We garden mainly on coarse-textured, sandy soil which has a low capacity to hold water and nutrients. Plants growing on sandy soils don’t use more water; they just have to be watered more frequently but with smaller amounts. To avoid wasting water in sandy soils, reduce quantity at each watering because excessive water quickly moves below the reach of plant roots and water-soluble nutrients, like nitrogen, readily leach below the rooting zone.
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How to garden wisely during a severe drought
San Diego UpTown News
June 19th, 2015
By Gary Jones
Here are 10 simple water-saving tips to follow so you can reduce your outdoor water use:
Mulch — Placing a layer of organic mulch on the soil surface around plants can save hundreds of gallons of water each year. Mulch prevents water evaporation and stops weeds from growing.
Repair and adjust sprinklers — Observe your sprinklers as they run. Adjust them as necessary to reduce overspray on sidewalks, roads and patios. Repair damaged sprinklers immediately. Check pipes for leaks as quick repairs and adjustments can save as much as 500 gallons each year.
Install a smart sprinkler controller — The latest technology can help reduce your water use and water bill dramatically. Wireless smart controllers activate sprinklers via computer based on current weather data and information about the specifics of your garden. Simply replace your automatic timer with a smart controller.
Add lots of compost to your soil — Adding store-bought or homemade compost to all of your planting beds and pots will decrease the amount of water needed. Clay soils that are amended with organic matter will accept and retain water better. Sandy soils improved with compost will have significantly better water absorption and retention.
Use trigger sprayers when hand-watering — Every hose should be equipped with a trigger sprayer so that no water is wasted when watering containers and the rest of your garden. Make sure to use a broom instead of a hose to clean driveways and sidewalks.
Minimize water loss in pots — Use water-retentive Danish Potting Soil in containers for all plants needing regular or ample water. For plants requiring moderate to low water, use Edna’s Best Potting soil along with Soil Moist in containers. Soil Moist is a polymer that stores water for plants’ use as the soil dries.
Use organic fertilizers — Organic fertilizers slowly release nutrients into the soil at a natural rate that matches plants’ needs. With a slow, even feeding, there is no overabundance of soft green growth that chemical fertilizers produce. Thus, your plants need less water when fed organically.
Water deeper, but less often — Most gardens on automatic sprinkling systems in California are overwatered. Change your system to match local water district guidelines. You’ll have less evaporation and water will be deeper where roots can continue to access the water. (Seems counter to what Gillian stated above.)
Change watering times with the seasons — Adjust your automatic system at least three times a year: July-October (highest frequency), November-March (lowest frequency) and April-June (somewhere in between). During periods of rain, turn automatic systems completely off.
Water early in the morning — Set your automatic sprinklers to run in the early morning and finish before 8 a.m. This will reduce evaporation and lessen the likelihood of water waste due to interference from winds. You’ll also find that it reduces plant disease and water damage.
—Gary Jones is Chief Horticulturist at Armstrong Garden Centers. Email your drought and gardening questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.