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MMWD Blog: Think Blue Marin

Welcome to our blog! Written by staff at MMWD, “Think Blue Marin” explores all things water in south and central Marin—water supplies, conservation, new projects, watershed management, and more.

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May 05

Unexpected Surprises

Posted on May 5, 2017 at 11:28 AM by Ann Vallee

by Charlene Burgi

Snow White's water-wise garden
 Snow White's water-wise garden
Last week my son and I visited Disney World in Orlando, Florida. The first day we opted to explore Epcot Center as so many friends and family had spoken highly of their educational displays. We were not disappointed. As we wandered from one location to the next, I noticed a beautiful garden touting water-conserving plants, accompanied by signage highlighting the best irrigation practices for these plants. Needless to say, I was surprised and pleased to find a subject that is so dear to my heart. The lavender, geraniums, sage and New Zealand flax in the display showed off the beautiful and unique gray foliage, thick waxy leaves and hairy leaves so characteristic of water-conserving plants. 

The care and thoughtfulness of the irrigation signs intrigued me, too. Conservation concepts are not foreign to me, but I found these signs captivating in their simplicity, with pointers like "Misting creates quick evaporation" or "Get to the root of the issue." Instinctively, I wanted to jump behind a podium and start spouting the benefits of good irrigation practices. Staying quiet was an exercise in restraint! Fortunately, as I watched the many visitors walking through the garden, reading the signs and taking pictures, I was hopeful they would carry the messages home with them to employ in their own gardens.
Water Wise Garden
 Garden showcasing water-wise plants and irrigation practices

However, after restraining myself at Epcot, I must release the passion here. Irrigation systems that aren’t functioning optimally can be wasteful in many ways. For example, one popped emitter will not only spew water from the hole left in your drip tubing, but will cause a lack of pressure to get water to other plants downsteam of the leak. Besides losing water, you may lose your plants, too.

Another common issue is sprinkler-head misting, which indicates a water pressure problem. Remember the sign I mentioned about how misting creates quick evaporation? If water does not reach the roots, that mist will soon dry up in the surrounding warm air and be of little use to your plants. To reduce high water pressure, install a pressure reducer for your irrigation system, or replace the nozzles with nozzles designed to reduce the pressure on that valve. 

We’re moving toward the peak evapotranspiration time of year in June and July. With the heatwave we are experiencing this week, it is time to turn on the irrigation system. If you have yet to perform routine check-up of your irrigation system, make it a top priority this weekend, and repair any problems promptly. Remember, a water-wise garden depends not just on good plant choices, but on a well-functioning irrigation system, too.


Scott Stokes
May 5, 2017 at 1:30 PM
Charlene, great blog. Like the "read more" link to get here. My wife and I took the special "behind the Scenes" tour of the gardens at Epcot Center. It starts well before they open in the morning. I highly recommend it. One gets to ask lots of questions. :-) The last sentence in the second to last paragraph might end with "... or replace the nozzles with nozzles designed for the existing high pressure that reduce any misting and can be adjusted for the areas to be irrigated." or something like that. Irrigation, a subject dear to our hearts.
Anonymous User
May 5, 2017 at 1:41 PM
I do enjoy reading all of your timely adventures, discoveries, adapting to a new home; it all enriches my gardening life. Keep up the great work; you do all of us a great service. Best regards, Marty
Anonymous User
May 5, 2017 at 2:11 PM
Marty, Thank you for your kind words. The words come along easily when planted in passion. I am glad to share in that passion! Always, Charlene
Anonymous User
May 5, 2017 at 2:13 PM
Hi Scott. How wonderful that you were able to get the "behind the scenes" tour at Epcot! The park itself was a wonderful experience! And thank you for adding more to the pressure reducing nozzle piece! Sincerely, Charlene

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