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Drip Irrigation: Do it Yourself (AM) Apr 12, 2011
Drip Irrigation: Do it Yourself (PM) Apr 12, 2011
Earth Day: Saving from a Rainy Day - Making a Rain Barrel (AM) Apr 21, 2011
Earth Day: Saving from a Rainy Day - Making a Rain Barrel (PM) Apr 21, 2011
Water Efficient Landscaping

Efficient irrigation practices keep a landscape healthy and beautiful. Irrigation problems damage your landscape by creating too dry and/or too wet areas, resulting in water loss and high cost. An irrigation check-up identifies problems with the system and sprinklers, and helps you estimate how long to run each station or zone. In many communities during the summer, 30–50 percent of the total water used is for landscape irrigation. To save water resources and money, apply water to a landscape as efficiently as possible. Check the irrigation system at least twice a season for problems.

Step 1. If you have the original irrigation system design, make a copy so you can make notes on it. If you do not have the original design, sketch the irrigation layout and number of sprinkler heads in each station. Number the heads on the sketch so you can make notes about each one.

Step 2. Run each station and observe each sprinkler head to see if it is running and distributing water properly, noting which ones are working correctly and which ones require attention.

Look for these problems:

  • Sprinkler heads spraying water onto the sidewalk, driveway, or road
  • Sprinkler heads missing, not operating, or having reduced water flow or poor distribution patterns
  • Sprinkler heads broken, gushing water out of the top, or not popping up
  • Sprinkler heads no longer straight up and down
  • Sprinkler heads that cause a cloud of mist
  • Grass, shrubbery, or trees blocking the distribution pattern
  • Dry landscape areas
    • Possible causes: low system water pressure, a plugged nozzle, or wind
    • Irrigation heads installed too far apart or not in a recommended square or triangle pattern

Step 3. Repair all problems yourself or hire a licensed irrigator. Most repairs require cleaning out a sprinkler head. After completing all repairs, run the system and time how long each station should run.

Step 4. Check for uniform distribution. Collect several empty, straight-sided cans such as cat food or tuna fish cans. Use a minimum of three cans per sprinkler head. Five cans per station are even better. Mark the inside of each can like a rain gauge with markings for ½ inch, ¾ inch, and 1inch.

Step 5. Place the cans throughout one irrigation station.

Step 6. Run the first station for 15 minutes.

Step 7. Write down how much water is in each can. The ideal irrigation system distributes water uniformly in the area, and each can should have the same amount of water.

Step 8. Repeat these procedures for each station.

Step 9. Estimate the amount of water your landscape requires: Variables include the amount of sunlight, type of plants, type of soil, time of year, and amount of precipitation.

  • Turf areas in full sun on clay soil during the summer require about 1 inch of water every 5 –7 days.
  • Turf areas in full sun on sandy soil during the summer require about 1.5 inches of water every 5 –7 days.
  • Turf areas in full sun on clay soil during the winter require about 1 inch of water every 15–20 days.
  • Turf areas in full sun on sandy soil during the winter require about 1.5 inches of water every 15–20 days.
  • Shrub, groundcover, and perennial areas require about half the amount of water that turf areas require if you keep 2–4 inches of mulch covering the root area.
  • Water plant containers and vegetable gardens as required.

Step 10. Do the math. You now know how many inches of water each station applies in 15 minutes. Set your controller according to how much time is necessary for each station to provide the estimated amount of water for the plants in that station. If you do not have an instruction manual for your controller, order one from the manufacturer either by telephone or on the Internet.

Step 11. Change the irrigation schedule each season.

(Most controllers have an A and B schedule):

  • Spring: Use 20 percent less than the average summer schedule or as needed because the North Texas area usually receives a lot of rain in the spring.
  • Fall: Use 30 percent less than the average summer schedule or only as needed.
  • Winter: Turn off the controller and water only if there is no precipitation in a month.

Local, licensed irrigators and some Cities have teamed up to offer residents discounted rates for irrigation checkups. (Contact your City for more details) Call a licensed irrigator today to schedule an irrigation checkup and watch your water bill decrease!

Click Here For More Water Conservation Tips
Click Here For Our Recommended Plant List

Bluebonnets by Dotty Woodson

Bluebonnets are starting to bloom in south and central Texas. The last week of March and April is the time to plan a drive, hike, picnic, or camp to enjoy the beautiful bluebonnets of Texas. Unfortunately, botanist from Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center and the Fort Worth based Botanical Research Institute of Texas predict this spring wildflowers will not be as spectacular as last spring because of such little rainfall last fall. There will still be bluebonnets, just not as many. Bluebonnets grow from seeds germinated in late summer/early fall. After germination, small bluebonnet seedlings hug the ground all winter. The warm spring weather and rain starts the seedlings growing into the beautiful flowering plants we all enjoy. Bluebonnets seeds are very hard. In nature, bluebonnet seeds do not always germinate the first year. Weathering by rain, wind and erosion soften the seed coat so germination will occur. So if bluebonnets seeds did not germinate last fall, the seeds will germinate next fall or the next. The bluebonnet seeds available in packets or by the pound from garden centers, feed stores or wildflower companies are treated to soften the seed coat so germination rate is better. The highway department and many landowners broadcast bluebonnets seeds for many years in order to have a good display.

In my garden where I occasionally irrigate, I have one bluebonnet showing color and many ready to flower. In my garden where I do not irrigate, the bluebonnet plants are few and small compared to years when rainfall is good in the fall and spring.

If you want bluebonnets in your landscape or containers, many garden centers and feed stores have bluebonnet transplants available. These transplants go fast, so don’t wait too long. After the flowers fade, allow the plants to remain growing until the seeds ripen. The plants will start looking like weeds but wait until you see a few seeds pods open. Collect the seeds to plant in late August or allow the seeds to remain in the soil. After the seeds have dropped pull the plants up or mow over the area. Mowing does not damage the seeds if the seeds have already fallen to the ground. Next summer, plant acid scarified seeds and plant more seeds for a few years until there is enough germination occurring naturally for a good display.

Some of the best wildflowers for this area are bluebonnets, Indian paint brush, coreopsis, winecup, purple cone flower, cosmos, larkspur and black-eyed Susan. Plant a mixture of seeds or in groups. Bluebonnets, Indian paint brush and larkspur will flower first followed by coreopsis. Purple cone flower and black-eyed Susan will flower all summer if you cut off the spent flowers. Cosmos will flower later and keeping flowering until the plants freeze. Cosmos towers over the other plants if not trimmed.

For reports on wildflower sightings, call the Texas Department of Transportation (TXDOT) toll-free number 1-800-452-9292. When prompted, select wildflowers for a recording or speak with an Information Center Representative. TXDOT also has an active GIS map with updated wildflower road reports from their web site at www.dot.state.tx.us. The Texas Highway Department plants about 30,000 pounds of wildflower seeds each year.

The City of Ennis and the Ennis Garden Club have a wonderful web site about the Bluebonnet Trails in and around Ennis, TX. Citizens and garden club members have planted thousands of bluebonnet seeds to create spectacular displays. Visit the City of Ennis web site for bluebonnet trail maps, Bluebonnet Festival information and up-to-date bluebonnet reports, www.visitennis.org. During the month of April the Ennis Visitors Center, 002 E. Ennis Avenue or 972-878-4748, is open 7 days a weeks except Easter to provide maps and other helpful information.

Texas AgriLife Research and Extension Center at Dallas | http://urbansolutionscenter.tamu.edu
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