Saturday, March 31, 2012

The Start of Water Conservation

Water Conservation Tips by Ralph Edge

Now That We Have Water Supply, What is the Proper Water Use for Landscaping in Dallas

Texas Licensed Irrigator Ralph Edge Shares Watering Tips for Water Conservation and Proper Water Use

Well the lakes are full and some lakes are even opening the gates to allow the current water supply to adjust to slightly below full. So hey, let’s end the water restrictions and start watering and fertilizing to get us back into the same mess we were in before.
Wow! I am sure I have already made some new friends. You know… even at the height of the drought I had neighbors that watered to the extent that water supply ran down the street and into the storm drain some 250 yards away – poor water use in general.
Water conservation is just that, conserving the resources we have while we have them. So we must be smart with our water supply and make sure our water use is in the appropriate areas at the appropriate times for the appropriate purposes. Like my dad used to say..”It is too late to shut the barn door after the cow has left the building!” The simple fact of the matter is, we have more people in the Dallas area now than we did 10 years ago and basically the same amount of water supply. The city’s infrastructure is straining to keep up and our water use is at record rates. Unfortunately, we see no reason to stop – except with water restrictions. So what can one person do to help with water conservation and how does it impact landscaping in Dallas?

Let’s take the simple solution of proper irrigation scheduling. Take the example of adding 1 inch of water per week at the height of summer, just one inch. If a normal irrigation spray head has a precipitation rate of 1.1 to 1.5 inches per hour, then through simple deduction, we know that spray head will need to run about 1 hour or 60 minutes to achieve 1 inch of water delivered to your lawn and seriously, that will be plenty.
So how do we accomplish that? With our heavy alkaline clay soils that spray head should not run more than 7 minutes at any one run time. Otherwise, the rest of the water supply will run down the street and into the storm sewer – not good water use. If your lawn has a dramatic slope, then the run time will be even less. Repeat the term “cycle and soak” over and over again, that will be your new mantra.
Cycle and soak is the art and discipline of irrigating just enough for the soil to absorb the water supply with minimal run-off. Consider the situation of the two day a week watering schedule Mondays and Fridays as an example - start times of 2am, 4am, 6am, and 8am each run being 7 minutes. So 4 run times of 7 minutes each, equals 28 minutes and times 2 for 2 days of watering….Wow! No run-off and your plants look better than they ever have…Why?
Well glad you asked…The time between the run times allowed the soil to absorb the water supply without unnecessary run-off and the plant actually received more water than a straight 40 minute runtime. Why is this? Once again, 7 minutes to the yard and then 33 minutes of water down the street – again, a poor water conservation plan.
Cycle and Soak allows the vast, I repeat the vast, majority of the water to go where it needs to go and that is to your turf and to your plants and not to the storm sewer. No matter how much you water the storm sewer or the side walk, they will never get bigger or greener – and I know this is not where you want your water supply going.

Water conservation is not simply doing without water, water conservation is the proper utilization of water that allows for the growth of your landscape and the reduction of the amount of water used….how can that be so simple?

Thanks for Stopping By..................................and Remember  "Enjoy the Life"

Ralph Edge

Monday, March 19, 2012

Planning and Design

Planning and Design
Part One of the Seven Elements of Xeriscaping

The fundamental element of Xeriscape design is water conservation. Landscape designers constantly look for ways to reduce the amount of applied water and to maximize the use of natural precipitation.

         Using graph paper, draw an aerial view of your property, another way to do this is by using “Google Earth” it will measure and give you a view you have not seen before, begin your plan with the following considerations

·         Orient the plot by marking down north, south, east and west. Include any limiting features such as trees, fences, walkways or structures. Note areas of sun and shade, which will help you, establish zones of differing water needs. You'll want to group plants with similar watering needs for most efficient water use. The term for this in irrigation “talk” is hydra- zoning, by using this method of water distribution you can capitalize on your local areas water restrictions, and keep your new plantings alive at the same time

·         Study the natural contours and drainage patterns of the land. These contours can be easily developed into terraces, which add visual interest and help reduce soil loss and erosion due to rain or irrigation. Terraces can be as little as 3" and still offer visual appeal; terraces over 12" will require considerable support, such as rock walls or timbers reinforced with steel stakes. Also consider areas under trees where the grass will not grow no matter how many times you re-sod it, so expose those massive roots (gently) and fill in around them with different sizes and colors of river rock, the trees will like you for it and you will not be stressing over your bare dirt.

Rain Garden
 Another consideration in studying the contours of the property, do you have a low spot that always seems damp and boggy and fills with rain water, turn it into a permeable rain garden with bog loving  plants, make use of those areas that you would normally shy away from and let nature water them.

 Bubble Diagram
·         Consider the planned use of each area within the plot. Areas for seating, walkways, visual barriers, dining or play should be defined and incorporated into your plan. In the world of landscape we call this a bubble diagram… very, very helpful in designating and planning  you next home improvement adventure

 ·         Areas to be left as turf should be designed to be easily mowed. Curved swaths are usually better than straight runs with sharp turns. Narrow swaths can be difficult to water with conventional sprinklers. When choosing your turf area stay away from water hogs… grasses that demand heavy watering and high nitrogen fertilization, a grass that has to be mowed every other day with a special reel mower…I mean really, is that what you want to be doing with your spare time?

·         Larger plantings, such as shrubs and trees, can be positioned to provide natural heating and cooling opportunities for adjacent buildings.  When choosing a tree think….”Mature Growth”….if you live in a zero lot line house with a 20 by 20 foot yard area do you really want a tree when, in its adult life, has a span of 40 feet and a height of 70 feet. That kind of tree, while perfect in a rural setting or large lot setting will be nothing but a headache for a smaller property, it is not the right plant.

Xeriscaping is all about conserving the resources we have available, we do that by making good decisions about what, where, when, and how we plant and design our landscape.

Thanks and Enjoy the Life  

Ralph Edge

Texas Certified Master Nursery Professional # 5330

Texas Certified Landscape Professional # 577

Texas Licensed Irrigator #13733

Texas Licensed Backflow Assembly Tester #12012

Texas A&M and EPA Certified Irrigation Auditor

Texas Dept. Of Agriculture Commercial Applicator

Friday, March 9, 2012

Grass Roots Water Conservation.....

Water Conservation

One of the largest topics in the very near future (now) will be water conservation. Many cities and states are experiencing potable water shortages as we speak.

Many think this is another tree hugger fantasy, or the Southwest version of Save the Whales. Did you know that a little over a hundred years, ago paddle wheel steamers were traveling up and down the Rio Grande between Texas and Mexico? They were very similar to the ships that were navigating the Mississippi River; well today you can almost walk across the Rio Grande.

We have more people, more concrete, more residential turf areas than we have ever had before and whether we like it or not, water has become our most precious natural resource.

So there are some very simple ways of conserving this precious resource, in this blog we will deal with the basics of water usage in the landscape irrigation arena.

Watering in longer cycles or zone runs, does not mean more water for your grass, in fact just the opposite. After 7 minutes of run time on most spray heads the water is running down the street and provides little in the way of benefit to your starving yard. So………….Cycle and Soak:

Try this Irrigation Scheduling method for watering your lawn

and landscape. For fixed and pop-up spray sprinklers,

Use the Cycle and Soak water 3 cycles a day, 4 to 6 minutes each cycle.

Schedule start times one hour apart. If you have rotating sprinklers, water 3 cycles a day, 10 to 12 Minutes each cycle.

You will this is more effective than the standard 15 minute runs we have all been used to, the infiltration rate of our North Texas clay soils are such that more water runs off and down the street than into the root zone…….Try this idea to remind you of cycle and soak…think of a brand new sponge, just out of the wrapper, have you ever tried to clean your kitchen counter with a dry sponge? It just smears the mess around on the counter but get that sponge a little wet and it works much better…Think of your lawn as a dry sponge and you have a limited amount of water to use and you do not want any running down the street…Cycle and Soak…That is your new mantra.

Okay…got cycle and soak?…..Next, think of mulch for your flower and shrub beds. Mulch can reduce (by up to 65 %) the evaporation of moisture from that bed area…who knew??

Seriously, you spend time and dollars watering make sure it stays where it is needed and where you intend it to be. Pine straw, cedar, hardwood, shredded pine, eucalyptus….the choices are endless…just use an organic product that can decompose and add organic matter back to the soil, the plants will love you, the earthworms will love you and you will be the hero of your block…….(well maybe)

Enjoy the Life