Saturday, April 11, 2009

Irrigation-Wise

Last Thursday night I attended one of the free Lawn and Garden workshops being offered this year by Pasadena Water & Power. I began with the Efficient Irrigation workshop. If we're going to have to ration water, then dammit, I'm going to be water-wise.

I was afraid I might get bored, but irrigation contractor and horticulturalist Tim Wheeler is anything but dull. With charm, humor, and visual aids like charts, nozzles and hoses, he turned dirt and water into three hours of fascination. Everybody likes water, but who knew dirt could be so cool?

I learned why I should never water at night. (It contributes to plant diseases.)
I learned why it's better to use a machine to aerate your soil than it is to use the little shoes with spikes on them, and why it's a good idea to mark your sprinkler pipes and nozzles clearly before you accidentally aerate them, too.
I learned about MP rotators, timers and the new "smart" controllers that can make watering decisions for you based on the weather.

My favorite was learning about different kinds of dirt. I might have sandy loam, but I've never been sure. Now I know how to test it. What I'm feeling about dirt right now could be called excitement.

I'm going to the California Friendly Landscaping Class next. By then I ought to know what kind of soil I've got. Maybe this will be the year I don't kill every other thing I plant.

19 comments:

Laurie said...

Who knew irrigation and dirt could be so fascinating? Next thing you know, P, you'll be starting up a gardening blog...

Dina said...

Your excitement here must be connected with your desire to dig in the dirt, as in archaeology.

Shell Sherree said...

Good for you, Petrea! I'd have been off to the movies instead. {Mind you, I don't think we have any spare ground left in our garden that doesn't already have roots in it.}

Petrea said...

Laurie, I'll start that blog when my bougainvillea blooms. Which means "cold day in hell," poor thing.

Could be, Dina. When Tim talked about the different types of soil, I sat up in my seat. He described them because of how they retain water differently, but he also mentioned that our soil comes from the San Gabriel Mountains. The geology interests me, i.e., how the soil is created over the aeons.

Shell, if I didn't have many, many square feet of bare dirt and weeds I might have gone to the movies, too!

altadenahiker said...

Does the soil vary from house to house? I know the new developments generally strip the land of all its topsoil, so it's dusty and poor. But we with older houses may be luckier.

Petrea said...

Well, your house would probably be different from my house, Hiker. I'd guess you'd be the same as your next-door neighbor, but I didn't think to ask that question.

He also said "topsoil" is a fancy word for dirt. People buy topsoil and what they're getting is what you describe, the stripped soil, which is generally full of weed seeds and whatnot. It's apparently no better than any other dirt.

I'm telling you, I had no idea. Now I understand why Becca's a geologist.

Margaret said...

So how do I test my my dirt. It's full of clay.

Vanda said...

You got the dirt on dirt. Good deal.

Petrea said...

Hee hee, Vanda.

Okay, Margaret, you have to do a Jar Test. I found a bunch of variations of this online. Tim's didn't involve soap or marking the jar. He just used water and dirt and let the stuff settle. Then you compare your soil with a Soil Triangle to read the results. I can tell you how to do that once you get your percentages, if you like. It's not as complicated as it looks.

PJ said...

We had our soil tested by the state to see what we had. Verrry interesting, changed our whole approach to vegetable gardening this year.
It seems there's always something new to learn about gardening. The other day I read an article in Organic Gardening that said that having too much nitrogen attracts pests and that distressed plants emit pheremones that attract varmints as well. I had no idea.

marley said...

You're turning in to quite the horticulturalist!

Cafe Pasadena said...

It's good to see you learning sumthing new, P. I too, along with LA, look 4ward 2 your new Gardening Blog. On that maybe you can collaborate with MTG's fav gardener, KB.

Trish said...

Very interesting Petrea! More municipalities ought to do this and advertise it. The concept of getting people interested in giving a damn is useful in a lot of ways.

You're right, most of the dirt, soil, clay etc that is in the LA Basin comes down from the mountains. All those lovely rocks adorning many houses came down the mountain SOMEHOW. Back when there was more water than people, the rivers flowed more freely and deposited a lot of good stuff.

Dirt from place to place depends on a) location, b) what happened originally in runoff and c) what has happened since. And what exists now is different than even 30 years ago.

Soil tests are a great idea. We did one in the backyard of a place we rented years ago, knowing part of the yard had old paint dumped in it. We thankfully never grew anything other than in containers because we were not happy with what we learned about the soil there!

-K- said...

Quote of the Day: What I'm feeling about dirt right now could be called excitement.

Petrea said...

PJ, I have a lot to learn about gardening for sure. Thanks for telling me about the varmints.

Marley, I have a long way to go!

Cafe, don't hold your breath! Two blogs is plenty.

Trish. Eeuw. I hope I find something better than paint.

K: I'm blushing.

pasadenapio said...

I'm glad you're taking advantage of these free workshops, Petrea.

Your post reminds me that I should put up another "looking for something to do?" item on my blog.

Ms M said...

Very interesting info! I wish you well with your yard and garden this year, look forward to photos of your results :>)

Afyonkarahisar said...

Easter happy holidays.

Petrea said...

I plan to post about the next one too, Ann.

I don't know, Ms. M. The "before" pics are embarrassing. We'll see about the "after."

Thank you, Afyonkarahisar. Happy holiday to you, too.