Landscape Management: Solutions for Irrigation and Soil

recycled water, root-zone mixtures, ground bark, peat moss   September 23, 2008

This is Chris Matt, Associate Editor of Maintenance Solutions magazine. Today’s tip is proper irrigation and soil mixtures for landscaped areas.

Changes in irrigation are creating challenges for grounds managers. For example, the use of recycled water for irrigation is much more common today. This water contains nutrients and salts that can require a changed plant palette over time. So managing water in new landscapes is critical to ensure plants are healthy while not creating a friendly environment for weeds, insects and disease problems.

Soil-less root-zone mixes are important for growing containers, boxed nursery stock, over-structure plantings – such as roof gardens – and the increasingly large number of plantings in pots and other containers. These mixes need to have a long-lasting organic component. Unfortunately, longer-lasting materials – such as ground bark and peat moss – are expensive and can be hard to obtain. As a result, more managers are using composted green waste and wood waste. But these materials do not tend to last as long, and root-zone mixes shrink, causing poor drainage, aeration deficits, and plant failure.

Managers also face challenges created by changes in plant selection. The size of plant material has increased for most commercial applications. Three- and four-inch-diameter trees and 15-gallon shrubs now are very common. The trees can take two-three years to become established.

During this time, they need frequent irrigation so the root ball does not dry out. Workers must check the moisture of individual root balls to ensure they do not become dry and the planting hole is not filling with water.


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