This blog reviews the latest products, plants and innovations in gardening. It also provides a link for my many gardening friends who are members of the GardenMessenger and Seedmessenger Yahoo groups and their sub-groups that I moderate.

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Location: Australia

I am a semi-retired UK botanical garden curator and former international horticultural consultant, who has worked extensively in Europe, the Middle East, North America and Australia. I spend part of the year in Australia and part in Europe, mainly due to family and work commitments. I earn my living from writing and editing Internet copy, articles and books. I have written over fifty books on gardening and have been translated into twenty-four different languages. I am a former UK Garden Writer of the Year and a previous Quill & Trowel Award Winner from the Garden Writer’s Association of America. I am interested in developing gardening communities on the Internet and I manage the popular GardenMessenger Yahoo group, along with its various sub-groups like PondMessenger and SeedMessenger. I also edit International Water Gardener and its associated regional web-sites.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Garden Irrigation, The Wormcast Garden and Diary

Water shortage at the Chelsea Flower Show

Water, and its use and misuse in the garden are of great concern to all gardeners. We live in a world with ever increasing demands, and while gardening does not take all that much of this scarce commodity domestically, in most places it always appears that gardeners are the first to be put on notice and have the accusing finger pointed at them when it comes to any shortages. Ironically, in many drought stricken parts of the developed world, management is generally so good that gardeners can continue to maintain a responsible watering programme whatever the weather. It is in places like the UK, where it rains freely for much of each year that the problem is most acute. There are already restrictions in some parts of the south of England. Even the Royal Horticultural Society is having to dig a bore-hole in the grounds of the Royal Chelsea Hospital in London to ensure an adequate supply for the Chelsea Flower Show which is held there annually.

The question of watering is taken up seriously by many gardeners, and there is quite a lot of useful information around on the Internet, but until now a simple, yet comprehensive guide to management, that is not heavily laden with product endorsements, has been sadly lacking for home gardeners. Thus I was delighted to see that The Irrigation Association in the US has named July Smart Irrigation Month and is providing tips about smart practices and new technology. What The Irrigation Association says is essential reading for all gardeners, not only in the US, but in other parts of the world like Australia and Europe, where watering is a constantly recurring issue. So I have taken what The Irrigation Association recommends and I have adapted and prepared it for a wider a global audience

Of course, it is essential to be water-wise all through the year, not just during Smart Irrigation Month, but it is great to have at least one period of time when our attention is focused on this matter. Introducing Smart Irrigation Month, The Irrigation Association writes: "Automatic sprinklers offer convenience and control in protecting your landscape investment. Sprinkler systems help you to enjoy your yard, and to keep it healthy and beautiful. However, most homeowners tend to over-water their lawn or waste water through inefficient habits. Adopting water-savvy habits is essential to maintaining and extending your community’s water supply, especially during peak use. The key to efficient outdoor irrigation is applying just enough water and only when necessary. Water-wise habits will result in a healthier lawn and landscape, in addition to conserving water. Plus, reducing your consumption will help reduce your water bill. With some simple practices and new technology, existing irrigation systems can be made more efficient, lowering your water bill, reducing run-off and eliminating waste. Water-wise habits will result in a healthier lawn and landscape, in addition to conserving water."

The Irrigation Association offers the following water-saving tips, which I have slightly adapted, to maintain and update automatic irrigation systems:

1) Adapt your watering schedule to the weather and the season. Familiarise yourself with the settings on your irrigation controller. Adjust the watering schedule regularly to conform with current weather conditions.

2) Schedule each individual zone in your irrigation system. "Scheduling" accounts for the type of sprinkler, sun or shade exposure and the soil type for the specific area. The same watering schedule should almost never apply to all zones in the system.

3) Inspect your system monthly. Check for leaks, broken or clogged heads. Clean micro-irrigation filters as needed.

4) Adjust sprinkler heads. Correct obstructions that prevent sprinklers from distributing water evenly. Keep water off paths and structures.

5) Get a professional system audit. Hire a professional to conduct an irrigation audit and uniformity test to make sure areas are being watered evenly. This can be especially helpful if you have areas being under-watered or brown spots. (in the US The Irrigation Association maintains an online list of IA Certified Landscape Irrigation Auditors).

6) Consider "smart" technology. Climate or soil moisture sensor-based controllers evaluate weather or soil moisture conditions and then calculate and automatically adjust the irrigation schedule to meet the specific needs of your landscape.

7) Install a rain shut-off switch…inexpensive and effective. Required by law in many US states, these sensors turn off your system in rainy weather and help to compensate for natural rainfall. The device can be retrofitted to almost any system.

8) Consider low volume drip irrigation for plant beds. Install micro irrigation for gardens, trees and shrubs. Micro irrigation includes drip (also known as trickle), micro spray jets, micro-sprinklers, or bubbler irrigation to irrigate slowly and minimise evaporation, run-off and over-spray.

9) Water at the optimum time. Water when the sun is low or down, winds are calm and temperatures are cool - between the evening and early morning - to reduce evaporation. You can lose as much as 30% of water to evaporation by watering mid-day.

10) Water only when needed. Saturate root zones and let the soil dry. Watering too much and too frequently results in shallow roots, weed growth, disease and fungus.

Smart Irrigation Month
The first Smart Irrigation Month has been established by The Irrigation Association to establish efficient watering practices, to provide information about highly efficient irrigation products, and to raise public awareness of outdoor water conservation. Time to focus on products and practices used in irrigating agriculture, turf and commercial and residential landscapes. July is a peak water-use month. In the US The ultimate goal is to use less water while producing healthy crops, turf, gardens and landscapes all year around. Full details click here.

Chelsea Show Gardens Preview
During each of the days running up to the Chelsea Flower Show I am previewing a show garden. Although these are often regarded as garden theatre and not as sustainable under normal gardening conditions, they are often full of interesting and innovative ideas which can be taken, at least in part, and used in our gardens at home.

The Chris Beardshaw Wormcast Garden - Growing for Life at Boveridge House

The Boveridge House Garden is designed by Chris Beardshaw, who will recreate in all its original glory a quintessentially English garden design inspired by two of the most eminent figures of Victorian/Edwardian garden design - Gertrude Jekyll and Thomas Mawson. Mawson’s trademark, which features in the Boveridge House Garden at the Chelsea Flower Show, is a lily pond with a cherub statue and a small rill running from right to left across the garden. Jekyll makes her mark at the show in the herbaceous borders which appear on each side of the garden. The pond is planted with Nymphaea 'Marliacea Rosea’. Forming a counterpoint to the lily pond is a small rill running from right to left across the garden. The calming influence of the water feature is best appreciated from the pavilion where there is two original cane chairs used by Mawson himself while surveying the work on the garden in the 1920s.


37th Annual American Conifer Society National Meeting
15th-17th June
Crowne Plaza Hotel
401 Summit Hill Drive
TN 37902,
Web-site click here.

2nd Annual Garden Gala
17th June 2006
Hahn Horticulture Garden,
301 Saunders Hall,
Virginia Tech,Blacksburg,
VA 24061-0327,
Web-site click here.

Happy Gardening



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Photos: Chelsea Show: Royal Horticultural Society

If you have enjoyed this publication, you may also like to visit the monthy SeedMessenger gardeners’ seed saving and seed exchange blog click here.
and the weekly water gardening blog PondMessenger click here.

To join the GardenMessenger gardening community
click here

To visit the SeedMessenger seed exchange web-site
click here

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