Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Lower South
October, 2007
Regional Report

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Hose-end timers help you water your lawn and landscape more efficiently.

Landscaping With 2020 Vision

If you could put in a new landscape now that would still be cutting edge in the year 2020, what would it look like? Landscapes, like the plants in them, grow up and mature over time. Some become quite dated and end up being revamped or replaced.

Often plants outgrow their space and require frequent pruning or replacement with more dwarf species. Disease-prone plants sentence their owners to years of spraying and care. Water is another issue altogether. This year has taught us a lot about landscape watering in the lower South. While some areas had reached their total annual rainfall by only midseason, others are still in the midst of the historic drought. Those gardeners in areas blessed by ample rains haven't forgotten how quickly this can, and will, change. As our population continues to grow, water looms as a key factor in what kinds of landscapes we will have in years to come.

Designing Water-Efficient Landscapes
The arid parts of the western U.S. have been dealing with the issue of water shortages for years now. In these areas landscapes have long been designed with water conservation in mind. The terms "xeriscaping" and "water-wise" landscaping are familiar to many residents.

Now the concern over the availability of water in the future is moving east as projected population growth challenges the availability of quality water supplies. The idea of pumping thousands of gallons of drinking water onto the landscape to keep plants alive is starting to come into question in many areas. Not only is it an expensive endeavor, but during an extended drought, landscapes are among the first to go in the limited allocation of precious water supplies.

All this philosophical pondering is not to say that we all need to plant cacti and agaves. There are many ways to create a water-efficient landscape other than choosing truly water-stingy plants. The seven principles of xeriscaping provide a guide to proper landscape design and maintenance. They are a good starting point for water-efficient landscaping.

Terraces or other natural features that capture water provide a way to ensure that rain falling on your property stays on your property, soaking into the ground to be available for plants to draw on in weeks to come. Rain gardens are growing in popularity as another way to utilize extra water that might otherwise wash away.

Rainwater collection is growing in popularity in many areas. There is nothing better than rainwater, as any plant can attest! Some people simply install a rain barrel or two near roof downspouts, while others go with a whole-home system capable of storing tens of thousands of gallons. When you consider that for every 1,000 square feet of living area, your roof captures about 600 gallons of water during a 1-inch rainstorm, the potential for water savings really adds up!

Other technologies such as drip irrigation, irrigation controllers connected to soil moisture sensors, evapo-transpiration monitoring, and gray water systems offer additional potential for saving on landscape water use.

As we build our landscapes it makes sense to design and construct them in ways that will help ensure they become even more valuable over time. Our landscapes contribute significantly to the value of our homes, so we should use a little 2020 vision and make wise investments in the future of our properties.

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