Homegrown: Efficient sprinklers, aspen trees

I have the largest water bill in the summer and need some help. Can you tell me which type of sprinkler is the most water efficient and does the best job? A lot of what I am reading about mentions that pulsating ones are good (like the parks use). Is this true?

— Kathy

I don’t think there is one “best” sprinkler. The choice depends on a number of factors such as size of the area, water quality, quantity and availability, plantings in the area, soils, topography and how you’re able to use the system.

No matter what type of sprinklers you have, the most important thing is to utilize them properly. You want the right amount of water getting to the roots of your plants in the proper amounts and at the right time.

You may want to consider getting an irrigation audit done on your yard. I know there are people with the Colorado State University Extension office who are trained to do this. Sprinkler supply stores such as Grand Junction Pipe and Western Implement might also have some names.

They will evaluate how your system works as it is and recommend changes you may need to make. It will involve the physical layout of your sprinklers—what type of sprinkler head you have, how far apart they’re spaced, the water pressure available, etc.

They also will talk about how you’re using the sprinkler system.

There is a fee for this service, but I think it’s well worth the money.

You may need to add sprinklers if there are spots with inadequate coverage or re-zone the system if there’s not enough water flow or pressure to handle the sprinklers on each valve.

There may be recommendations to change the type of sprinkler head you have as well. Certain types of sprinklers apply water more quickly, others more slowly.

You may need “faster” sprinklers if your window of opportunity to water is limited, but you may need “slower” sprinklers if you’re irrigating on a slope and you want to give the water a chance to soak in without just running off.

Assuming that your system is adequate with proper pipe sizing, pressure, head spacing and zoning, the changes then involve how you’re running it.

It may be that you’re not running the system often enough or maybe it’s too often. Also the amount of time each valve is run is important. You want to make sure that the soil is wetted down to an appropriate depth for the particular plants you have growing in an area.

Sorry, I can’t give you a lot of specifics, but I hope this points you in the right direction.

My backyard neighbor has mature aspen trees whose roots spring up all throughout the lawn some 15–20 feet from tree base. Is there a way of stopping this without hurting the tree?

I would like to plant aspens in my front yard but would like to protect against this if we do.

— Katie

It’s the nature of aspen trees to sucker all over the place. I had a little grouping in my backyard, and they’d send up suckers all over the place.

Now, I’m not saying that there are thousands of them, but I had to cut off or dig out a couple dozen with a shovel every spring. I jabbed the shovel into the ground at the base of the sucker and tried to sever the root that the sucker is coming from.

Another possibility you might want to try is using a product called Sucker Stopper. It’s a hormone that prevents suckering in many trees. They recommend that you cut off the sucker and spray the cut end.

Personally, I haven’t tried it so I can’t tell you how well it works, but I guess it would beat dragging the shovel out into the yard.

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Dennis Hill is the nursery manager at Bookcliff Gardens, http://www.bookcliffgardens.com. Send questions to Bookcliff Gardens, 755 26 Road, Grand Junction 81506; or email .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


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