Friday, 27 June 2014

How to Choose the Right Irrigation System for Your Garden

According to the US Irrigation Association, around 30% of the water delivered by the most efficient automatic sprinkler systems is wasted. Most landscape owners think that their task is finished once they have installed a good irrigation system. However, landscaping experts warn that unless proper maintenance is done, even the most efficient irrigation system would stop performing or show signs of snags, over time. Most experts recommend hiring professionals for at least an annual inspection to ensure that your irrigation systems are working fine. It’s equally important to check that your system is supplying water where it’s needed (the root zone of plants), at times when it’s needed. Perhaps now you know why it’s important to select the right irrigation system and plan strategies for making smart use of water in your landscaping.

Listed below are some factors, which you should consider to choose the right irrigation system:

  • The Size and Complexity of the Garden: For a small garden with a few potted plants, you can water plants manually. Using a watering wand or a hose with a flow trigger fitting and spray head are also good choices. However, to water a large area, you will need to consider a drip irrigation system or permanent in-ground irrigation system fitted with timers. These days, you can also get smart irrigation solutions that incorporate sophisticated options like flow management, weather-based smart controls, and remote control options from a central computer. Such hi-tech features will be useful if you need to manage your irrigation requirements remotely.
  • Your Water Conservation Goals: If you live in a drought-prone area, water efficiency of your irrigation system is likely to be of high priority. In some other areas, water may be available for little or no cost, but electricity to run the irrigation system could be expensive. In such cases, you will need irrigation systems with controllers that can coordinate irrigation demands to make your pumps operate at peak efficiency. This will help you save money on electric bills rather than on water bills. Some people may also need systems that can adapt to changing water restrictions applicable in a particular region. Thus, your water conservation goals would be a key determining factor while selecting the right irrigation system.
  • Budget: You need to ascertain a budget and research online to shortlist the varieties of irrigation systems available within that range. You should also notice the ones that are more water-efficient than the others before taking your final pick.
  • Watering Window and Flexibility: Your watering window (the time and duration of watering your garden) can be affected by watering restrictions applicable in the area, sudden outdoor events and the varying levels of pedestrian traffic. Therefore, your system must be flexible to easily and quickly accommodate to scheduling changes, as and when the need arises.
  • Monitoring the System’s Water Flow:In case you need to generate water usage reports, your irrigation system should be fitted with flow sensors to record the actual flow of every valve in the system. Even when you don’t need to generate reports, using such flow sensors will alert you whenever there’s a deviation from the normal flow. Thus, a sprinkler head clogged with grass or mud will show an abnormally low flow. Again, if trespassers have kicked off the sprinkler heads, the flow sensors will display a much higher flow than what’s normal. Thus, you will be able to monitor your water flow closely and take corrective measures, where required.

The type of water (potable/non-potable)and water-pressure in your area, as well as the number of people managing the systems are other factors that should be taken into account while buying the most apt irrigation system for your garden. 

Thursday, 12 June 2014

5 Tips to Selecting Bay-Friendly Plants

Did you know that choosing plants for your Bay Area landscape isn’t just about fragrance and beauty? If not, you need to note that considering a plant’s suitability for the environment where it will grow is equally important. In fact, this is one of the key aspects of Bay-friendly gardening today. If you want to make your yard more attractive, cut back on chores, effort, money and time spent on maintaining your yard and improve the surroundings; these 5 tips for selecting Bay-friendly plants will help:
  1. Test the Soil: This will help you in knowing the soil’s texture, fertility and structure. This in turn would let you determine the quality of the soil and kind of plants that can grow in it. Knowing the soil quality would also let you assess what kind of supplements, if any,the plants would need. For example, gardens with clay soil are well suited for trees like big leaf maple, hazelnut, white alder, red-twig dogwood etc. In case you have clay soil but wish to grow drought-tolerant bamboos, you will need to amend the soil to increase its nutrient uptake and improve drainage. Adding a suitable fertilizer around the roots when planting the bamboos is also crucial. All these steps can be done correctly when you know the type of soil that your landscape has.
  2. Choose Plants to Suit the Local Climate: In certain aspects, the climate of California is similar to the Mediterranean climate. With its dry, sunny summers and wet winters, you need to choose plants that can grow well in these special conditions. For example, with its annual six-month drought spell, drought-tolerant bamboos would be a good choice to consider. Many landscape experts also suggest growing plants native to the Mediterranean climate. These plants often adapt well to the Bay Area climate, require less water, fewer fertilizers and pesticides, and probably less pruning compared to a species that would have originated in a humid rainforest. 
  3. Know your Climate Zone: Knowing your particular climate zone is crucial for Bay-Friendly gardening. You can also check here with your zip code and find your specific climate zone. This will help you to shortlist the plants that will thrive in your landscape.
  4. Know your Microclimates: San Francisco is renowned for its diverse microclimates. From the Bay to the coast, you will notice a dramatic change in the weather. Even walking from one side of a hill with sunny skies to the other can make you encounter a damp fog. Therefore, it becomes important to study the climatic, soil and wind conditions of various areas of the landscape. Since different areas can have varying amounts of sun, wind, moisture and heat, they will affect the type of plants that can survive and thrive in your garden. For example, perennials like sea thrift, wild buckwheat, showy milkweed and lavender will thrive in an area with full sun and good drainage. However, for areas with clay soil and shade, native species like wood fern and western sword fern would be the ideal choice.
  5. Choose Local and Native Species: California native plants, most of which are drought-tolerant and naturally available in the State can be a good bet for your garden. Also, choosing native plants that grow or have evolved in the SF Bay Area is a good choice. These species (such as vine maple, Pacific acaena, California dandelion, white alder, columbine etc..,) are better adapted to life in the region and would additionally support the local wildlife too.
As a gardener, you have to exercise the power of Bay-friendly plant selection wisely to ensure that they work better–for both the environment and you.