the stakes and ties as soon as the tree is able to stand upright on its own – usually within 6 months to a year.”
Tip: Leave the stakes in and release the ties. Look down at the root area and give the young tree a gentle shake. If the soil around the outer edges of the root zone (where the edge of the nursery pot used to be) does not move, the roots are getting established. And, if the tree stands upright, it’s time to remove the stakes. If it cannot and/or if the soil moves around the edges of the root zone, put the ties back in place loosely around the tree so it can move in the breeze; firmly attach the ties to the stake.
5. Flush out and tune up. Turn on the water to your irrigation system at the main valve, if you turned off the system during the winter months. Flush the system by removing nozzles from sprinklers, removing flush caps if installed, and then run the system. Once flushed, recap the lines and reinstall the nozzles. Clean filters now and regularly throughout the season.
4. Check the drip system. Check polyethylene tubing (usually black and called “poly”) on the soil surface for damage and breaks (due to heavy foot traffic, chewing from animals, etc.). Repair leaks and broken lines; clean and replace emitters.
Adjust the placement and number of emitters as plants mature so the entire root zone under the canopy of the plant or tree — and beyond — is receiving the water. (Emitters should never be placed right next to the base of the plant.) Once repaired, cover tubing with mulch to protect it from future damage and exposure to elements.
Tip: Water from emitters should drip directly onto the soil, not on top of the organic mulch because the mulch will absorb water intended for plants.
3. Check the Sprinklers. Check that the spray from one sprinkler head reaches the head of the adjacent sprinkler. If not, check the spacing between each head; clear blocked or clogged sprinkler heads; replace mismatched nozzles and consider installing water-saving rotory nozzles. Adjust misaligned, tilted, and obstructed heads. The target for the water is the lawn, not fences, sidewalks, streets, or houses.
Do 5, 6, and 7 seem like too much for you to do yourself? Hire a Qualified Green Gardener from the list on this site at http://www.bewatersmart.info/water-smart-gardening/green-gardener. Also, May is Water Awareness Month, and on May 19 Green Gardeners will be at nurseries throughout the Sacramento region from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. to answer your questions. More information and a list of the nurseries are at http://www.bewatersmart.info/blue-thumb/blue-thumb-green-gardener.
2. Adjust Timers / Controllers – Did you read the Blog, “Trick to Make Your Landscapes a Treat”? In the fall, we encouraged (begged) you to turn your controller off so it wouldn’t irrigate especially when it was raining. Now it’s getting to be that time when the controller gets turned back “on”. Unless you have a “smart” controller that automatically adjusts irrigation run times in response to environmental changes, it’s important to adjust your irrigation schedule as the weather changes, especially seasonally. If your controller has a back-up battery, replace the battery in spring and the fall.
Blue Thumb Blogger, Linden Nies, will be “chatting” all about irrigation efficiency, so stay tuned…
And now, the number 1 way to have a beautiful, water-efficient garden:
1. Take the Blue Thumb Pledge at www.BeWaterSmart.info
It’s that easy!