One of the most difficult tasks a newcomer to our desert environment encounters is how, when, and how much water is needed for roses and shrubs in our hot, dry summer. There are many types of watering systems. You can use a drip system, bubblers, or low spray heads. If you choose too use a drip system, buy emitters that can be adjusted from 0 to10 gallons an hour and adjust the heads to full flow. You not only get the water you need, but it will keep the heads from clogging up.
If you use bubbler or the low spray heads they can be adjusted as needed. After you have installed your watering system, build a dam around each plant approximately two inches high. The water will stay around the root area of your shrub or rose and not run off into the surrounding area. Your bushes will do better if you use a timer on your watering system as the amount of water and the time will be consistent.
Setting your timer will depend on the type of soil the plant is planted in, how much mulch or organic matter is around the plant, and how much sun it gets each day. If possible, when planting your bushes try to keep the plants that use approximately the same amount of water on the same line. Set your timer to come on early in the morning. Roses and shrubs that get at least 8 hours of sun a day should get 10 minutes of water each day. Use this schedule for 2 or 3 days, and then check to see how much water they are really getting. If your plant is getting too much water, the leaves will turn yellow and may start to droop in the same way it will when it is not getting enough water. It is an indication that the plant is in stress.
Take a small trowel and insert it into the soil approximately a foot deep about a foot from the base of the plant. If you encounter soggy soil, decrease the time on your clock. If it is just moist you have the correct amount of time and water. Adjust your system accordingly. Even with a watering system you still need to deep water your plants every few weeks. The soil and the water in our Valley are very alkaline and have a great deal of salts in them. If the water only penetrates down to one foot, the salts and the alkali stay in the root area. When the temperature is above 100 degrees the plant will absorb so much water the salts will come up into the plant and you will see it on the edge of the leaves. It looks like a white substance on the outer edges and the leaves will also look burned.
When you deep water the water will flush the salts below the root area and the roots will go deeper into the soil making a much stronger plant. A good way to prevent this and to save water is to spread mulch around your plants. A good mulch to use is Plant World's Garden Bloome. Follow the directions on the bag. I mulch my rose's beds with Garden Bloome every year and find I use less water, the roots of my roses go deeper and I have very few weeds. Once you have established a watering system stick with it through the hot months of summer. Just remember to keep it simple and have fun!!!
By Dick Jackson