It's raining. I refuse to complain. After last summer's miserable drought conditions, I'll never look askance at a raindrop again.
Two summers ago, I took a very hard-line position and only watered occasionally. "The plants should be hardy enough to withstand this weather," I said. "Otherwise, I don't want them in my garden."
Well, last year, I was a bit softer. After all, I lost so many plants the summer before due to my ridiculous I-hate-watering stance, so I had some new stuff that needed to be tended a bit. I watered more, and saved many plants that might have perished without my help. But I hated dragging the sprinklers around the yard, and hated even more the buckets of water dragged to what seemed like the ends of the earth.
That's why I'm considering drip irrigation this year. I've discovered that this type of watering can reduce water usage by nearly 50 percent, and it's been around for centuries (clay pots were buried into the soil and filled with water, which slowly seeped into the soil). Farmers have been using it for decades. The more I read, the more there was to learn. (Did you know there's an Irrigation Association? And it's been around since 1949?)
So just what is drip irrigation?
According to the Web site www.dripirrigation.com, "Drip irrigation is the slow application of water directly to the plants' root zone. Maintaining an optimum moisture level in the soil at all times results in less water lost to the sun and the wind. No water is wasted on non-growth areas, and the root zone is maintained at its ideal moisture level, combining the proper balance of water and air for a very efficient irrigation system."
According to Wikipedia, "Drip irrigation, also known as trickle irrigation or microirrigation is an irrigation method which minimizes the use of water and fertilizer by allowing water to drip slowly to the roots of plants, either onto the soil surface or directly onto the root zone, through a network of valves, pipes, tubing and emitters."
The advantages, in addition to more efficient use of water, include reduced pest problems and weed growth. Because you're only watering the roots of your plants, you'll cut down on waterborne pests and fungal diseases that spread by water movement, and the weeds won't germinate in the areas between your plants. Also, the system can go into oddly shaped beds that sprinklers just don't cover.
The disadvantages? You'll need a filter to keep the system running without clogs, and you really have to make sure the drip system is placed correctly as it waters a smaller area than a conventional sprinkler.
There are many do-it-yourself kits out there for folks who want to try this type of irrigation system. (Or, as we call them at our house, "do-it-with-teenagers.") The components needed for a home system vary depending on how extensive you want to go. But everyone agrees to start small and get used to the system before you plan an all-yard overhaul (unless you hire an expert - just contact your garden center for details).
The short list of parts includes a water connection, filter, pressure regulator, tubing, stakes, emitters and/or microsprinklers (for groundcovers or trees), connectors, plugs for when you goof, and line ends.
I'm starting small, with the bed next to the house (the one next to the hose bib that busted last winter) and then I'll decide which sprinkler I want to lose next!
More new plants
It's time to roll out the roses for 2008. All-American Rose Selections, a nonprofit association of rose growers and introducers dedicated to the introduction and promotion of exceptional roses, has chosen two beauties this year: Dream Come True and Mardi Gras.