Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Northern & Central Midwest
April, 2010
Regional Report

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This is my new rain barrel. I can't wait until it's filled with spring rains.

Save Your Water!

I finally bought rain barrels for my yard this year. I fussed around between buying kits and barrels, but eventually decided to buy some that are complete. They cost more, but it saves me the time since I won't have to gather parts and figure out how to put them together. Now I'm on my way to improving the water efficiency of my yard.

A water-efficient landscape is easier on the environment and can actually save you money and time once it is in place. Even though spring is not usually the time we focus on water-saving techniques, it's worth the time to review them so as we begin to garden, we have systems in place in anticipation of drier times.

Try a Rain Barrel
The rain barrel is a first step. This collects water from the roof that normally is lost as runoff. At my house, I don't have storm sewers, so the water runs off into the grass. This is fine, except that I would rather use it elsewhere to water plants that need it more than the grass.

Rain Garden
Besides saving run-off from the roof, another great water-saving technique to reduce run-off is a rain garden. This is a garden that slows surface water and is planted with water-tolerant plants that help the water be absorbed by the soil. This prevents waste and erosion. Best of all, rain gardens are beautiful additions to the landscape. There are plenty of websites and publications that can assist you in planning a rain garden.

The next step in saving water is to mulch absolutely everything. Mulch helps trap and hold moisture for plant use. It slows evaporation, and an added benefit is that it actually provides nutrients for the plants' use.

Add Organic Matter
When you are planting, mix organic materials such as compost into the planting bed. Organic matter holds onto moisture and makes it available for plant roots.

Be Water-Wise with Turf
Reconsider your lawn. The traditional Kentucky bluegrass lawn takes a lot of water to maintain. Perhaps you can eliminate some turf and put the area into mulched beds. Or over-seed your lawn with drought-tolerant grasses that take little maintenance, such as turf-type tall fescue.

Group Plants According to Water Needs
In other areas of the landscape, group plants that have similar water needs. That way you can water when necessary, but you won't be wasting water on plants that don't need much. This also makes for healthier plants, and allows you to use efficient systems like drip irrigation and "leaky" hoses.

Select Drought-Tolerant Plants
Be sure to choose plants that tolerate dry conditions. This doesn't mean you have to have a cactus garden, but think about a plant's native habitat when placing it. Native plants that grow naturally in dry soilswill be more tolerant of extreme conditions.

Most important, make conscious decisions when changing or adding to your landscape. A little forethought goes a long way toward creating a situation that is ideal for your plants and for you.

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