Monsoon Season: Ready or Not Here It Comes!

With summer temperatures creeping into the triple digits, Monsoon Season is just around the corner. Summer monsoon storms offer much needed rain to our desert environment, but also pose the biggest weather related risk for trees. If not pruned and thinned properly, your trees are more likely to become the victim of high monsoon winds.

Now is the time to assess your trees to determine if they are in need of pruning before the monsoon storms arrive. If you didn´t prune your trees in the cooler months, it is prudent to do the work before the storms arrive. In preparation for monsoon winds, the tree´s canopy should be thinned so wind can pass through the tree easier. Typically, most pruning involves lifting a tree´s branches to a height that people can walk under. When monsoon winds arrive, the tree´s canopy is top heavy because the weight of the trees is concentrated above a certain height. Assess your trees in the upcoming weeks and remove overly thick foliage, correct damage from previous storms and remove dead or structurally unsound branches to minimize the chance the tree will be damaged or cause damage during a storm.

Having proper tools to prune your tree is important to the health of the plant material. Limbs up to 1/2 inch in diameter can be pruned with hand pruners. Long-handled pruning loppers can handle limbs up to 1 inch in diameter but a special pruning saw is needed for larger limbs. Hedging shears or power hedge trimmers should not be used to prune trees because they will not be able to make proper cuts and will damage the tree.

Before and AfterIn spite of the damage these summer storms can cause, there is a silver lining to the monsoon clouds: moisture! The monsoon presents us all with a great opportunity to save water. We assess the amount of water each storm brings and suspend or adjust irrigation schedules appropriately. Not only is rainwater free, it is also superior to irrigation water due to its lower alkalinity. In addition to providing moisture, the rainwater helps leach accumulated salts away from the roots of shrubs, trees and turf.

Following a storm, check the status of your irrigation controller. Power outages can reset irrigation clocks and schedules, and it may not be appropriate for the weather. If your property receives a substantial amount of rain, turn off your irrigation system. Be aware of your plant material and soil moisture in order to determine when the water needs to be turned on again. Overall, you may not need to water as much as you did in the drier months.

Less Water – Healthy Plants

A nice looking landscape with less water?

lantanaA good majority of water consumed in the average home is applied to the landscape. With some attention and basic knowledge it’s highly likely that you can reduce your water usage and still maintain a healthy landscape. Once new plants become established (one growing season for shrubs and two for trees) they can live on less water than you think, the trick is determining the threshold.

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Here are a few tips:

1. Make sure your system is not leaking. With everything off, inside and out, observe the dial on your water meter (usually located in the front yard), if it’s still turning, there is water leaking.

2. Cap off emitters to the desert adapted trees (Palo Verde, Ironwood, Mesquite). Their roots are extensive and normally receive enough water from surrounding shrubs.

3. Now, to determine the threshold, turn your water off to the plants. Then, over the next several days, pay special attention to shallow rooted plants like Lantana or Bursage (these are the ones that need the most frequent water). Look for signs of wilting on the leaf surface. This may take a few days in the summer, or in cooler weather, may stretch to weeks. Count the days until you notice the wilt, (this is your threshold) this will give you an idea of how many days you can go between water cycles. The optimum programming is to apply water just before the wilt point of the neediest plants (smaller, shallow rooted) on that particular irrigation zone.

4. The same idea can be performed in the turf. The added difference here is, the grass will usually dry up in selected areas. These are the locations to focus in on as they are probably receiving less water, indicating that the system is unbalanced. Balancing the system usually involves adjustments to sprinkler nozzles, head heights and head spacings. Improving the balance is worth the effort. A balanced system can mean saving a water cycle or two per week. Note: for equal areas of granite (with drip irrigation) and turf, turf requires 4-6 times the amount of water.

5. Adjust your program with the seasons. May to the beginning of monsoon season are the heaviest months. With increased humidity (usually mid July through August) systems programs can be reduced by 10-25%. Spring and fall can be reduced 25-50% off the heavy months, with winter months 75 to 100%.

6. Take advantage of every rainfall. Turn your clock to the “off” or “rain” position and monitor for the wilting point before reactivating.

7. Keep a log of your cycles per week. Monitor the current usage on your water bill and compare with your watering cycles and previous month’s usage.

For further information visit http://www.wateruseitwisely.com/region/arizona

Caring For Your Landscape: Proper Watering During Overseed

Why Is Proper Watering Important?

Proper irrigation can conserve water, save you money and ensure a healthy, beautiful lawn come winter. Once you’ve applied the seed, the following tips will help you along the way.

Water You To Do??

  • DO inspect for system deficiencies. Prior to seeding, inspect your irrigation system for clogged nozzles and leaking or broken sprinklers.
  • DO setup 3-4 watering cycles per day. Applying too much water in one increment results in the ground reaching a saturation point, causing any additional water to run-off and be wasted.
  • DO make a check to avoid puddles. Always make sure the water from the previous cycle has been absorbed before starting the new watering cycle. If it hasn’t, reduce the run time for that zone.

Water You NOT To Do??

  • DO NOT overwater. Seedlings can tolerate being a bit on the dry side for a short period but will fail quickly if drowned.
  • DO NOT mow when the lawn is wet. (HINT: Turn the water off for a day before your first mow.)
  • DO NOT forget to pat yourself on the back for a job well done. By following these tips, you’ll surely have a beautiful lawn and cheaper water bill.

Overseed Water Schedule

Water Schedule 1 – Germination

Watering 3-4 cycles a day for 5-10 minutes is sufficient. Your goal is to keep the seed damp until it germinates which should take about 7 days.

Water Schedule 2 – Grass Reaches 1.5 to 2 Inches Tall

When your grass is about 1.5 inches tall, it’s ready for the first mow. Now is also the time to reduce watering to one cycle a day.

After the second or third mow, depending on temperature, wind, rain, and soil conditions, water every other week or as often as 2 to 3 times per

Water Management

With warm temperatures settling in, it is time to turn your irrigation system back on from its winter break.  Before turning your system on for the spring and summer months, you need to test it to make sure your plants are being watered effectively and water is not being wasted. This not only results in water savings, but money saved as well. Here are some helpful tips to assist you in achieving a successful start up of your irrigation system:

1. First, inspect your irrigation system by turning the system on and walking around your yard; you can turn your irrigation system on manually from your controller or your valve box. Make sure water is only being used to water plants and not creating wet spots where plants are not. If you see water leaving the system where no plant is present, you may be able to solve the problem by plugging the ¼” irrigation drip tube that is commonly used. The appropriate plugs are available at any hardware store. Also, check the location of drip emitters, as these can easily be moved by pets and yard maintenance activities.  Position emitters to supply water to the entire root zone, which is typically about 50% larger than the top of the plant. If plants are on a slope, make sure to position the emitter on the high side of the root ball to take advantage of the water flowing downhill.

nozzles2. If you have turf, make sure sprinkler heads pop-up and are not stuck in the ground. You should also check to see that heads are pointed in the right direction and are spraying the intended pattern. Nozzles can become clogged by sand, rocks or other debris which you may be able to clean out with a screwdriver or pocketknife. If you cannot unclog the nozzle, replacement is necessary.

3. Once you have checked that the water delivery system is functioning correctly, move on to your irrigation controller. Sometimes, power failures or other factors can cause the controller to return to a default schedule, which may not be appropriate for the current weather conditions. If needed, reset the controller and enter a schedule appropriate for the needs of your landscape. You can use the interactive tools at http://www.wateruseitwisely.com to determine how often and how long the various stations on your controller should run.

4. Finally, do a reality check. You want to make sure moisture from your irrigation system is actually reaching the root zone of your plants.  To test the depth the water is reaching, use a long screwdriver, piece of rebar or purchase a soil probe. A screwdriver will move easily through most soil when it is wet, but will stop when it reaches dry soil. The roots of most shrubs are not more than 6″ to 18″ deep and even a large tree will have most of its roots within the first 24″ of soil. For turf, getting moisture to a depth of 6″ should be sufficient.

standingwaterAs the weather and other factors change, you will need to adjust your watering frequency, days and run time. It is important to adjust your watering schedule monthly to account for temperature and moisture changes in the environment. After it rains, turn your irrigation system off completely. Monitor soil moisture and carefully observe the condition of your plants and turf before turning the system on again.

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There are also a number of resources on the internet that can help you find information on how to maintain your plants and irrigation system. The Weather Channel (www.weather.com) has an excellent website with watering information. If you have other questions regarding your own landscape, a great reference is available through the University of Arizona, Cooperative Extension website at http://www.ag.arizona.edu/maricopa/garden/.

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Monsoon Storms

July and August find us squarely in monsoon season. While we welcome the summer rains, the vigorous storms present some challenges for plant material. As your landscape management provider, we are prepared to deal with the effects of monsoon events.

Fallen TreePrior to the monsoon season, DLC Resources, Inc. utilizes a proactive tree management program. Although strong storms and microbursts can damage any tree, we continually seek to minimize tree damage by identifying trees most likely to be severely affected by high winds. These trees are pruned to remove overly thick foliage and dead or structurally unsound branches to minimize the chance the tree will be damaged or cause damage during a storm.

When monsoon storms arrive, the emphasis shifts to clean-up and repair. Typically, the summer storms occur late in the day, after crews have left the property for the day. For immediate emergency aid, we have personnel on call 24 hours a day. These workers are equipped to deal with the most pressing effects of the storm, such as trees blocking streets or sidewalks. Full scale cleanup generally begins the following morning. Normal maintenance activities may need to be suspended or reduced in scope while the crew clean up debris and perform repairs. If necessary, extra personnel will be provided to expedite the storm cleanup.

In spite of the damage these summer storms can cause, there is a silver lining to the monsoon clouds: moisture! The monsoon presents us all with a great opportunity to save water. We assess the amount of water each storm brings and suspend or adjust irrigation schedules appropriately. Not only is rainwater free, it is also superior to irrigation water due to its lower alkalinity. In addition to providing moisture, the rainwater helps leach accumulated salts away from the roots of shrubs, trees and turf.

Assess Your Own Yard

You can benefit from similar pre-monsoon practices in your yard. Assess your trees and have dead branches removed. If the foliage in your tree is exceedingly thick and heavy, have the tree pruned. You may want to hire a Certified Arborist to do the assessment for you.

Following a storm, check the status of your irrigation controller. Power outages can reset irrigation clocks and schedules, and it may not be appropriate for the weather. If your property receives a substantial amount of rain, turn off your irrigation system. Be aware of your plant material and soil moisture in order to determine when the water needs to be turned on again. Overall, you may not need to water as much as you did in the drier months of May and June.

Even if it does not rain, be aware of high humidity; observe the condition of your plants and check the moisture of your soil. The best way to check soil moisture is to stick a screwdriver in the ground. If you are able to insert the screwdriver easily to approximately six inches, there is enough moisture in the soil. If you have difficulty, you may need to apply more water.

Uncapped Emitters

Drip Irrigation

Landscape in the Southwest is populated with a broad variety of desert-adapted plants. Some, such as the Creosote Bush or the Triangle Leaf Bursage, are native to this part of the Sonoran desert. Others, such as the Texas Sage, Lantana and the Red Bird of Paradise, are not native to the area, but have proven to be able to thrive here in the Valley of the Sun. Although these are low water-use plants, they all benefit from regular irrigation in the hottest months of summer.

Miles of Irrigation

To irrigate these plants miles of underground pipes and tubes network to feed thousands of drip emitters. When activated, these emitters typically put out a flow of 1 gallon or less per hour. In some cases, an emitter with a flow of as much as 2 gallons per hour may be used. The frequency and duration of the irrigation can be controlled through a central computer or individual irrigation controllers. This allows the amount of water used to be adjusted depending on current conditions. During the monsoon season, for example, the whole system can be shut down to take advantage of the natural precipitation and save the irrigation water.

Challenges

unpluggedemitterOne challenge of maintaining such an extensive network of drip irrigation is making sure the water goes where it needs to go: to the roots of the plants. Sometimes the irrigation water is emitted where there is no plant to water. You may see some of these emitters without plants from time to time as you walk through the community. How does this come about? There are several reasons: oooooooooooooooooooooooooooo

  • Normal wear and tear on the thousands of tiny plastic parts in the system.
  • Damage caused by vehicles traversing the landscape.
  • Damage caused by rodents or other animals.
  • Plant removal (both intentional and accidental).

The Solution

cappedAlthough the amount of water lost through drip emitters without plants is minute in comparison to the water used to irrigate turf areas (the bulk of water consumption!), it is still important to keep unused emitters plugged. Capping unused emitters in the landscape of large communities is an ongoing process requiring continuous maintenance. In order to stay on top of this, the landscape maintenance crews should concentrate on a different area of each maintenance cycle every week.

Drip irrigation is often programmed to run in the evening, nighttime or early morning hours. Manually turning on irrigation where maintenance crews are working allows them to see where the problems may exist. The crews should carry small plastic plugs to cap the ends of distribution tubes. If they encounter a larger leak, an irrigation technician should be called to do the repair.

What Can You Do?

Homeowners, too, can benefit from regular checks of the irrigation system in their yard. Turn your system on during daylight hours and have a look around. If you see water leaving the system where no plant is present, you may be able to solve the problem by plugging the ¼ drip tube commonly used. The appropriate plugs are readily available at any hardware store.

Resources

There are also a number of resources on the internet that can help you find information on how to maintain your plants and irrigation system.

Water Conservation Tips, Facts, and Resources – wateruseitwisely.com

Environmentally Responsible Gardening and Landscaping in the Low Desert – ag.arizona.edu/maricopa/garden

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