Get Your Water On – or Off

Friday, March 11, 2011

Too much water

My friends in the irrigation business tell me there are more calls for drainage issues in spring than any other time, and that’s no surprise. Rainy weather is not unusual in spring, when a deluge can quickly overwhelm the garden. Drainage, or lack of it, becomes quickly apparent when 3 inches of rain falls in a short period of time. You may not feel the need for an underground drainage channel, called a French drain, but unless you’re growing a bog garden it is important to keep standing water away from your plants. If water is standing in the garden several hours after the storm has passed, open a channel. Take a long, narrow dowel and poke holes deep into the soil around the plants to help the water find its way out more quickly. Scoop out a shallow swale between rows or beds to move the water out into the lawn where it can be absorbed. And if that lawn cannot shed the water on its own in a timely manner, maybe it’s time for a French drain.

Plan for a dry summer

It may sound counterintuitive, but now’s the time to plan the probability of dry times in summer and fall, too. I have been known to stop up the swale that drains my vegetable rows to flood the rows. That technique works as well in the home garden as it does in the farmer’s field, but all that shoveling does take its toll. Better to install soaker hoses along the vegetable rows, and if you do not have an inground system, it’s wise to line the flower beds with these simple devices. I put soaker hoses under the mulch around shrubs and perennials, and use them weekly. Most of my garden is in high shade, so a light rainfall never makes it to the plants below. It’s an ongoing dilemma, as I hate to come home to wilted plants and really hate hauling hoses and sprinklers around. I want to turn on the water, or better yet, put it on a timer and know that it’s done right. In that quest, I’ve tried lots of irrigation kits, meant to bring water to beds and pots in an above ground system. I’ve come to the conclusion that most such kits made in the last century were not nearly as serious as I am about using them. Hoses leaked and drip nozzles cracked in no time, and water pressure was impossible to predict. I gave up and strung soaker hoses everywhere.

A better way

Then came Rain Bird’s ‘Gardeners’ Drip Kit’! The international star of irrigation systems has long been known as the authority on commercial systems. Rain Bird has long been serious about nozzles for specific coverage areas and pioneered much of the technology in use today throughout the industry. They are serious about water conservation, too, and have taken that cause to new heights with zone monitoring right down to the neighborhood weather conditions. Rain Bird took on the home gardener’s drip system dilemma and theirs has everything I’m looking for: it is durable, easily adjusted to my plants and its drippers maintain water pressure all the way along the hoses. The Gardeners’ Drip Kit is easy to install and works – what more could you want? The good news is that these kits are widely available, and dealers include the sponsor of this blog, Lakeland Yard and Garden Center. (If you live in or will be visiting central Mississippi in March, be sure to check them out in Flowood. I was their customer long before they were my client!) GardenMama and Lakeland are getting together with Rain Bird to give away these great drip kits and several other Rain Bird products that can improve your inground irrigation system. Watch this space!

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