Louise Grabell, Pinal County Master Gardener
Summer’s heat is long gone, so let’s talk irrigation for the winter months ahead. This is the time of year when you can save on your monthly water bills. As the weather gets cooler and many trees and shrubs enter a period of winter dormancy, you should be reducing the amount of water you are supplying around your estate. Don’t be afraid of that little irrigation control box on the wall outside your home. It is just a timer, folks. It controls each valve’s start time, length of watering and days of operation. That’s it! Don’t know how many valves you have? Lift up the cover on the valve box that is sunk into the ground under the controller box and count them! Don’t know what area each valve controls? Do what a pro would do: Set the timer to manual run and enter 10 minutes on the timer (for valve A or B etc.), then walk around your estate and see what’s being watered. Seriously, take a pad and pencil with you to take notes.
The watering schedule for all trees and shrubs should include at least two hours of continuous watering per scheduled time. Watering for 10 or 15 minutes six times each day does not provide sufficient time for water to penetrate our clayey soil. If you only have a one-valve system, you should not be watering more than once a week. Frankly, if everything looks perky, try cutting back to once every 10 days. The goal is once every 14 days, but if all trees and shrubs are on the same valve, this may not be possible. If you have separate valves for flower beds and citrus, you will need to adjust them accordingly. For perennials in your flower beds, water once every third or fourth day over the winter—just enough to keep the soil moist. Citrus are evergreens, so one very deep watering (down to three feet) every two weeks should be OK. Just keep an eye on everything—take a weekly walk around your estate to check on your green babies. It’s good for you! We will soon enter the winter rainy season and Mother Nature will be assisting you in keeping the soil moist.
For native trees (mesquite, Palo Verde) and shrubs, and certainly for cactus, no irrigation is necessary. The trees mentioned should have been taken off irrigation by the second year after planting. If you have not already done so, get a supply of “goof plugs” and insert them into the ends of the drip tubing to shut off the water supply.
Your SaddleBrooke and SaddleBrooke Ranch Master Gardeners invite you to visit their new website: http://saddlebrookemastergardeners.org/ for all up-to-date information and events for our communities. Garden questions? You can reach our very own Garden Helpline by calling Pat at 407-6459. If necessary, a team of Master Gardeners will do an on-site visit at your home to help with garden and landscape questions.
Remember, nothing brings more tranquility to the heart than a beautiful garden.