Tuesday, May 7, 2013

IRRIGATION ISSUES: Why Isn't Nature Replicated more often ?

Photo Credit: Treehugger
Believe it or not, excessive irrigation will actually encourage this. Continued watering causes plant growth to be unrestricted in most situations. Couple this with the chemical fertilizing of plants and you create a tasty Smorgasbord for countless insect pests and diseases which would otherwise be kept in check as things are in the Natural world. Yet, believe it or not, most plant world commercial interest ventures love it that way.

Credit: teamwaterworks
I'm puzzled by the lack of interest STILL when Nature is completely ignored in favour of the modern Scientific Idiocy which continues to exist for no other reasons than modern innovations and techniques make money. It's all about the money, so "follow the money". The problem is the conventional thinking is truly killing our planet and making life on this planet more and more difficult for every living thing. I have to go back to one of my pet peeves when it comes to water use. Coming from the southwest, I'm use to there being a rainy season and a dry season, with perhaps a little monsoonal moisture just to keep things interesting. It wasn't till I came back to the city after 24 years in the mountains above Palm Springs, that I realized how much had changed in the Landscape maintenance department. First off, there were far more pests and diseases to deal with. I was clearly out of touch with what had further developed on Southern California coastal and interior valleys with regards the challenges of landscape and gardening maintenance. Every plant, shrub and/or tree seemed infected with something. I hadn't seen this in the wilds, because frankly, such pest war conditions generally don't exist there as a result of Nature's balance. In Nature when Spring comes around after months of winter rainfall, there is naturally that initial flush of bloom and newer foliage growth. That's not only logical, but to be expected. But by summer most plants in the wild are merely maintaining health and vigor of it's foliage and slow development of it's fruit or seed. Bugs don't attack because plants will manufacture a host of various bitter alkaloids in their saps or resins to make plants distasteful to most insects and other creatures. Often with Spring growth, there is more watery sap which contains less of these bitter flavours and attacks will be at a minimum because the population of past are lower at this time. 

image - rootsimple.com
In the Cities and Farms however it's a more different story. Things are forced when it comes to growth. Watering is quite often at regular daily intervals. Yet that's not what Nature does. In the urban landscape, plants (shrubs or trees) are never encouraged to develop an root infrastructure of deeper roots. Why would they, water on the surface is always readily available in the urban landscape. No need to growth to depth. The problem is when summer comes around and pest insects are more abundant and active, these same succulent growth patterns in both shrubs and trees encourage more and more population explosions of insect pests. Such pests would be at a minimum if the landscape was trained and maintained as Nature does it in the wild. Therefore extra Gardening work is called for as plants grow excessively and block or crowd roadways, sidewalks, structural overhangs etc. Unnecessary growth that would not exist and forced to be dealt with had Nature been replicated. Even diseases like Powdery Mildew (like the squash leaves above) and other blight would be held to a minimum. It's not that such organisms don't exist in the wild, they do. But they are mostly so few that their effects are minuscule and hidden from view. 

There is a plethora of supplies for dealing with the consequences of doing the wrong thing when it comes to gardening and landscaping. While chemical fertilizers contribute to the problem, it actually starts with WAAAAAAYY too much watering.
This is where the big money is made by conventional Retail Nurseries and the big business commercial interests which provide them with innumerable products to basically kill things, often in more ways than one. People are so indoctrinated into the historical ignorant conventional ways of doing things, which are often sold as convenient and easy, that they are often NOT open to newer education as to how things really work out in Nature. True, it does take some education and understanding on how things work, which in turn requires a fair amount of investment in one's personal time. but the rewards are worth it. In actuality it is extremely less complicated and far more simple than making continued applications with commercial products which really increase more workload in the garden and commercial urban landscapes. Want to work harder ?, then keep on pursuing the conventional wisdom that brutalizes nature and see what real hard work is really like. Lets get back to irrigation. Last year I wrote about Hunter Industries Deep Pipe Irrigation  products which in actuality do replicate nature. Out in nature, specific dominant plants have deep foundation root system structure through which they employ a process of physics known as hydraulic lift and redistribution. They draw water up from very deep layers of the soil, perhaps even from the water table itself and redistribute this water to all others plants via a mycorrhizal networked grid which interconnects all plants with one another. Not  only is water shared, but also various natural chemical compounds that each differing plant shares with it's neighbours, once again via the fungal web or grid.

Mycorrhizal Applications Inc
purchased from 
Horizon Irrigation Products

A few weeks back I was at  Las Pilitas California Native Plant Nursery  just north of Escondido on old Hwy 395 across from the Champagne Lakes Camp ground and I over heard some customers speaking about watering their Native plants several times a week in summer and often for a couple of hours a day. This is absolutely a waste of money and does NOT benefit the native plants. My Mum's yard is soft very deep sandy loam soil and I haven't had the need to install deep pipe because the roots are deep anyway through proper training. Water period is NEVER done here for most. Growth is kept in check and pruning thus far has been rare. No pest ever have been a problem and feeding is provided for by the mycorrhizal grid  which is feed nothing but clean wood bark mulch which gradually adds nutrients, puts off weeds, shades and cools the root zone and prevents evaporation from the ground. Roots will both hydrate and feed from those deeper roots during summer months. while most people believe surface roots to be the main water and food intake mechanisms, this is also true of deeper roots. And don't forget the mycorrhizae and beneficial bacteria which makes these superior deep irrigation methods all possible. I purchased a good size bag of MycoApply fungal spore mix from Horizon Irrigation Supply on engineer Road in San Diego, but you can go to  Mycorrhizal Applications Inc  and find the nearest supplier or distributor close to you. It is a must application no matter who you buy or purchase from.

Credit: University California Davis

In the Central Valley of California, irrigation in many orchards is still done the old antiquated way by means of flooding. In the wake of water shortages due to climate change, such methods are old and outdated and have been proven to be the main causes of increases in Insect Pests and fungal diseases as the link to the article below here reveals.
U.C. Davis: "Buried Drip Irrigation Reduces Fungal Disease in Pistachio Orchards"
Alternaria late blight, a fungal disease affecting both leaves and fruit, can lower the quality of pistachios and reduce grower profit. High humidity in orchards increases the magnitude and severity of the blight infections. One cause of high orchard humidity is the evaporation of water from the soil surface, which in turn is enhanced by irrigation systems that wet the surface. In this study, we tested the use of buried drip irrigation, which reduces orchard floor wetting, to see how well it controlled the disease. When compared with a traditional flood irrigation system, the buried drip system reduced orchard humidity and dew duration and increased temperature. This significantly reduced leaf symptoms of the disease and fruit infection at harvest. Additionally, more shells split open with the buried drip method, resulting in a higher yield of marketable pistachios.
Even if Modern Orchard management employs sprinkler irrigation methods over the older outdated flooding practices, this still provides another consequence of summer weed growth which requires more chemicals like weed killers. Naturally much to the delight of commercial business corporate interests around the globe who profiteer one way or another on chemical sales increased by status quo conventional farming and landscape practices. Summer weeds like Sow Thistle here in Southern California thrive on bad irrigation practices. But don't worry, Monsanto has an answer for that in the expensive brand named product called Roundup. But unfortunately, decades of chemical uses whether fertilizers or pesticides kill many beneficial soil organisms which is what makes plants unhealthy. Just like in human beings, eat junk foods and live an unhealthy lifestyle and any number of physical ailments will take their toll on your body. Plants are no different in this way. 

Photo Credit: University California Davis

Summer weeds grow according to the wetting pattern conditions of the microirrigation patterns. The  microsprinklers in the foreground encourage more weeds than the subsurface drip in the back. My preferred irrigation for urban landscapes is deep pipe irrigation which puts water into the subsoil where roots if trained properly can have plenty of access to. There is no better places to water to be delivered and stored than in the deeper layers of the soil. Weeds are mostly eliminated and surface/air evaporation is eliminated. water loss is mostly through evapotranspiration which is where it should be.

Image Hunter Industries
Deep Irrigation Methods for Training Deeper Rooting networks
This image above is one that I posted last year which shows just how water can be delivered to the subsoil. Yet in my post, I also showed how it was possible to invent and build your own. This is neither tough to do nor is it rocket science. It truly does replicate what Nature really does in the wild and in keeping itself healthy and balanced. 

My Photo

Mum's backyard in El Cajon in prior to Sewer line hookup. Now notice the Navel Orange tree foliage which is very full and healthy and the fact that there is actually fruit in the tree. No surface irrigation was ever used in maintaining this tree and the Meyer Lemon next to it on the right. Fact is, back in the middle 1970s there was an issue with my parent's Septic Tank leach lines. New distribution box and lines were put in and one line ended in between both these trees. Now look at the photo below what happened when this system was changed over.
 The septic was discontinued and public sewer utility was hooked up. 

Photo Credit - Mine!

This photo is after the City Sewer line hookup was installed. The septic system leach line is no longer functional. Therefore free water is no longer available to be delivered 4 - 5 foot underground between the Navel Orange and Meyer Lemon trees. This photo was taken May 3, 2013. Water is expensive here and my Mother  can't afford sprinkling or flooding the surface, only to have it evaporate and encourage WEEDS. I've cut down some of the weeds and added California Sycamore mulch from the tree trimmings of a couple weeks ago. Surface irrigation is a waste of valuable money and your time and is not necessarily healthy or necessary for the tree, even domestic bred fruit trees. Deep irrigation replicates hydration conditions like those found in the Chaparral plant community and old growth Forested situations.
Below I find this illustrative of how you can do a home Deep Pipe Irrigation Invention which you can easily do yourself and install in what are called swales which are excellent  anyways in rainwater catchment. These may be hand watered to fill tube and allow for deep soil percolation, or you may used the system set up by companies like Hunter Industries. Either way, you and your landscape wins!


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