Bonnie Nowicki, Master Gardener
As we continue to hunker down and cocoon in our homes during this unprecedented national crisis, perhaps a pleasant diversion could be assessing our landscape watering practices. We live in the Sonoran Desert, and home landscape plants probably suffer more from problems related to watering than from any other cause. Since Green Valley receives seven to fourteen inches of rain a year, we need to give our trees and plants supplemental watering.
The month of April presents a perfect opportunity to prepare for the summer heat by carefully inspecting your yard irrigation system. Check valves for leaks. Clogged, inefficient, or malfunctioning drip emitters need replacing, and possible updating. To water correctly for sprinkler systems, early morning is best (between 3 and 6 a.m.). This timing is also ideal for drip irrigation systems. A basic guideline is to water small perennials and annual flowers and vegetables to a depth of one foot, shrubs and large groundcovers to a depth of two feet, and large shrubs and trees to a depth of three feet. Purchase a soil probe to determine if you are watering to the depth needed.
To prevent water runoff and utilize all your water, consider these ideas: A small berm around a tree is a micro basin. A rocky bed below downspouts is great for water overflow. Terraces slow overflow to the next terrace and contoured pathways and swales are helpful in preventing misdirection of water. Use of organic mulch or rocks to retain moisture. Also, consider growing a biodiverse landscape to best utilize water. Place a rain gauge in your yard. If you receive at least one-half-inch of rain, skip the next irrigation cycle.
Here is a suggestion to consider: If you must travel through the summer, to avoid problems, prepare a detailed list for whomever will be overseeing your home and watering system. List when you last fertilized your citrus trees and plants, and when and how often to water. Laminate a copy and place it inside the controller box for easy reference.