Water Wisely: Effective Water Management Enhances Your Landscaping
By Joe Janssen, CLP, Vila & Sons Landscaping Corp.
Joe Janssen serves as Division Manager for Maintenance Services at Vila & Son Landscaping Corporation of Miami, Fla. Joe is a Certified Landscape Professional (CLP), the certification mark awarded by the Professional Landcare Network (PLANET) that represents evidence of the industry's highest standards of landscape professionalism. Fewer than one percent of all landscape professionals have achieved this type of certification. Joe has more than 20 years of landscaping experience and has won numerous national awards for his work.
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The wise use of water for garden and lawn irrigation not only helps the environment, but saves money and provides optimum growing conditions. Most problems that occur with plants and turf are the result of too much or too little water. A simple rule of thumb is to water as much as you possibly can…but only when you absolutely have to.
Simple ways of reducing the amount of water used for irrigation include:
- Growing xeriphytic species (plants that are adapted to dry conditions)
- Adding water-retaining organic matter to the soil
- Installing windbreaks and fences to slow winds and reduce evapotranspiration
Even in the best conditions (0-3 mile per hour wind), only 65 percent of water in overhead irrigations systems actually benefits your landscape; the rest is lost in thin air.
Watering in the early morning before the sun is intense helps reduce the water lost from evaporation and wind.
Water: A Critical Component for Plant Health
Water is a critical component of photosynthesis, the process by which plants manufacture their own food from carbon dioxide and water in the presence of light. Plants take in carbon dioxide through their stomata – microscopic openings on the undersides of leaves. Water is also lost through the stomata in the process called transpiration. When there is a lack of water in the plant tissue, the stomata close to try to limit water loss. Wilting occurs when the tissues lose too much water.
Plants adapted to dry conditions have developed numerous mechanisms for reducing water loss.
Pines, hemlocks and junipers are also well adapted to survive extended periods of dry conditions each winter when the frozen soil prevents the uptake of water. Cacti, with leaves reduced to spines and having thick stems, are the best example of plants well adapted to extremely dry environments.