For The Answer
Weekly Express-News Article
By Calvin R. Finch, PhD, SAWS Water Resources Director, and Horticulturist
Saturday, July 29, 2006
Some of us are content to accept drought restrictions as a sign from above that it is time to take a break from gardening and landscape work. Let the lawn go dormant, forget the fall garden this year, and let those well adapted shrubs and trees survive without special care just like they did for thousands of years before man decided they needed our help. Such an attitude is reasonable and will certainly reduce water use until the rains arrive, but it is not necessary, there are lots of activities in which you can spend your free time without using excessive amounts of water.
· Be optimistic that wet years will return. Prepare new raised beds for an expanded vegetable garden or a cutting flower garden. Used railroad ties laid end to end filled with landscape mix is an easy way to construct a garden. Put in your own drip irrigation to make it water efficient and very productive.
· Re-work your raised bed garden. Have your favorite horticultural supply firm deliver a load of compost or landscape soil and till it in to refill and refresh the bed. Also, add one cup of slow release lawn fertilizer per 100 square feet of bed to help overcome the lack of nutrients in commercial compost.
· Replenish the mulch in your shrub borders and beds. There are lots of materials to choose from. I like pecan shells, shredded brush, leaves, shredded cedar or cypress and bark. The mulch reduces evaporation from the soil and keeps it cool so roots can function in the full soil reservoir.
· Put up a new deer fence. Populations of the destructive pests, or “delightful creatures,” depending on your attitude, are growing in many neighborhoods throughout the region. A seven foot fence or deer webbing will make it less frustrating to garden when the rains do resume.
· Review your irrigation instruction booklets and become more knowledgeable about your irrigation system so you can repair any leaks that occur and use the system in the most efficient manner. There is information on the internet and at your irrigation supplier to teach you how to adjust or replace the emitters and sprinkler heads. Repairing plastic pipe is relatively easy and is covered in many home repair guides.
· Review the drought restrictions on the SAWS website at www.saws.org. Serve as a resource for your neighborhood and/or church. Contact individuals who are not following the restrictions and encourage them to do so.
Obtain and install a rain sensor on your
irrigation system. As of January 1,
2006, it is the law in
· Refurbish your purple martin houses. The birds have fledged their young and do not need the houses anymore this season. It may be time to replace the house or to install a better pole. Some pole systems make is very easy to raise and lower your house. Others are very difficult.
· Begin feeding the hummingbirds. Every pet store, many super markets, and most variety stores have hummingbird feeders. Select one that is easy to take apart and clean. Mix sugar with water in the ratio of one part sugar to four parts water. Hummingbirds are great fun to observe, especially in the autumn.
· Put up a bird bath to help the songbirds find enough water to survive the drought. The concrete and masonry baths are the best for the birds. Rinse and fill the baths every two days.
· Whatever direction you take with your garden, do not overdo it in the heat. Wear a hat, loose clothing, and drink plenty of fluids. Limit the strenuous activities to the morning or the evening.