Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Perks of Gardening

Yes, I paid to have the irrigation system examined. Yes, they fixed the leaks they saw. Yes, they attached the containers to the main system even though they were only paid to work on the new system. And yes, I spent this morning repairing leaks.

The small bed at the back of the pool was its own water feature this morning.  The main system, the one that waters everything except the containers, runs from 7-9am.  That's long enough to let the water soak down to the recommended 18" depth for mature, established shrubs and trees.  I take a cursory glance on watering days, making sure that there are no obvious leaks. This morning, I had to put my gym plans on hold; the shrubs in the back were become water-logged.

I was too nervous to turn the system off and search for the leak right away.  I wasn't sure I could get it to restart.  The new timer is shiny and clean and almost exactly like the old one.  Still, it intimidates me.  I found that I had been left without an instruction booklet (a fact which will be remedied this afternoon by a visit to the nursery) so I was on my own.  The dials were clearly labeled, but I wasn't sure what needed to be where.

The only information available to me was a blank chart for listing zones and watering times/days which was loosely velcroed to the inside of the timer's locked cover.  Upon closer examination, I found the easy "how to" chart on the reverse.  After a moment spent laughing about the installer's sense of humor, I reversed the paper and followed the plan clearly outlined therein. 

Turn this dial that way and that dial this way and press that button but not this button and then scurry as fast as you can to the area in question..... it was a good plan except that by the time I reached the bed it was, once again, underwater.  I made troughs in each direction from the spot where, I sensed, the leak existed.  All that accomplished was creating two new pools.  The ground is so dry that it refuses to accept the overage.

So, I turned it off and went to the front, where the emitters required adjusting so that the water didn't run through and add to the salt stains on the concrete. Living with salts in the soil and the water creates a white crusty edge to containers and beds.  Flushing it all the way through makes a big difference, but flushing every time I water will only deplete the nutrients I pour in on the top every week via the Maxsea fertilizer. It's a balancing act, one complicated by the winds and the fluctuating temperatures.  90 and sunny over the weekend, 75 and breezy today..... the plants just can't get adjusted.

After twisting the emitters to release more or less liquid as each pot required, I turned and noted the sorry condition of the new rose bush in the courtyard.  It was dry as a bone, although there were two emitters in the hole.  I studied the situation, explored for leaks by following the tubing back to the main line, and then had an aha moment - gravity.

Yes, denizens, I realized that if the tubing was inserted in the main line where it jutted up toward the sky, the water didn't have enough pressure to make it that far.  There was nothing left for the spaghetti tubing which led to the plant.  So, I took the trowel and dug down into the dirt and buried the main line, anchoring it with ground cover pebbles and one very large river rock. 

It popped right back up.

I dug deeper and longer and stretched it out and watched with joy and wonder as little droplets made their way down the tubing and into the hole.  The repair was effective.  Unfortunately, the timer had just about run its course.  When the water stopped, the hole was still dry and the leaves were turned into themselves.  I dragged the hose from the side of the house and left it running slowly for an hour.  It's a good hole and the water was absorbed as soon as I turned off the spigot.  I hope the roots are still available to act as a conduit to the flower which is wilting on the vine.

As I was watching the hose fill the hole, the quail were sharing the joy.  The bigger one ventured to the edge first, dipping his beak in the watering trough.  His wife, a bit smaller but much more brazen, hopped up and dunked her head.  They drank, they shook, they looked, they drank... and then they did it all over again.  They jumped up onto the pony wall and then leapt back to the water.  It was a surprise in their neighborhood and they weren't letting it go to waste. 

I, sitting at my desk on the other side of the bay window, enjoyed their show.  My little exercise in plant maintenance had opened up an adventure for the birds and given me a free show right before my eyes. It's one of the perks of gardening.


  1. This is my greatest fear if we get a sprinkler system. Hubby has been bugging me for a few years. Seems our neighbor across the street wants our lawn to be as green as his in. To that I say, you can pay the water bills too if it bugs you so much when our grass turn brown in the summer. I do hear of leaks from our neighbors who do have sprinkler systems and it's hard to find them without having someone come out and investigate. I don't envy you having to do this, but I do envy your green thumb. Wish I had one. :)

    Hope you are having a great week.

    Megan xxx

    1. Green grass was my nemesis when we had a lawn... I was never very good at making it look evenly colored. Tell your neighbor he can take over the maintenance if it bothers him that much :)

  2. Thanks for taking time for sharing this article. Gardening helps to achieve all essential results regarding natures.

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