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Making Each Drop Count

March 21, 1991|DIANE CALKINS

Here are some suggestions for making every drop count as you care for trees and shrubs:

* Sink a narrow tube into the ground to allow watering directly to the root system.

* Do not water by the calendar and instead check the soil by either digging down or using some of the gadgets available to measure moisture in soil.

* Learn to recognize signs of plant thirst, such as drooping.

* If watering by hose, use a soaker type rather than sprinkler type to reduce loss to evaporation.

* Identify your soil type and keep in mind that sandy soil dries out far more quickly than clay.

* Convert to drip irrigation systems, which reduce water use by 30% to 50%.

* Build basins around precious plants and trees to capture moisture.

* Cut back on fertilizers in dry times--especially those high in nitrogen, which encourages growth.

* Spread 1 or 2 inches of mulch around plants. Consider making your own by grinding up plant materials which would otherwise end up in landfills.

* Pluck weeds, which compete for water with landscape plants, as soon as they emerge.

* Water in the early morning or late afternoon and evening to cut down on evaporation.

* Cut back trees and shrubs without denuding them, to decrease their thirst. (Watch out for birds' nests, though, and try to avoid disturbing in any way.)

* Move special container plants to areas sheltered from full sun and wind.

* Establish priorities: annuals can easily be replaced, while rare plants and tall trees cannot. Give the difficult to replace a little help and remove or ignore others.

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