Gardening Tips: Using water as efficiently as possible

No part of the country has an endless water supply. Even gardeners dwelling in humid eastern areas have come to expect water restrictions during dry summers. Using water as efficiently as possible makes good sense, no matter where you live and garden. For example, traditional overhead watering loses 50 to 60 percent to evaporation and runoff.

Here are some guidelines to help you make the best use of water in your garden.

-Start with good soil preparation. Adding organic matter will increase the water-holding ability of light soils and improve drainage in heavy ones.
-Choose plants that tolerate dry soil or drought conditions. Specific choices will depend on your climate. Garden for the area you live in by planting native plants.
-Plan your landscape with water conservation in mind. A windbreak of drought-resistant shrubs and trees planted on the windward side of an art exposed site can reduce the water needs of the other plants.
-Use intensive planting methods in the vegetable garden. Closely spaced plants in beds will shade the soil surface, reducing water loss.
– Use mulch to reduce moisture loss from the soil. It will cut down on your weeding chores at the same time.

Gardening Tips: Using water as efficiently as possible

-Drip irrigation will put water right where it’s needed, with little lost to evaporation or runoff.
-If you use sprinklers, water either first thing in the morning or in the evening, to reduce water loss by evaporation in the daytime sun. Apply water only as fast as the soil can absorb it, otherwise you will lose a lot as runoff.
-Reduce the size of your lawn. Even in humid climates, lawns need frequent watering to keep them lush and green through the heat of summer. Keep only as much lawn as you absolutely need for children and dogs. But those of you that need all the lawn you’ve got-and could still use some more-try planting some of the varieties of drought-tolerant turf grasses that have been developed recently.

GET THE MOST FROM YOUR COMPOST THIS SPRING: Despite all its benefits-both for the environment and for your garden-composting can seem like more trouble than it is worth.

Many gardeners who faithfully compost kitchen scraps and lawn clippings find the process takes too long and, when it’s done, there isn’t enough compost for an entire garden. You can avoid this and other common composting problems by adding peat moss to the compost bin and by mixing compost into the soil.

Spring is an especially good time to renovate an existing compost pile, since the compost material has had plenty of time to decompose over the winter.

While it takes some elbow grease, the entire composting process is easier when you incorporate peat. In the compost bin, peat helps produce better compost by speeding up the process, reducing odors and controlling air and water in the compost pile.

Start by mixing a 1-inch layer of peat with every 4 inches of compostable material, being sure to flip over the top layers of organic materials every week or two. Keep the center of the pile moist, but not soggy, by adding water when needed.

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