Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Not Quite Ready For Prime Time

Last year, the good folks in the City of Tampa Water Conservation Department asked me to be in a video about efficient lawn irrigation. Now, of course, we all know I do not have a sprinkler system -- heck, I don't even have a lawn! But they were convinced that I looked like just the sort of "average homeowner" they needed for this video. They even made it sound FUN.

In all honesty, it was fun -- despite the fact the outdoor filming took place in July and August -- what were they thinking? -- when I could literally feel the sweat running down my body and the makeup sliding off my face.

 This is a 30-minute video, so be warned! Feel free to fast forward until you find the  particular aspect of sprinkler system care and maintenance you want to know more about.

They gave me lots of great instruction and encouragement, and a very good teleprompter, and I did my best. We filmed at communities in New Tampa, which all seem to have large lawns and in-ground sprinkler systems and pretty high water use. I kept looking around and thinking about how wonderful it would be to create some layered landscape beds to replace some of the St. Augustine carpet. I loved it when they gave me a set of pruning shears to illustrate how to trim plants that are obstructing sprinkler heads. In fact, the pruning shears were really the only tool they gave me that I actually knew how to use. Despite appearances, I had never even seen a swing joint, flexible polytubing or a PVC saw before. Ask my husband, who is greatly amused by my apparent tool-savviness in the video.

Participating in the video reminded me of how important it is to water efficiently, no matter what your landscape. It is a fact that maintaining turfgrass generally requires more effort (and more water) than maintaining my grass-free xeriscape. But HOW you maintain your landscape is just as important as what KIND of landscape you have. A landscape with no grass at all can be a water hog if you have an automatic sprinkler system that isn't installed or programmed correctly. 

Among the most common problems I see with sprinkler systems are improperly placed sprinkler heads or rotors that water driveways, streets and sidewalks instead of vegetation (contributing to stormwater runoff) and missing or malfunctioning rain sensors. I also see many broken sprinkler heads -- they are easy to run over in a car -- and often the homeowners don't even know the head is gushing like Old Faithful because the system comes on while they are snoozing.

This video's for those people. Really, they are just like me. And if this persuades even one person to fix a leaking head, or move a spray rotor or even replace a section of turf with drought-tolerant plants, then I'll be proud.
By the way, did you remember to reset your irrigation timer when the time changed last weekend?