Prudent Summer Watering

The heat at the beginning of this month was so sudden and overwhelming that it was almost unbearable to go outside, much less work in the garden.
To make things more tolerable during the Valley’s long summer season, it is advisable to devote the early morning or late afternoon hours to pruning and weeding. And ideally, planting should not be done until early evening.
Hot weather also sparks thoughts about water conservation. I have learned that the city of Santa Monica has a “no water waste ordinance” that mandates $250 fines to property owners whose sprinklers do any of the following: 1) water between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.; 2) water more than twice a week; 3) spray onto sidewalk, driveway or street. If you have a lawn or garden that comes up to the edge of your property, you are advised to “install a buffer strip of permeable, non-living ground cover such as gravel, rock mulch or decomposed granite between the plant material and the hardscape and move the sprinkler heads inward to the edge of the planting bed.” However, “because of the possibility of wind and maladjustment, this solution is not fool-proof.”
Where lawns are concerned, non-spray irrigation systems, which eliminate the possibility of run-off, are receiving closer scrutiny.
Subsurface irrigation systems have existed for many years, but they have been plagued by clogging and spotty performance. New innovations, however, have supposedly eliminated these problems. CV Techline, developed by Netafim, an Israeli company, is a self-flushing system that claims to have solved the clogging problem.
Drip lines are installed 12 to 24 inches apart, depending on soil type, and buried no more than 6 inches deep. In addition, each emitter has a CV or check valve, which means that residual water flow is checked or stopped at the moment of shutoff. Previously, water that was in the line would continue to flow through the emitters after shutoff. This led to erosion problems — which have been eliminated thanks to CVs — especially on slopes. Drip systems run on pressure as low as 15 PSI and can save up to 40 percent of the water customarily required to keep lawns healthy. Details of this system are available at
SurfaceFlow, marketed by Jardinier Corporation, is another non-spray, water-saving system. Developed at Cal Poly Pomona by professor Joe Hung, an agricultural engineer, this system uses a half inch of subterranean PVC pipe that feeds polyethylene risers topped off by emitters. Water flows out of the emitters at the lawn surface and is spread by “wicking action” through the turf, in the same manner that water moves through porous materials such as straw or sponges. You can learn more about this system at
Q: I would appreciate any advice on how to best rid my front yard cottage garden of snail, slug and yellow jacket infestation.
–Kathie Belle, Porter Ranch
A: Snails and slugs are most destructive in hygienic, unmulched gardens, so my first recommendation would be to keep rakes and leaf blowers out of your flower and shrub beds. Snails and slugs would rather eat decomposing vegetation as opposed to living vegetation. Any mulch with sharp edges, whether shredded leaves or straw, will also deter these soft-bodied creatures. You can also apply snail bait, as long as no pets are around. But keep in mind that the bait disintegrates when wet, so it must be constantly applied in an irrigated garden. If you have pets, keep them in at night while placing snail bait in plastic sandwich bags lining the inside of 4-inch flower pots or plastic containers. In the morning, collect the snail- filled bags and put them in the trash before letting out your pets. I can also attest that the procedure of simply picking up snails, when they first appear, and putting them in the trash is a highly effective control measure. Even a large outbreak of snails can be overcome by spending ten minutes every morning, for a week or two, just picking them up and throwing them out.
Yellow jackets are nasty varmints that live in the ground. Here, discretion is definitely the better part of valor. I would call an exterminator to get rid of them.

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