Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Lower South
June, 2009
Regional Report

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A rainwater collection system can save on the water bill while providing plants with the best quality water available.

More Tips for Being Water Wise in the Landscape

In the previous article I provided five tips for making our landscapes more water efficient. This column is a continuation of that theme with five more tips to grow a beautiful landscape and garden without wasting water.

Tip #6 - Build a berm around new shrubs and trees. The first summer is a critical one for newly planted shrub and trees. These plants need time to grow an extensive root system that is able to provide for the plant during extended dry spells. It is difficult to provide a good soaking to the plant's confined root ball with a garden hose without the water running off the surface.

Build up a 4-foot-diameter berm of soil about 4 inches high around these new plants. Once every 3 to 7 days, depending on the temperature, fill the berm with water. This provides a deep, thorough soaking where the plant needs it most.

Tip #7 - Install a rainwater collection system. Rainwater collection is an oldie but goodie. In the old days many folks out west depended on the rainwater cistern beside their homes. Now many new homes are going in with elaborate rainfall collection systems in place. Did you know that 1 inch of rain on a 2000-square-foot home provides 1,100 gallons of water which can be collected and stored in tanks for later use? There is no better water than rainwater for plants and it just makes sense to take advantage of the free water our rooftops receive each year.

Tip #8 - Switch from sprinklers to drip irrigation. Drip irrigation provides water to the soil surface rather than the plant's foliage. This means less is lost to evaporation and more ends up in the plant's root zone. There are a number of types of drip irrigation as well as microjet technologies that spurt large droplets in a circular area from small emitters set down low to the ground.

Tip #9 - Take advantage of water saving gadgets. There are a number of water-saving gadgets on the market that can help save water in your garden and landscape. Rain switches can be added to your irrigation system that prevent it from coming on when it is raining or for several days after a rain.

Ever turned on a hose end sprinkler in the evening and woke up the next morning to find the neighborhood kids playing in the curbside river you provided? A simple hose-end timer allows you the ability to set how long the water will run and then turns it off for you! These are just two of many new water-saving devices available to help us avoid wasting this precious natural resource.

Tip #10 - Consider a landscape renovation. Summer is a good time to do a walk-through in your landscape to evaluate plantings for the 3 R's: remove, replace, and relocate. Some plants just are not well adapted to our area and may be deemed not worth the water it takes to keep them happy. The decision to pull them out is a tough one but at times is the best choice.

This is true for turfgrasses, ground covers and other ornamentals. Some plants are just in the wrong spot and need to be relocated, perhaps to an area with morning sun and afternoon shade where they can thrive on half the water. Fall is the best time to plant new perennials, shrubs, and trees or to relocate existing ones. By evaluating now you'll be ready to go with your landscape renovation when the weather cools off in October and November.

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