June can be a rough month for weather, and this year has been no exception. In what seemed to be a never-ending combination of winter/spring (maybe we should just call it sprinter or wing), we now find ourselves amid temperatures in the upper 80s with no moisture. All of this coming just days after temperatures dipped close to 30 degrees throughout our area.
This leads to the quiz question for the day: The month of May and the first couple weeks of June were: a) wet; b) cold; c) windy; d) snowy; e) dreary; f) dry; or g) all of the above.
Welcome to Southwest Colorado, where if you dont like the weather, wait ... oh never mind, it just changed.
Typically, June is our driest month of the year with an average monthly precipitation less than 1 inch. Couple that with typical high temperatures hovering around 82 or 83 degrees, and you can quickly wind up with stressed plants.
In order to alleviate the environmental stressors of temperature and lack of moisture, a proper irrigation design and program are important.
As you all (hopefully) know, water is a valued commodity and precious resource. It can be unbelievably cheap or ridiculously expensive. There are water sources that are nutrient-rich and others that have been known to catch fire.
Water is a major determinant of plant productivity and quality, as it can provide structural integrity for the plant; can act as a solvent for necessary nutrients and minerals for plant uptake; provide protection in cold temperatures; and can lower transpiration rates by cooling the leaves.
All of that before 8 a.m.
For many backyard gardeners, the most efficient watering technique is low-volume, or drip irrigation. This type of irrigation, when installed and programmed correctly, delivers water directly where the plants can access it: in their root zone. Typically there is very little waste, which hopefully results in you watering the crop, not the weeds. Drip irrigation is oblivious to the wind and can even be run with just the power of gravity. Unfortunately, the costs and maintenance may run high, and depending on your water source and quality, you can occasionally get plugged lines and emitters. But in my opinion, and in my garden, the positives of drip outweigh the inefficiency of overhead irrigation.
My irrigation system runs through a programmable controller, which I set to run separately for my lawn, vegetable and ornamental beds.
I dont have to be there to turn it off and on (as you read this, I am sitting on a blanket in Telluride listening to some mighty fine bluegrass while the tomatoes are getting watered), and it is very simple to develop a rather diverse irrigation program.
However, you still need to be the judge of when your plants need to be watered. If the soil is wet, maybe you can skip a day of irrigation. Remember, our clayey soils hold water for a long time allow them to drain before you turn on the system. In general, expect to water 20 to 60 minutes every day to every two days.
firstname.lastname@example.org or 382-6464. Darrin Parmenter is director and horticulture agent of the La Plata County Extension Office.