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July’s Work: Irrigation

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Does the summer heat have you pulling out the hose, filling buckets from your rain barrel and otherwise ensuring that your carefully selected plants get the water they desperately need?

Imagine doing that in 17 parks across the city!

Each year in July, Olmsted Parks Conservancy’s Team for Healthy Parks’ focus turns to irrigation. It’s exciting and inspiring to plant a new tree, but once it is in the ground, there is much work to be done to ensure that it thrives. Landscape beds and planters also demand attention. Throughout the Olmsted Park System there are 36 planting sites to water. The irrigation route takes approximately 3 days to complete!

Trees and landscape beds are treated differently in the irrigation schedule. We want to encourage trees to grow deep roots so we give them deep, infrequent drinks so the roots will seek out water beyond the surface. The green irrigation bags we use have micro pores that allow 20 gallons to slowly leak out and deposit water directly on the root zones of the trees. Landscape beds are watered more frequently.

Ideally, we are irrigating plants before they show signs of drought stress. Once a plant starts wilting, it has already been experiencing unseen stress. Stressed plants are more susceptible to pests and diseases so regular irrigation is the first step in mitigating detrimental problems down the road.

Rain is our friend! If we get an inch of rainfall in a week, we can generally take a week off from irrigation. Considering that we go through approximately 3,000 gallons of water per week during peak irrigation season, rainfall is a great help to our parks!

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