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FRIDAY, AUGUST 10, 2007
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Watering lawn doesn't require large utility bills

Dear Jim: I have been watering my gardens and yard a lot and my water bills are getting high. Two years ago, there were water restrictions. What types of sprinklers are best and how much should I water? Jodi M.

Dear Jodi: Most homeowners water too much rather than too little. What makes matters worse, they frequently water all the plants the same amount, but not thoroughly. This can bring the plant roots up near the ground surface making them more susceptible to drought and cold.

Talk with a local plant expert about how much water your plants need. The amount to water will be presented in inches of water per week.

One gallon of water provides a one-inch depth over 231 square inches of ground. Use a water meter on your hose to determine the number of gallons being applied.

Various water meters are available. Electronic ones, which screw on the faucet, operate from battery power. Measure the surface area the sprinkler covers, and using the figures above, determine how many gallons are needed. Set this on the meter and it shuts off when that gallonage is met.

Mechanical meter

Another option is a simple mechanical water meter, by H2O, which costs about $10. It has a rotary dial that reads up to 100 gallons.

It does not shut off automatically, but once you see how fast the dial is moving, you know about when to check it and to turn off the water.

Multispray and fan spray sprinklers are available with the meter built into them.

Another option for using a simple hose for watering is a pop-up sprinkler with a hose fitting. It is similar to expensive underground automatic systems except you screw the hose into it when you want to water. When the faucet is turned on, the sprinkler head pops up from the ground and waters the desired area.

Standard oscillating sprinklers can deliver much water over a large area, but some is lost to evaporation before it hits the ground. Impulse sprinklers deliver a more course spray so there is less evaporation, but the sound can become annoying.

A unique sprinkler, Bug Blaster, has a 360-degree spray head on a long wand. The forceful spray also cleans off and kills most harmful insects without insecticides while it waters the plant. It uses about 60 percent less water than a typical hose-end sprayer when cleaning leaves. Use it every three to five days until the insects are gone.

Underground system

The best system is a completely automatic underground system with timers and optional moisture sensors.

These can include a variety of sprinkler types to water areas differently depending upon their needs.

Sprinkler companies, such as Toro (www.torodesign.com), offer free online system design.

The following companies offer efficient sprinklers: Bug Blaster, (800) 934-3310, www.thebugblaster.com; H2O Watch, (866) 426-9282, www.h2owatch .net; Hunter Industries, (760) 744-5240, www.hunterindustries .com; Rain Bird, (800) 724-6247, www.rainbird.com; and Toro, (888) 384-9939, www.toro.com.

Send inquiries to James Dulley, The Decatur Daily, 6906 Royalgreen Drive, Cincinnati, OH 45244 or visit www.dulley .com.

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