W elcome to our August edition. I hope summer has been good for everyone and vacations pleasant. It’s hard to imagine that school is starting for some districts. The hamster wheel just keeps on
turning. We are continuing this month with our featured yard and will conclude with this article. Last month I spent some time discussing drains. It is a critical part to any good functioning landscape. Without proper drainage all kinds of problems can arise, from water entering our homes to plants drowning from over saturation. So it is a big deal and needs our attention, even though winter is several months away. My recommendation is to mark your calendars in September or October to get you drains professionally cleared if you have had standing water in the yard for over one hour after a rain.
Now for this edition’s discussion. I mentioned in last month’s article that aside from the drainage problem we also had irrigation concerns. To have all the valves located on the far east side of such
a sizable yard didn’t make sense to me. Why spend all that money to bury PVC lines, not to mention the extra labor it takes to fit and glue all that extra pipe when centering the valves means you only have to bring the mainline from the water source; one pipe as opposed to several. Also by centering the valves you reduce the distance the water has to travel before getting to the end users, the plants, and with shorter runs we have happier plants because the water pressure stays consistent. More electrical wire will be used getting from the timer to the valves, but wire and the labor to run it is inexpensive compared to what you will save. Aside from the labor savings and more controlled water pressure are there other benefits? Yes. If after the landscape is completed you decide to add a patio cover, patio or a room addition it’s much easier to redo 50 feet of PVC line than to redo 100 feet, especially since it is likely to involve working around tree roots. Also, if you decide to add a water feature you need a water source. It’s much easier to tap into a line that is midpoint of a large yard than one that is tucked away in the far corner. Lastly, if you are getting tired of dragging a hose through the landscape it is easy to add a water faucet when the source is midpoint. Now let’s talk about plants and slopes. I know I’ve discussed this in the past, however it is easy to forget these tips so a good review is always helpful. Let’s start with a question. Why do plants fail on slopes? There are several obvious reasons and one not so obvious. Water pressure would be the number one concern. We will assume that the irrigation is drip irrigation. When running drip on a hill you must be extremely mindful of the points that the water engages the hill. Is the water running uphill fighting against gravity and the slope or is the water easily running downhill or traversing the hill (side to side)? In other words, how are the 1/2” lines, the ones that carry the water being run? Next we have the 1/4” lines, or the feeder lines as we call them. How do they run and how long are they? If you have a 16-inch feeder line going downhill and a four-foot feeder
line going uphill, both on the same line, which plant do you think will get more water and which plant will probably be stressed or die for lack of water? And there is more to running drip than this, however these steps are not difficult yet they are largely ignored though they are extremely critical to proper irrigation. The rest deals with regulating water pressure that is more technical and harder to explain and custom to each slope. The last reason for failing landscapes on slopes is one that is obvious to me because of my years of growing plants (wholesale nursery profession), yet I see this mistake all the time. Again, let’s start with a question. If you were to profile a slope in respect to moisture, where would the driest, wettest and “normal” part of the slope be. Easy answer,
no? The driest part of any slope is the top, the bottom conversely is the wettest and midpoint would be what is average for that slope and its soil composition. So would you plant a plant that likes moisture at the top, or conversely would you plant a plant that is native to dry areas of our world at the low point? No to both these questions, yet this is what I see. To landscape a slope correctly not only does the irrigation need to be considered, but knowledge of the plants’ water requirements is critical as well. Done correctly slopes can really be beautiful, done incorrectly they
can be an eyesore and a real nightmare. I hope this article has opened your eyes to some obvious but unaddressed concerns when landscaping slopes. Remember landscapes are a onetime event and when done correctly with proper maintenance (which we can provide through our maintenance division) they can really be a source of enjoyment. And though slope landscapes are not cheap (very labor intensive), when you consider how long they last, they are well worth their investment. Next month we will continue our conversation about slopes with another landscape we just completed in late spring. Gardeners, figure that you have this month if you want to extend your summer garden. However, if it is winding down or you are just tired of eating squash or battling white flies I would advise taking the crops out mid-August and lightly tilling the ground mixing in a good organic fertilizer with mycorrhizae. Water it in a couple times and then water it once a week. You will be nourishing the soil biology as it takes a break and gets ready for the next round of crops.
Good Gardening – Arthur