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Monday, July 30, 2012

My 30 Days of Ramazan - Day 3

At 7:25pm at the end of Day 2 I heard the call to prayer and my ice cold water was ready. I had it in the freezer in 1.5 liter plastic bottles, frozen. At 4 pm I had taken out the frozen bottle and put it on the shelf at 95F indoor temperature. By the time 7:25pm rolled around about half of it was water, the other half still ice. Nice, I thought. When you are thirsty and time is moving slowly you have lots of time to plan. But I didn’t realize how thirsty I would be. I drank half of the bottle and then cursed when the remaining water was still frozen. It didn’t thaw fast enough and I wanted more. I immediately went to the freezer and took another 1.5 liter out to thaw while I waited for the ice to melt. Every few minutes I drained the icy water from the bottle. One bottle helped but my mouth was still dry and my throat was still parched but my belly was full of water.

The ice thawed fairly quickly and in the next three hours I drank three liters of water. When you first drink water after a fast, you are dehydrated and it has been hot, it is amazing how, within less than 15 seconds it seemed, your body releases this wave of water entering your body as a wave of sweat. My body poured of sweat from the water I drank. I was wiping it off of my face, neck and underarms with a towel and it was still dripping down my sides. Tomorrow, I thought, I better take the frozen water out at 3 pm, not 4pm!  I have an infrared temperature gauge with me for measuring surface temperatures. I wonder what my body temperature was? My body must have shut down in a reaction to dehydration. With this wave of water coming in, it released it in an attempt to reduce my body heat. It worked and my body was cool from the evaporation. I will take a shower before I go to bed, this additional cooling will help me to sleep.

I enjoy their round bread but after awhile it gets a little old and you do yearn for a Western-style sandwich. I found chunky peanut butter, covered in a layer of dust, tucked away in a back shelf of a food store not too far from where I am staying. (I have been here now three months and I am still not tempted to call it home…. yet.) There are plenty of jams and jellies and honey. I also found a toaster for $8 in a local store and a square loaf of bread at a store that catered to Khaariji (foreigners). So I cut off two slices of bread, put them in the toaster, buttered them with a good layer of butter, peanut butter and jelly. It went down very easy and filled me quickly. My confidence returned! I didn’t need to get up at 2:30 am to drink water and eat! Ha! I will be fine! I decided to retire early and continue to read the book I downloaded for my Kindle, “Lions of Kandahar”. My belly was full and I fell asleep.

The Third Day. My alarm went off at 5:00am since I didn’t need to get up early this morning. When I awoke I could feel my mouth was dry. Not a good sign this early in the morning I thought. Maybe I should have set the alarm for 2:30. After getting the staff on target for the morning I was headed into the bazaar to pick up some agricultural chemicals and a sprayer. I tried to dress as inconspicuously as possible by wearing local clothes. My staff told me I looked local. I had tested it one day by having staff follow me and observe how people reacted when I walked through the busy bazaar and outside the mosque. The staff told me no one noticed but two boys who stared at me. I asked them if they knew why. My staff told me it was because I was fat and laughed. Thanks guys. I will never totally blend in but if I can move around in crowds drawing as little attention as possible I feel much safer. My white beard, now about three inches long, helped. It is relatively safe where I am but you never know who is out there in a community of 300,000 people. Kidnapping is the biggest threat and there is always a bounty on Khaariji (foreigners).
While in the store and looking at agricultural chemicals an older man, a customer, started talking to me in Dari. That is a good sign. He thought I was local. The shopkeeper was young, maybe 30. I had a white beard and I was looking at the chemicals. This customer was going to get advice from a “white beard”, not a boy. Age commands respect in this culture. The shopkeeper boy explained what this farmer wanted and I helped direct him to the right chemicals (the same ones the boy was telling him to buy.) I could hear a sigh of relief come from him when I told him which one to use for melon fly. The shop boy and I were now friends.

I bought my chemical and sprayer and headed back to the office, cutting through the crowd of vegetable and fruit vendors, about 100 meters, to my beatup Toyota Corolla. With my eyes straight ahead I watched through peripheral vision and no one looked at me except the vendors yelling to me what they were selling and the price. It was now about 10 am and already breaking 100F I guessed. The sun was very hot and my mouth was very dry. I drove to the government building for a meeting but I could see that they were already starting to break up for the day. With a quick meeting, it was 11am and I could feel that my body was getting tired and headed back to the office. At the air conditioned office we rested and I talked with my staff. They were very appreciative that I was fasting with them and we shared what we were feeling during the fast; tired, dizzy, lack of concentration… all were signs of dehydration. The staff disappeared during prayer time; prayed and rested. I told them to go home at 2pm. I needed to lie down and rest. Instead they stayed until 430pm and worked. It was probably the A/C but I also like to think that we have a very good team.

I rested and read in my book. I could not concentrate for very long. I glanced at the clock numerous times. It never was so slow in my life. I heard the Mullah. I got grabbed a now unfrozen (I got it out at 3pm) liter of juice. It was too warm! I downed it anyway. I cooked up two eggs and two pieces of toast. My stomach was shrinking. I could hardly eat it all. This time I am putting a 1.5 liter of water next to my bed and setting the alarm for 3pm.

How to Water a Landscape With Two Valves (One front, one back)

Q. I have a LOT of different shrubs and trees on only 2 valves (front & back). The shrubs have 2 emitters per shrub and range from 2- 2gph for plants like photinia, red autumn sage, fountain grass, jasmine vines, rhaphiolepsis etc.; and  2-4gph on euonymus, abelias, boxwood, honeysuckle vines etc. The trees have more emitters. My landscaper told me to water 6 days per week for 2-20 minutes per day (equals 4 hours per week). Star nursery advised me to water only 3 times per week for 45 minutes per day. Plant World advised 6 days per week. So, what to do?

            My biggest problem is my 8 year old magnolia tree, trunk diameter about 5", has 4-4gph emitters. It used to be very full, now it's about 10 ' high & the leaves are dark brown, dry and falling off.  All help would be appreciated.

A. You even confused me. In their defense I would have to say it's possible that all three could be right. Because plants are adaptable to different situations there can be several right answers to one irrigation question. Nurseries are there to provide service, the best answers they can muster up. I am an educator so let me take a stab at it from an educator's point of view.

I would like to give you enough information so you can solve your own problem with irrigation. But you I think already realize that this is not the best irrigation setup for conserving water. You will have considerable waste even though it is on drip irrigation just because you have so few valves.

Bear with me on this. Let's all agree for the most part that as plants get larger they will require more water. Let's also agree that large plants will use more water, and considerably more water, is one smaller plant. The larger the plant, the more water it should receive. Irrigation valves are basically an on and off switch for water; when the valve is open, water flows. When the valve is closed, water stops flowing. Since you have one valve in the front and one valve in the back, these switches open water to all of your plants in the front at the same time and the valve in the back does the same for plants in the back.

There are three basic questions that must be answered; 1) how long to water, 2) how much should be applied, and 3) when to apply it. The valves basically solve the question when to water. The drip emitters solve the question about how much to water. Irrigation clock answers the question when to water. The irrigation valves allow water to flow and the emitters determine the amount of water applied to each plant. The length of time the valve is open combined with the size of the emitter determine the amount of water delivered plant.

This is where the confusion begins. To make it as easy as possible to irrigate let's hold one of these variables constant. Arbitrarily, let's hold the length of time the irrigation valve is open to one hour. Just for the sake of argument. It could be 30 minutes, it could be 90 minutes, but let's just hold it at 60 minutes. If we make this decision first, how many minutes to open the valves, it can make our other decisions much simpler. So we now agree the valve will be open for 60 minutes for drip emitters. This is how I typically determine an irrigation schedule for drip.

To determine how much water each plant will get we have to size our drip emitters. Because of plugging, it can be a little bit dangerous to give plants only one emitter. If that's emitter plugs, chances are we will lose the plant in a short period of time during the summer. To determine how much water to give the plant at each watering or when the valve is on we look at its size. The smaller plants of course require less every time the valve is on. So for the sake of argument let's do this. Let's give a plant 1 gallon of water every time the valve is open (in this case one hour) for every foot of its mature size. A very small plant may get 1 to 2 gallons. A medium-sized plant may get 3 to 6 gallons. A large shrub may get 8 to 15 gallon every time it's watered.

The larger the plant, the more emitters it will need under its canopy. A very small plant may require one to two emitters. A medium sized plant might require 3 to 4 emitters. A large shrub might require 6 to 8 emitters. So now you will take the number of gallons you are giving this plant and divide it by the number of emitters you will provide for each plant. When you do this, you will determine the number and size of the emitters you will give to each plant. So for instance a medium sized plant may get 3 to 6 gallons at each watering delivered by 3 to 4 emitters. So the size of the emitters might be 1 to 2 gallons per hour. But I would keep all the emitters going to one plant at the same size. So what if it's one or 2 gallons more than you calculated. What is important is that you apply enough water during one irrigation to water the entire rootzone of each plant (plus a little extra to keep those salts in our city water flushed out of the rootzone).

So now we have answered two of the questions; how long to run the valve and as a result of that how much water each plant will get because you have selected the correct size and number of emitters.

The next and last question is probably the most difficult to answer. Remember, you have elected to set the time that the irrigation valve remains open to 60 minutes. This is constant. This does not change ever. If you are even tempted to change the number of minutes to 30 minutes or 10 minutes or 90 minutes, slap your hand. When you are changing the schedule of your irrigation system, the only thing you change from now on is how many days per week or per month or every two weeks the valve comes on. Now raise your hand and repeat after me. I (state your name) promise to never change the number of minutes on my irrigation clock ever, ever again.

Generally speaking, and this may be modified because of the type of soil you have in your landscape, you'll irrigate about three times a week in Midsummer, twice a week in the late spring and early fall, once a week in early spring and late fall, and once a week to every 10 days during the winter.

Exceptions. Exceptions would include cacti and some succulents and truly desert plants. True desert plants should be on a separate valve or valves as well as lawns, bedding plants and your vegetable garden. The irrigation schedule I gave you above could apply to most fruit trees.

Now your Magnolia. Your Magnolia is in deep doodoo. It is not supposed to be here. It is supposed to be in San Diego, Louisiana, East Texas, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina. If you look around Las Vegas there are no old magnolias. It doesn't like it here. That being said, it is here and what are you going to do about it?

One of my old axioms states, “Plants that are not desert-adapted but which are planted in the desert, will require more time, energy and money to maintain them than desert-adapted plants.” Your Magnolia tree will require progressively more and more water as it gets larger. Besides struggling with our soils and our climate, the tree is simply not getting enough water.

I would recommend that you either put a donut shaped moat around the tree and use either more emitters or different emitters so that water fills the moat each time it's irrigated or you switch the tree to a different form of irrigation that will deliver more water in one hour. When you switch to a different form of irrigation that applies more water in one hour because of your valve, you will have to retain the water around the tree or it will run off the landscape and not wet all of the roots.

Some people recommend a coil of drip irrigation tubing with built in emitters every 12 inches. This type of tubing can be easily connected to existing main drip irrigation lines. They operate at similar pressures to your existing drip emitters. These will need to be flushed once a month so make sure you add a flush valve or flush cap at the end of this line.

Remember that all drip systems need to operate at the correct pressure and must be filtered. So make sure you have pressure regulators and filters on the system. Make sure you can flush the ends of the lines once a month.

Junipers Dying Planted in Same Spot

Q. We have a problem with our Japanese Junipers. We have planted them twice now and not very successfully. They all get the same amount of water, sun exposure, etc., however the 2 of them closest to our front door seem to die back and the other 2 stay green. We are not sure what the problem is and wondering if you can give any advice.  We love these and they are spreading like crazy since we put them in, until about 2 months ago, when the 2 started dying. Enclosed are pictures of our junipers.

A. A couple of things. First, I am not sure what a Japanese juniper is. Thre is a Jap garden juniper. There are Chinese junipers, and then we have probably dozens of others as well. From your description it sounds like a juniper that is a small shrub that mounds as it grows. That should be enough to get going.

            There are also junipers that are upright like a small tree. Next there were no pictures attached. But I will take a stab at it any way. I usually try to stay with the most common problems if it seems it fits.
            The usual reason junipers give up the ghost quickly like overnight is watering too often, the soil not draining well enough and the roots becoming diseased from too much water. Usually junipers that are in this category seem to die overnight.

            Another common problem is spider mites on junipers. These small spider-like creatures usually become a problem in the heat of the summer, not in the cooler months. Often these pests are problems a couple of weeks after we spray an insecticide like Sevin to control some other pest.

            If this sounds familiar to you then we might have a root rot problem going on with your junipers. The problem now is that this root rot disease will stick around in this soil and if you replant in the same hole there is enough disease potential built up the next junipers die as well from the same disease problem.

            Two things you can do. First, dig up the soil and add a lot of organic matter like compost so the soil does not hold water easily but drains after and watering. This is frequently a problem in soils close to a foundation where the contractors dump debris, leftovers and compact the soil. In this case if the soil is not draining well you might have to dig up this soil and put in some better soil and replace it.
            Secondly you might want to put a different plant in there, one that is not quite susceptible to root rot problems and stay away from junipers there.