Beneficial Landscaping - Water Conservation
Beneficial Landscaping Conserves Water
These days water conservation is important year 'round, but especially during our Pacific Northwest summer droughts. During the dry season is a good time to focus on steps to conserve water in planning and maintaining our landscapes--be they commercial, public, or private properties. Planning your landscape for water conservation from the beginning is a great idea. Such a plan will encompass the steps that follow. Even if you haven’t planned, it’s not too late to apply many of these “water-wise” steps:
Prevention is the best medicine! Minimize the clearing of native vegetation when creating your site plan, since native plants are already adapted to the site where they are growing, and require little or no maintenance, such as watering, while providing aesthetic, economic, and environmental benefits. Salvage the native plants from cleared areas and use them in your landscape plan.
Prepare the soil
In the last issue of WaterTalk, we emphasized the importance of adding organic matter to your soil to control surface water runoff, improve plant growth, and ultimately protect salmon streams. That same organic matter helps to conserve water by increasing the soils’s capacity to hold water and make it available to plants.
Have sensible lawn areas
If a lawn is needed, plan for only as much as you really need for the activities you plan to carry out in your landscape. Leave the rest to native and/or water-conserving non-native ground covers, shrubs, and trees.
Select appropriate plants
Be sure to seek information from local sources, such as the Cooperative Extension Service, college and university horticulture departments, nurseries, other local experts, and/or library resources. In addition, it is helpful to know some of the features of water conserving plants. Here are a few clues:
Some plants lose less water from their leaves if they are waxy, shiny/reflective, covered with fine hairs, undulated or curled at the edges, succulent, and/or small. Some plants adapt to dry soil conditions by having shallow spreading roots that can pick up light rains or dew; by spreading by underground rhizomes; or by having deep tap roots that search deeply for and store water during dry periods. Other water conserving strategies are to grow over the soil surface to protect sensitive roots from heat, grow only at night, grow only when water is regularly available such as in the spring, and to go dormant during dry weather.
Analyze your site in order to match sun loving, shade tolerant, moisture loving, and drought tolerant plants with the right locations.
Mulches retain water, lower evaporation from the soil, and even help to contain weeds! By composting over time, organic mulches also enrich your soil and attract helpful organisms such as earth worms and other decomposers.
If you take the above steps, your need for irrigation could be minimal to nil. If you do irrigate, pay attention to the amount applied to prevent overwatering, and the area of application to avoid “watering the pavement”. Water in the early morning or evening rather than during the middle of the day. Irrigation can be a science in itself, with equipment ranging from drip irrigation systems and soaker hoses to professionally installed, mechanized, and timer operated sprinkler systems. For more advice, consult the Cooperative Extension Service or other local experts.
Conserving water brings us closer to our “roots.” However you approach it, enjoy the challenge!
Adapted from information provided by the Water Conservation Coalition of Puget Sound. Top