Xeriscaping, Rainwater Harvest, Smart-watering
The long, hot days of summer have arrived. That means you will have the urge to beautify your yard. After all, well-maintained lawns and gardens improve neighborhood morale and bring satisfaction to the homeowner, but at what cost? In many areas the underground freshwater aquifers are being depleted faster than they can replenish themselves. Half of the nation experiences drought on a regular basis, and surveys show that half of domestic water use is spent in the garden! Below are a few tips to help you design a water-saving garden that is also low-maintenance. Now, you can spend more time enjoying the fruits of your labor, and less time sweating to maintain them.
Choose Local, Native Plants
Local, native plants have evolved to perfectly suit the climate and soil conditions in your area. In dry climates,
xeriscaping (xeri is greek for dry) is the way to go. Xeriscaping is a term for selecting plants with very low water needs. No matter what your climate, when choosing plant varieties always select local, native plant species. There are two great benefits to planting native varieties:
- Being adapted to your area, local, native plants require little (if any) in the way of soil amendments, are less susceptible to being overtaken by weeds than sensitive introduced species, and are used to the normal annual rainfall. What this means to you as a gardener is fewer hours spent fertilizing, weeding, and watering.
- Plants and animals evolve together, so by planting native plant species, you do a favor to native fauna. While "alien" or introduced plant species can have striking appearances, they are useless to the local bird and butterfly populations. Plant local shrubs and flowers and watch your garden come alive with hummingbirds, songbirds, butterflies and other pollinators.
For a list of plants native to your region, check with your nearest farmers extension or co-op, and The National Wildlife Federation's
eNature site lists native plants in each state.
When planning your garden, group plants with similar water needs together, and place them in the most appropriate area of your landscape. This makes it easy to deliver the appropriate amount of water, and can turn trouble spots into oases!
Is there a patch of lawn that is stubbornly soggy? That may be the ideal place to plant a water loving native shrub or blooming groundcover. A rocky slope may be perfect for sowing native wildflowers. Make a rough map of your lawn and try to make use of natural patterns.
Check out the
Native Plant Database to search a directory based on the state you live in, soil conditions, and more.
Even with the best planning, you may need to occasionally water your garden. Here are a couple suggestions to help you use water wisely:
- Harvest rainwater. Collect the rainwater from your roof to use in the garden. Rainwater harvesting can be as simple or as complex as you choose. Downspouts running into 50-gallon drums are common in some areas of the country. A screen atop the barrel prevents mosquitoes from breeding, and a faucet at the barrel's base lets you remove water easily for use around the garden. More refined options involve larger cisterns and small pumps.
- Consider installing a "smart" irrigation system. Unlike simple timer-based controllers, "smart" controllers monitor site conditions (soil moisture, rain, slope, plant type, and more), and use this information to apply the right amount of water to maintain healthy growing conditions. Some systems use local weather station data, but the
Weathermatic uses sensors placed in your very own garden
For more information about rainwater harvesting consult these sites:
Texas Guide to Rainwater Harvesting
Greenbuilder's Sourcebook on Harvested Rainwater
American Rainwater Catchment Systems Association
Content updated on 7/2/2007