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7 Ways to Achieve Water Wisdom & Shrink Your Water Bill

Summer is here, no doubt about it.  As the temperatures climb, so does the dread of getting that water bill after suffering through weeks of 90 and 100 degree days.  Isn't it tough enough just making sure all of our beloved lawns and flowers stay green and fresh during the dog days of summer?

Here's a bit of trivia for you - landscaping and toilets are typically the biggest water consumers in your household.  Almost half of all household water use is for the lawn and garden.  Here are some simple ways to conserve water in your landscaping world.  To begin, let's start with a few…

WATER FACTS
Vegetable crops are 80 to 95% water
Average garden soil will store two to four inches of water per foot.
Growing vegetable crops need about one to two inches of water per week.
An average-size tomato plant transpires about 30 gallons of water during a season.

IT'S ALL ABOUT LOCATION! (and what you put in that location)
By planning your garden before you plant, you can take advantage of the characteristics of your site, such as sun, shade, wind and soil. Group plants with similar water needs. Also consider how your plants will get the water they need. Will you need to carry water to demanding plants in a remote corner of your yard? Planning will save you time and energy down the road.  A plant that's satisfied getting most of the water it needs from natural rainfall will require a lot less work from you. If you are in an area that gets very little rain fall- then choose drought-tolerant perennials varieties that are native to your area (or a region with a similar climate). These plants will be naturally adapted for your local climate and soils. For example, a plant that thrives in the Pacific northwest will likely require lots of additional water in the much drier conditions of Texas and Oklahoma.

 

ORGANIC MATTER…WELL IT "MATTERS"  (Just add it and you will see how much)
All soil is not created equal. Soil is essentially a collection of mineral particles of different sizes. If most of the particles are large and sandy, water drains through rapidly. If most of the particles are small and clay-like in nature, water will penetrate the soil much more slowly. The solution for either problem is the same: add organic matter. Organic matter, in the form of compost, chopped up leaves or composted manure will improve the texture and water-holding capacity of your soil. Add at least an inch of compost each year.  If all else fails, head to your local nursery or hardware store and purchase organic matter by the bag.  My current favorite is mushroom compost.  Inexpensive and magic with your plants.

LISTEN TO YOUR GRANDMOTHER AND MULCH, MULCH, MULCH
A six to eight-inch layer of organic mulch can cut water needs in half by smothering thirsty weeds and reducing evaporation. Organic mulches retain some water themselves and increase the humidity level around plants.
Organic mulches include chopped or shredded leaves, straw, compost, salt hay, shredded newspaper, grass clippings and rotted hay. Let nature's left overs do the dirty work for you!

 

SOAK IT UP & BE A DRIP
Drip irrigation and soaker hoses ensure that up to 90 percent of the water you apply to your garden is actually available to your plants. Sprinklers can claim only a 40 to 50 percent efficiency. Drip irrigation minimizes evaporation loss and keeps the areas between plants dry, which also helps limit weed growth. Soaker hoses delivers water slowly and evenly in garden or landscape beds.

 

REDUCE YOUR LAWN "FOOTPRINT"
Turf grass is one of the most water and labor-intensive types of "gardens" you can have. Consider planting ground covers or low-maintenance perennials instead.

DID SOMEONE SAY "FREE WATER"?  
Rainwater is the best choice for your plants. It's clear, un-chlorinated and free. Use rain barrels or a cistern to collect water from your downspouts. A 1,000 square foot roof will yield 625 gallons of water from one inch of rain. Yes, you read correctly.  625 FREE GALLONS.  Think about that when you are paying your next water bill.

Until next month….try just one thing in the list above.  Wait and see the positive impact changing just one thing will have on your time, landscape and wallet!