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Still more ways to save water ... and your plants.

A streamlined irrigation system goes a long way toward conserving water. Bruce Wegner, manager of parks and recreation for San Clemente, California, updated his system and made the lawns smaller, cutting his monthly water bill by about 35 percent.

Plants are grouped by water needs, and the system meets the specific needs of each group. Valves for lawn and flower sprinklers are separate from valves for trees' and shrubs' drip systems.

A pair of sensors wired to each group of valves monitors soil moisture and prevents the systems from operating unnecessarily. The sensors act like switches, overriding the systems until the root zone of the monitored plants dries sufficiently. When either sensor registers dryness, the controller supplies power to the valves, activating the first cycle.

If the first cycle satisfies the sensors, the switch is turned off. If the moisture isn't sufficient, a second, third, or fourth cycle is allowed. This kind of scheduling eliminates runoff.

Each pair of sensors costs about $150 from an irrigation supplier.

Crafted by savvy gardeners, the irrigation devices shown below were designed to minimize water waste. They are low-cost, simple to put together, and easily modified to suit your own garden's needs.

Basic drip system

To make every drop count, Suzie Chamberlain saves sink and shower water as it warms up in her Eagle Rock, California, home. To deliver it to thirsty plants without using the irrigation system, she devised the system shown at lower left. Water drains from the 4-gallon bucket through 1/4-inch drip tubing with 1/2-gph emitters; a full bucket supplies the emitters for about 4 hours.

She made a hole in the bucket slightly narrower than the diameter of the tubing, then used a small screwdriver to push the tubing through the hole. Inside the bucket, the tubing is connected to a drip-hose swivel equipped with a screen, which stops any debris from clogging the system. The length of tubing from the bucket branches (with a T-fitting) to two pieces of tubing cut to reach the base of the plants. Pressure-compensated emitters fit onto the tubing ends.

Mrs. Chamberlain used scrap drip tubing and a bucket she had on hand; the remaining supplies cost less than $5.

Pathway jump

Easy to weave through planting rows, flexible soaker hoses are popular low-flow irrigation systems for vegetable and flower gardens. But water is wasted where hoses run across paths.

Bud Stuckey uses the method shown below to keep paths dry in his Los Altos, California, garden. He cut the soaker hose where it crossed a path and inserted a length of garden hose--as wide as the path plus 3 inches on each end. He crimped the soaker hose ends so they slip about 3 inches into the garden hose, then secured them with metal hose clamps sized to the diameter of the garden hose.

If the hose is a larger diameter than the soaker hose, you can simply slip it over the soaker hose and then clamp it in place.
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Copyright 1991 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Date:Aug 1, 1991
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