There are so many tasks that need to be done in June , I will have a “Part 2” next week. In this weeks contribution I have listed two issues that I think need special attention. Not because they are the most important, but because they are two that are quite often neglected and/or done improperly.



Whether you have an underground sprinkler system or one connected to the end of a hose, you should establish a monthly maintenance program.


A. Check for proper adjustment. Do not just turn on your hose end sprinkler full force and walk away. That is a waste of water and money. Also, sprinkler heads on an underground system should be adjusted to provide maximum coverage of the lawn.  Overspray onto sidewalks and driveways should be minimal.  Sprinklers should never be allowed to spray against windows, siding, foundation, fences or trees. I included trees because trees need water but far less than lawns. Also, the force of the water hitting the bark will injure the tree over time. Just under the bark is the cambian layer where all the nutrients go up and down and it is easy to injure, especially if a sprinkler hits the same location every week. Adjust your sprinkling pattern accordingly.


B. Determine your sprinkler output. Do you know how much water your sprinkler puts out in an hour? If not, how do you know if the lawn is getting too much or not enough? Most lawns usually need 1 inch of water from rain or by irrigation per week during the growing season and sometimes 1 1/2 inches during a hot dry spell.

·        Evenly space six or more straight-sided food cans such as tuna cans or cat food cans around the yard. Then turn on your sprinklers and run for 20 minutes.

·        Measure the water in each can with a ruler. This will tell you if your system is properly adjusted to distribute water evenly. The amount of water in each can should be about the same if they are properly adjusted.

·        Average the depths of water by adding up the measurements and then divide by the total number of cans used.

·        Multiply the average by 3 to estimate how many inches of water your sprinkler puts out in an hour.

·        Use this number to help schedule your irrigation practice so you get 1 inch per week. 1 inch in one application is the best as long as it does not run off. If it does then one-half inch twice a week is ok. One-half inch every time you water is the minimum in order for your grass to have a good deep root system.


C. Part of your ongoing maintenance program should be observation once per month. If you have an underground system, don't wait for brown spots to appear to look for a malfunctioning or a clogged sprinkler head, or a pipe that is broken, clogged, or leaking . Learn how to turn on your system manually and then observe each cycle to make sure all the heads are working as they should. Don’t waste our precious water.



          When you buy nursery stock such as shrubs or trees, or when you buy annuals or perennials in small or large pots to decorate your landscape, check the root ball. Pull the plant out of the container. If you see a mass of circling roots, realize they will stay that way unless you “butterfly” or “tease” the roots when planting. If they are really tightly wound in a ball, I would choose another plant. Also, if the plant starts to come out of the soil when you pull on the stem, this means it has no roots which is bad. If the nursery, garden center, box store, or the plant stand in the parking lot will not let you check the roots, move on. Don’t buy a plant without checking the health of the roots. 

          To check the root ball of a tree or shrub, tip the container on the side and slowly pull the plant out. In a good healthy tree or shrub you will see small white feeder roots at the edge of the soil. Some may have reached the side of the container. Unfortunately, commercial growers sometimes produce plants and shrubs in containers in a way that makes it very likely they will be root bound when you buy them. The roots of a plant or shrub want to expand. They grow constantly. When the growing root reaches the wall of a container it has nowhere else to go, so it turns inward, seeking but never finding room to stretch out. This process creates a root ball. A root ball is not in itself such a bad thing. The roots hold the soil together and make it easier to transplant with less exposure of the roots to drying air and the risk of damage to them. The problem comes when the roots are so firmly compacted into the ball that they can't escape, even after the plant or shrub or tree is planted in the soil. They will never be able to expand, and the fine feeder roots, trapped inside the root ball, may not be able to take up enough water and nutrients to sustain the plant, no matter how much you water. Sometimes the soil of a compacted root ball even becomes what is called hydrophobic, refusing to absorb water. This is certain doom for the plant. This can also happen in a tree that has been balled and burlapped.

          A little extra care at planting time may be the difference between a dead plant at the end of the season, still imprisoned by its own roots, or a healthy, thriving shrub or plant that was put in the ground correctly. Never take a plant, or tree, or shrub home and just plop it into a hole. If you don’t know how to “butterfly” a root ball or how to “tease” the roots of a new plant, ask and learn.

Copyright 2009