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home>>family>>gardening 2>>don't drown your plants

Don't Drown Your Plants, Nurture Them with Micro/Drip Irrigation


(ARA) Now that spring is here, garden centers across the country are once again bustling with activity. There are house plants, fruit trees and vegetables as far as the eye can see, and they all look great. So how do you keep them looking that way once you get them home?

"The secret is in the way you water them," says Susan Thayer, who is an expert in landscape irrigation. Thayer owns and operates the Southern Citrus Nursery in Dundee, Fla., as well as Mister Landscaper, a company that specializes in low-volume landscape irrigation.

"When my family started in the citrus business 95 years ago, we relied on hand watering and rain. Then came overhead sprinklers, but they presented problems. They not only use more water than needed, they tend to water undesirable areas, promoting weed growth in the orchards and groves," she says.

The Thayers started experimenting with ground-level watering about 30 years ago and found micro spraying -- a low-flow method of irrigation that directs a fine mist of water spray at the trees' root zone -- to be the best option. "It allows us to direct the water exactly where we want it, while at the same time preventing plants from being over watered," says Thayer.

The method is also environmentally friendly. It uses approximately 10 gallons of water per hour (GPH) compared to a sprinkler that uses 120 GPH; and since the water flow is slow and steady, it is easier to absorb, thus reducing plant stress. Micro Spray and Drip products meet most drought restrictions, therefore municipalities across the country are now using and suggesting that their residents use this valuable tool to help conserve water and save money on their water bill.

It was soon after starting to use this technology on citrus that the Thayers saw great improvement in theirs trees' health and growth, as well as increases in fruit yields. This success led them to develop similar products for ornamental nurseries and commercial landscapers, and eventually home gardeners. Their Mister Landscaper products started showing up in home improvement stores in 1991.

There are now two kits available that make garden irrigation easy for the do-it-yourselfer. The Micro Sprinkler kit is for vegetable and flower gardens and areas where trees and shrubs grow. It comes with a 50 foot roll of 1/2 inch poly tubing and all the accessories needed to mist up to a 250 square feet of growing space. The Patio Watering kit includes all the hose and accessories you need to water up to eight potted plants.

Both systems are easy to install, low maintenance and do not require costly repairs by an irrigation specialist. Thayer points out that once you set up the system and connect it to your water faucet or existing irrigation system, you can cover it with mulch or leave it exposed because it is made with UV inhibited resins that last years in cold northern climates and in hot southern states.

"To save even more water and time we highly suggest using a battery operated faucet timer," says Thayer. "This allows you to program your system to come on whenever you need it. We usually suggest running the micro sprinklers 20 to 30 minutes at a time; three minutes at a time for the patio kit. This will give your plants a more scheduled watering and help prevent over watering by turning the system on and forgetting to turn it off."

Most plant nurseries across the country use some form of drip irrigation. Thayer says it's only natural to provide plants with the same watering method they've become used to once you get them home.

"Micro irrigation is our future and will conserve tremendous amounts of water for years to come. Education is the key to getting this message out," says Thayer.

You can find Mister Landscaper Micro Sprinkler and Patio Watering kits at Lowe's Home Improvement stores across the country, or order on line. Just log on to www.misterlandscaper.com or www.Lowes.com and click on "Brands you Know & Trust" at the bottom of the page. On the next page, click on "M" then scroll down to the Mister Landscaper link.

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