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Save landscaping, money with right mix of sprinklers

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Dear Jim: I have to water a lot, but my lawn, shrubs and gardens are not doing well, and my water bills are outrageous. Are there any efficient watering systems for someone like myself on a tight budget? — Ann W.

Dear Ann: At least 90 percent of homeowners water improperly, often actually doing more harm to their plants than if they did not water at all. Overwatering and watering too often can harm the fine root hairs and kill many beneficial insects in the soil. It also drives up your water bills.

There are several new do-it-yourself sprinkler system designs that are as effective as professionally installed systems, yet only half the cost. These are attached to a hose from a faucet so no underground plumbing is needed. Being modular systems, you can expand them as your budget allows.

First, before selecting any system, take an inventory of the plants that you have. Talk to an expert at a garden store to determine how much water (inches per week) and how often each plant type should be watered.

With this information, determine the mix of sprinkler types you will need. The simplest sprinkler systems use a three-zone or six-zone manifold to which you attach a hose. These use 24-volt controllers like professional models. The controller determines the amount of time that each zone sprays water and the daily schedule. Odd/even day schedules are often mandated during droughts.

Individual sprinklers or soaker hoses are attached by tubing to the manifold. The controller operates only one zone at a time to insure that there is adequate pressure for effective watering. In general, it is best to water right after midnight for maximum water pressure and less wind.

Another do-it-yourself design uses special inground sprinkler heads with aboveground snap-on hose fittings. Each sprinkler head covers an area up to 5,000 square feet. When one area is done, snap the hose on to another sprinkler head.

Individual hose-end sprinklers are also effective for watering entire lawns or individual shrubs and areas. Several companies offer battery-powered timers that are screwed on to a faucet before the hose.

With simple calculations, you can set the on-time to provide the proper amount of water.

You can buy hose-end sprinklers from $10 to $90 each, so there are real differences in quality and features. If you try to use one design of everything, you will just waste water.

Impulse sprinklers are good for medium/large areas.

Oscillating ones are good for rectangular areas. Use rotating or stationary types for small areas.

Write for (instantly download — www.dulley.com) Update Bulletin No. 841 — buyer's guide of 11 hose-end, underground sprinkler/timer system manufacturers listing types and accessories available, a sprinkler type selector guide and watering tips. Please include $3 and a business-size SASE. James Dulley, Deseret News, 6906 Royalgreen Drive, Cincinnati, OH 45244

Dear Jim: We have an older framed house and we already had insulation blown into the walls, but it is still drafty and chilly. When we re-side it with vinyl siding, should we add more insulation and an air barrier? — Paul C.

Dear Paul: People are often mistaken in thinking that adding insulation in the walls will reduce drafts in a house.

Since you already have wall insulation, it does not make sense to add more under the new siding. Wrapping the walls first with an air barrier, like Tyvek, is a good idea to reduce the drafts year-round.