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18 March 2007

Lawn Watering Comments

Today it is raining in the Atlanta area, which brings to mind a few things to remember about watering your lawn (hose-end sprinklers and in-ground irrigation systems). There are three or four general rules of thumb, which will address 85% of lawn and turf watering issues and mistakes. I've addressed Atlanta area irrigation settings in the past.

  1. First, lawns need about an inch of water per week.
  2. This inch should be delivered in as few waterings as possible.
  3. You need to actually measure how long it takes to deliver the inch
  4. The water needs to actually be absorbed by the soil, so runoff needs to be minimized.

These rules of thumb result in a number of specific things that you should do:

1. An inch of water. The inch of water needs to be actually measured, especially if you are using hoses and hose end sprinklers. With an in-ground irrigation system, the best way is to measure the amount of water. But it is also possible to calculate the water delivery based on system design, head placement, head properties, water pressure, and water volume. These calculations would be done for each lawn irrigation zone.

Measuring an inch of water is very simple. Place a number of straight sided containers around the lawn (e.g., empty tuna fish cans). With a marker measure and mark an inch on the inside of each can. Start a timer (e.g., note the time on your watch). Run the system until the water level reaches the marks. Stop your timer. That is how long it takes to deliver an inch of water to your lawn.

It is important to place a number of cans around, and take the average between them, because the actual distribution of water will vary, regardless of whether your using a hose end lawn sprinkler, or an inground irrigation system. Even the best designed systems will have variances.

Note: Rain rarely yields an inch a week. If it rains, it does not mean your watering for the week is done. Rain is very deceptive. It may rain all night, but only yield a quarter inch. The only way to actually account for rain, is to use a rain gauge. Barring that, it may replace a single watering session.

2. No run-off. The next thing is to minimize run-off. Putting down an inch means nothing, if three quarters of it runs into the gutter. This is very simple. Start your timer again. Run the system. Observe until you see water running of the lawn and onto driveways, walkways, gutters, etc. Stop your timer. Note the time. This is the length of time you should run the system per session.

Various factors will affect run-off:
The slope of your lawn. Here, in the Atlanta area, many yards have steep slopes. Most yards will have at least one section (backyard, front lawn, side yard) which has a slope.
Soil types will also have an affect. Again, in Metro Atlanta, we have clay soils, which absorb water more slowly.
Soil compaction. Aeration will help to relieve soil compaction, among other things, helping to increase absorbtion rates.
3. Watering frequency. The final thing to do is to take the time to run-off, divide that into the amount of time it takes to deliver an inch, and that gives you the number of watering you need per week for each area of your lawn. For example, if it takes 45 minutes to put down an inch of water, and it takes 15 minutes before water begins to run off, then I need 3 watering sessions per week to give me an inch.

Space the sessions out over the week, and time them for early in the morning (best), or if necessary late at night (OK). Do not water early in the evening. This can lead to fungal problems. Avoid watering during the day--evaporation will waste water and mess up our calculations.

If your area has watering restrictions, as we do in many area of Georgia, and especially in Metro Atlanta, then this adds another layer. I've discussed Atlanta area watering restrictions in a past, and will address them again soon.

There are many other related issues, which I will address over time. Rain barrels, grey water, ponds, lakes and pumps, well water, bedding plant needs.

08 March 2007

The Essential Question--Why Garden?

The essential question then is, why do I do this thing called landscaping? Why be a landscaper of all things? Given my experience and education, I could, after all, do many more lucrative, less stressfull and straining, and certainly less messy things to earn my bread. Being a professional landscaper--a designer and a contractor--is stressfull, if only because of all the utterly uncontrollable things to which one is subject. Take the weather, for example. Rain is good. Rain is bad. So many things we do, cannot be done in the rain or, sometimes, for days after a rain.

Now, if it is raining on a somewhat normal cycle here in Georgia, then that sucks up a good portion of every week. But, you can't pray it doesn't rain. If there is no rain for any period of time, then that is bad for so much else we do (i.e., helping plants grow and live). In fact, the few years of drought we had in Georgia a few years ago have had dramatic, and permanent impacts on the way landscapers work, especially from a regulatory stand point. However, I digress. The point is that there are myriad things over which we have utterly no control, yet the results of which we are held responsible for. This is just one stressor, and why would one choose that life?

I love being a landscaper. I am a landscape designer. I am a gardener, and landscape contractor I own and operate a complete-service landscape services firm. We are involved in the full spectrum of landscaping operations. There is just some inexplicable joy I have (many times) envisioning, planning, overcoming the inexorable, and creating.

There is an article asking a similar question about why we garden. The answer is not easily answered. For me it is a primordial urge. An ancient compulsion. I am called from deep within to willingly choose to sweat, to freeze, to be mud stained, to back ache in this fashion. In Georgia, with our clay soils, several creator analogies come to mind.

In Japan, there was a class of priests, shitateso, who were landscape designers. Later, this became a lay class, but also became a "Way." It became a path toward enlightenment. In essence, it always was a path toward enlightment, toward mystical unity. Life on this planet was not designed to be "easy" in the modern convenience sense. However, it is designed to be easy from the stand point of walking through this life, addressing the things that present themselves, as they present themselves, not attaching emotional judgements to them. It rains and this creates things which make other things easy. It rains and this creates things which make other things difficult. The "hard" or "easy" enters when we put an emotional judgement on the rain and its effects.

This sounds very philosophical, and it is. And this is why I love landscaping, gardening, mud, sun, trees, rain, and all that comes with it. Because, it is about taking things as they are and as they come. Philosophy attempts to explain things in a conscious, intellectual framework. Gardening allows me to experience things on a primal, pre-intellectual plane. All the explaining in this rant is summed up when I prune my Okame cherry. (priests who move rocks). Washing the red clay mud stains from my hands says all of the above and more.

A.J., Proudland Landscape, LLC. © 2007

01 March 2007

A Few Things to Look for in March Landscapes

This month the focus will be on Spring green-up and Summer weed prevention. Our crews are currently scalping warm season lawns (Bermuda and Zoysia), Fescue lawns are being cut low, though not scalped. In February we applied an initial course of fertilizer and spot treated any Winter weeds. In March we will follow up with some additional fertilizer, pre-emergence weed killer, and spot treatments.

Additionally, this is a good time to replenish and freshen mulches (chips or pine straw.) Mulch will help conserve moisture, stabilize soil temperatures, and, of course help beautify your landscape. We have begun applying new pine straw to some landscapes, however, the frequent rains have caused some delay. If you would like your mulch replenished, be sure to let us know.