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Skaggs: Drought is done, but continue to water smart
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When to water?

Turfgrass: Needs water just as it begins to wilt. Signs include a change to a dull, grayish or bluish green and leaves that begin to fold.
Flowers: Annual flowers have shallow root zones, so they usually need to be watered more often than perennial flowers, which have deeper roots.
Trees and shrubs: These have even deeper, more extensive roots. They can get to water far underground and most can survive a long time without rainfall.

The Georgia Urban Agriculture Council: Download "Saving Water in Your Landscape: Best Management Practices for Landscape Water Conservation."

With the recent news that the drought is "officially" over and water restrictions have been relaxed, don't be tempted to go overboard on your outdoor watering. We should all remember the struggles we've faced over the last two years trying to keep our trees, shrubs and lawns alive.

Over these long two years, we've developed a better understanding of water conservation and proper irrigation. But now that we can water again, let's not forget the basics of proper outdoor watering.

Landscape and turf irrigation should supplement rainfall, and even during the driest months of summer, it isn't needed every day. In fact, homeowners with irrigation systems often water too much and hurt their plants and grasses.

Plants that are stressed by excess water are more susceptible to disease and insect problems. In addition, over-watering can leach nutrients from the soil.

If your irrigation system is automated, it should have either a timer or a controller. And to efficiently irrigate, it's important that you know how to adjust, reset and program your system's controller. The controller is a combination of a clock and calendar, but you must provide the instructions.

To set the system, check the instruction manual for your controller and a controller chart, a drawing of your landscape showing areas covered by each irrigation zone. Each zone is controlled by the corresponding station number. The manual explains the options for managing the system.

If you don't have a controller chart, simply sketch the landscape and the irrigated area. Set the controller to run each station and draw an outline on your landscape sketch of the areas each station irrigates. Then label each station with the appropriate controller number on the drawing.

If your system doesn't have a rain sensor, you should definitely add one. A rain sensor detects rainfall and prevents the system from irrigating when it's raining. Rain sensors are inexpensive and usually pay for themselves in water savings in a couple of years.

You can buy a rain sensor and install it yourself or have an irrigation contractor put it in. Either way, put it where it's not covered by building eaves and doesn't collect irrigation water. It may be best to attach it to the roof edge where there are no interfering trees.

Also, remember our current odd/even outdoor watering schedule doesn't mean you should water every other day. Those are simply the days you are allowed to water. Water based on your plants' needs.

Billy Skaggs is an agricultural agent and Hall County extension coordinator. Phone: 770-531-6988. Fax: 770-531-3994.

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