Being a water-wise gardener

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There are many ways to conserve water this summer while maintaining attractive and healthy landscape.

Make sure your irrigation system is working properly.

Repair leaking hoses or broken sprinkler heads. Learn how to operate the timer on your sprinkler system so if it rains or the ground is wet, you can shut the system off and run it manually.

Do not water if the ground is wet.

Many sprinkler timers are set to run at the preferred times between 10 p.m. and 6 am. However, do run the system during the day once a month to check for problems.

Verify that your sprinkler is watering your landscape, not the street or the neighbor's driveway.

If you use the hose method for watering, set a kitchen timer to monitor how long you are watering.

Test the ground for wetness by inserting a 6-inch screwdriver in the earth. If it is easy to insert, then the earth is wet. If not, then you need to set you timers for a longer period.

Lawns need larger amounts of water than the rest of the landscape plants. It is best to water until you saturate the earth 6 inches, which encourages good root growth for the grass.

On established lawns this may only be necessary every five to six days.

Mow the grass to 3 inches to shade the earth and allow for less water loss through evaporation.

Shrubs and trees require moisture to their roots.

As roots extend out laterally two to three times the height of the plant, the hose needs to be placed accordingly. Mulch trees for 2 feet around the trunk to conserve water.

Established perennial flowers require less water than annual flowers. Adding organic material such as compost or peat moss will improve the soil and decrease the amount of water necessary for the plant.

Add 3 cubic yards of organic matter per 1,000 square feet and till it in 12 inches.

Apply mulch to the flowerbeds to keep the roots of the plants cool and moist.

Mulch also decreases the growth of weed, which compete with the flowers for water. Group plants together that have similar water needs.

Observe your plants. If they are wilting, then you need to water more often. If plants are exposed to full sun, they need more frequent watering than plants in the shade.

Newly planted flowers need water every two days for the first two to three weeks. Then slowly decrease the frequency of application to every four to six days. All plants' water needs are based on sun and wind exposure, temperature, and soil conditions.

Reassess your garden's needs for water as the growing season changes.

A little time spent this spring determining time, amount and frequency of water needs for your landscape can make you a water-wise gardener.

Camille C. Fisher is a Master Gardener through the Colorado State University Cooperative Extension office in Routt County. Questions? Call 879-0825 or e-mail gardeners@co.routt.co.us.

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