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Water Wisdom

It’s that time of year, when hope blooms that this will finally be the season when the lawn will spring forth lush and green; the flowers will burst with color and not shrivel in the heat; the deer will magically ignore the garden. One can hope, right? And the home gardener can also make some smart choices that will conserve water and save money—a small victory, whether or not the tomatoes come in strong or wimp out.

Using soaker hoses in the garden allows the water to seep slowly into the ground directly to the plants’ roots, with little runoff. Soaker hoses can be operated with timers, so you water early in the day and only as much as needed. One tip: place an empty tuna fish can under a hose. See how long it takes to fill the can—that gives you a measure of how long you need to run the soaker hose to produce that depth of water.

Position water sprinklers carefully to make sure the water does not run off onto the sidewalk or pavement. Adjust the sprinkler to emit larger drops rather than a fine spray, which evaporates faster. When using a hose, get an attachment such as a water wand or adjustable nozzle that allows better control over the flow and direction of the water.

Roll out the rain barrel for free water
Set a rain barrel under downspouts to collect water, which can then be used to water plants and gardens. In the summer, some estimate that as much as 40 percent of household water use comes from watering the lawn and garden—and that a quarter inch of rain on a typical roof could fill a rain barrel. Some cities and county governments offer rain barrels for sale, or for the handy types there are directions available for make-your-own rain barrels.

For efficient watering, have a plan
One of the least expensive conservation tips is to be smart about when and how you water. It’s best to water early in the morning—watering in the heat of the day means much of the water will just evaporate. It’s also smart to give things a good deep soaking, at least 5 to 6 inches deep, because watering too frequently for short periods of time can cause the plants to develop shallow roots and be more susceptible to disease and insects. One simple way to check if the lawn needs watering: walk across the grass. If you leave footprints, yes, it’s time to water.

Put mulch around plants to avoid evaporation. And raise the blade on your mower to at least 2 to 3 inches in height—longer grass offers more shade and allows the roots to sink deeper, holding in the moisture.

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