Micro-irrigation of plants saves both time and water

CUT UTILITY BILLS

August 14, 1993|By James Dulley | James Dulley,Contributing Writer

Q: My yard looks terrible, but I don't have time to water th shrubs and flowers properly. Using the sprinkler wastes water and floods them. What is the most efficient (both water and my time) way to water my plants?

The most efficient and effective method to water your plants is micro-irrigation called "drip watering." It uses half the water of sprinklers, provides each plant with the proper amount directly above its roots and is totally automatic, requiring none of your time. The small pipes are buried several inches under the ground so they cannot be seen.

You can purchase complete drip watering kits or assemble youown system from many simple components. Some of the tiny drippers cost less than 50 cents each, and multiple drippers and mini-sprayers cost just a couple of dollars.

The drippers or individual mini-sprayers are color-coded, so yocan quickly determine the water flow of each one. Different plants need different amounts of water for healthy foliage and flowers.

A typical watering system may use a 12-outlet dripper for larger shrub. Several mini-sprayers are effective for a small area with ground cover. A mini-sprayer for each large potted plant on a deck is effective. With the loose potting soil, standard drip watering runs through too fast.

There are small battery-operated automatic watering controllerand timers available that mount outdoors. You program them very similarly to a setback furnace wall thermostat. You can program watering schedules for several times a day and manually override them during extremely dry or wet periods.

If you need to water just a few shrubs or plants, there is a neflexible circular C-shaped dripper/sprinkler (about $8). It has holes round the top for mini-sprinkling and holes in the bottom for drip watering. There is a built-in adjustable water regulator where the garden hose screws into it.

Because it is made of flexible plastic, you can spread the opeends apart and wrap it around the base of the plant. The two ends spring together again providing complete circular watering around the entire plant base. I use one around a small ornamental evergreen and my roses.

Porous soaker hoses provide slow watering of your plants. Thesare most effective in densely planted flower or vegetable gardens. Sprinkler hoses, with larger holes on top, moisten a wider strip, but, because they are flat, they may be difficult to snake through a garden.

You can write to me for Utility Bills Update No. 622 listinmanufacturers of drip-watering kits and components, soaker hoses, C-shape sprinkler and automatic timers, a recommended watering chart for various size plants, and a drip watering layout for a typical yard listing each component and retail prices. Please include $1.50 and a self-addressed business-size envelope.

Q: My central air conditioner did not seem to be cooling thhouse well, so I replaced the old filter. I noticed ice on the cooling coils inside. Is this normal?

Air conditioner coils can get cold enough to freeze the moisture that they condense from the air inside your home. This accounts for the fact that it was not cooling your house adequately.

Your problem was most likely that old dirty filter that yoreplaced. A dirty filter reduces the air flow through the coils. The coils can not absorb enough heat from the slow moving air, so they get very cold and freeze. This further restricts the air and makes the problem worse.

Questions should be addressed to James Dulley, c/o Baltimore Sun, 6906 Royalgreen Drive, Cincinnati, Ohio 45244.

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