Cool water splashing overhead, sliding on wet grass, remember running through the sprinkler on a hot, summer day? But who knew that a sprinkler uses about 600 gallons of water an hour! The water crisis is on the forefront of the news with demand for water in some states exceeding the natural supply. As we head into the driest part of the gardening season, Molbak’s garden + home in Woodinville has some tips and tools that can help you conserve water, save money and keep your garden healthy.
START FROM THE GROUND UP
The best way to water gardens effectively is to surface water. Drip systems and soaker hoses target specific areas and add moisture directly to the soil at your plants’ roots. “The new drip irrigation systems are easy to install and more efficient than ever,” advises Griffin Hanzsek from Molbak’s, “It’s a great DIY project that can be added anytime.” Place hoses or lines in your beds about two feet apart, adding an extra loop around moisture-loving flowers and shrubs like Hydrangeas. Then add a light layer of mulch to help reduce evaporation.
Once your system is in place, water, and time how long it takes for the top 6-8 inches of soil to become saturated, (8-12 inches for large shrubs and trees). Install an automatic timer to insure your plants are getting just the right amount of water. Remember, the best time to water is early morning, to prevent disease and reduce evaporation.
If you plant in containers or raised beds, terra cotta “Oyas” have become increasingly popular for their ease of use and efficiency. Based on an ancient model, these rounded vessels are buried in gardens and vegetable beds and filled from the top with water every 5 to 10 days. The water then seeps around an area of about 3 feet in diameter and waters plants at the root level.
KEEP IT GREEN
Grass lawns need about an inch of water a week to stay healthy and green. If you have an irrigation system, test it every year and make sure your sprinkler heads are watering the grass and not your driveway! Oscillating sprinklers are great for small lawns, and pulse sprinklers for large areas. A rain gauge is a handy tool to help determine how long you need to water.
HIGH IMPACT, LOW WATER
Plant choice is a great way to conserve water. Use drought-tolerant plants like Lavender, Coneflower and Shasta Daisies along with shrubs like Barberry and California Lilac. Group plants with the same watering needs together. Groundcovers are a great alternative to grass, just think – no mowing! Native plants like Kinnikinnick, Salal and Vinca are colorful alternatives to reduce your lawn’s watering footprint.
A combination of careful planting, timing, and tools will help keep your gardenscape healthy and lower your water bill to conserve our most precious resource.