Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Find a WaterSense Irrigation Contractor

Since July is Smart Irrigation Month it is really the optimal time to take at look at your current irrigation system or to consider purchasing an irrigation system that helps you to conserve water.

The average American household uses about 30 percent of its water outdoors. In some parts of the country, this can be as high as 70 percent. Experts estimate that as much as 50 percent of landscape water use gets lost to evaporation, wind, or runoff caused by over-watering. Some households lose up to 70 gallons of water each day!

When my husband and I had our irrigation system installed, we were trying to save money. It ended up being a costly and wasteful mistake.

We knew the contractor and just assumed he would design an efficient layout so we didn’t even ask for a drawing of what he intended to install. We ended up with a minimal number of wide area sprayers and rotors and we could almost see the water being lost to evaporation every time we used it.

We’ve spent so much money RE-designing it with micro-irrigation heads and other water-wise components that I’m sure we have spent more in time and materials then it would have cost us to have it done right the first time.

I wish I had known about WaterSense® Irrigation partners at the time we had it installed.

WaterSense is an EPA-sponsored program that works to protect our nation's water supply by promoting water-efficient products, programs, and practices.

One of the things that they do through the WaterSense program is to certify professionals who have proven expertise in water-efficient technology and techniques, including irrigation system professionals.

All too often, landscape irrigation wastes water—up to 1.5 billion gallons every day across the country. WaterSense irrigation partners can help you reduce your water consumption, save money, and maintain a healthy and beautiful landscape.

In order to become a WaterSense irrigation partner, professionals in the industry must first become certified through a WaterSense labeled certification program. This process helps ensure that WaterSense irrigation partners are trained on designing, installing, and maintaining water-efficient irrigation systems.

If homeowners with irrigation systems hired WaterSense irrigation partners to perform regular maintenance, each household could reduce water used for irrigation by 15 percent, or about 9,000 gallons annually—that's the amount of water that would flow from a garden hose if it was left running for almost a whole day. WaterSense irrigation partners also can help you design and install a new irrigation system or audit an existing one to minimize the amount of water you use, greening your yard in more ways than one.

You can use this handy directory on the WaterSense website to help you find a WaterSense irrigation partner in your area. Select Irrigation Partners under the Partner Type and then select your state to bring up a list of contractors. You can then select each name to bring up more information. Look for businesses that provide Irrigation System Installation and Maintenance for residents. To search by Partner Name, you must enter the name of a particular individual, NOT a business name.

Loudon Water also provides a list of Preferred Irrigation Contractors on their website.

Scare Crows and other Natural bird control for gardens

I just spent a fantastic week in Michigan visiting my husband's family. We spent a few days at Rick and Jane's cabin on Torch Lake and then drove down to Burt to spend the rest of the time with Dutch and Dorothy.

Dorothy is one of the people that helped my husband Tom and I learn a lot about organic gardening. She has beautiful gardens of flowers and fruits and vegetables and the trees in her yard are home to what seems like hundreds of varieties of bird species.

Although Dutch and Dorothy love the birds, they aren't real happy with the fact that the birds often beat them to their strawberries and raspberries.

To try to cut down on the problem, Dorothy and I spent a few hours making this GORGEOUS scarecrow-ess, which we named Bertha. Bertha was fairly easy to construct. We used a screw gun to screw a cross-piece on an old slat from a wooden fence to serve as Bertha's shoulders. We then found an old discarded piece of chicken wire which we wrapped around the fence slat and molded a little to form Bertha's body. The face was created with acryllic paints and the clothes and wig were found in a bag of castoffs headed for the thrift store. Her arms were stuffed with empty beer cans (which were surprisingly easy to find with my husband there visiting). And the flag was added for the Fourth of July.

I know Bertha looks a little stern, but she is a nature lover like me, and really doesn't like the idea of chasing away the birds.

Dorothy was inspired to create a scarecrow after receiving a photo of this scarecrow pair that her sister, Glennie Duke and husband Jim, had made for their Arkansas gardens. I'm sure that passersby enjoy this playful pair as much as I do.

The Virginia Cooperative Extension website offers these additional tips for deterring birds from your fruit plants:

Pest Control. Birds are one of the biggest pests in the strawberry planting. It may be necessary to cover the plants with plastic netting to keep the crop from being eaten before the berries are ripe enough to harvest. Aluminum pie tins, suspended by a string or wire above the plants in such manner that they twist and turn in the breeze, may be successful in keeping birds away.

I checked with local organic gardeners Brian and Linda of Miolea Organic Farm** in Adamson to see what they use to deter the birds.

"On the strawberries, service berry, black and red raspberries we use the scare-eye. It's a yellow ball with black and red circle. For the blue berries and vegetables we use deer netting and or floating row covers."

Have you found other humane ways to protect your fruits and veggies from the birds and other wildlife? If so, let us know!

** Miolea Organic Farms also sells Certified Organic Fertilizer (5-3-4) for the home gardener. $2.00/lb. And CORN GLUTEN - Certified Organic-Non-GMO. Great for lawns and as a weed supressant. $2.50/lb. 20 lbs covers 1,000 sq.ft

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