The WaterWise Program
In the past, water shortages and drought seemed to happen in other places, to other people. Most of us grew up thinking of water as an unlimited resource. Remember running through the sprinkler or playing with the hose on a hot summer day? Those simple pleasures aren't an option for kids anymore. Drought and population growth have stressed water resources to the limit. Communities across America are issuing watering restrictions and bans. Whether our concern is for our own withering landscape, devastated agricultural crops or global warming, water shortages are a wake up call. But there are ways of coping, of being Water Wise! Consider the following tips.
Twenty Tips for a Water Wise Garden
Appreciating the economic, environmental and psychological benefits of plants is easy. Just imagine a world without them. These assets, and the time and money already invested in landscapes, are reason enough to preserve them.
Water Wise gardening has advantages of its own: stronger plants, less maintenance, lowered water bills and decreased demand on natural resources. Even in drought-free conditions, these principles make good gardening sense.
1. Group plants according to water requirements to avoid over-or-under-watering.
2. Use plants that need less water. Plenty of attractive varieties meet this definition.
3. Install new plants when reliable rainfall is expected. In many regions, fall is the best time to plant.
4. Build basins around shrubs and trees to limit runoff.
5. Mulch to reduce moisture evaporation.
6. Fertilize properly--too much stimulates thirsty new growth.
7. Pruning keeps plants strong and less water dependent.
8. Prioritize watering. New plants need more frequent watering than established trees and shrubs.
9. Irrigate lawns only when needed. If grass springs back up after you walk on it, it doesn't need water. Or, let your lawn go dormant; most grasses rebound when rains return.
10. Mow higher and less often. Longer leaf surfaces encourage deeper rooting and shade roots. Mowing puts grass under additional stress that requires more water.
11. Water plants when the soil is dry, not before.
12. Use a spring-loaded hose spray or hose-end turn-off device.
13. Adjust sprinklers so water reaches lawns and gardens, not pavement.
14. Inspect sprinkler systems for leaks.
15. Time your watering. Water early to decrease evaporation. Avoid windy days for the same reason.
16. Water infrequently, deeply, and thoroughly. This stops wasteful runoff and encourages deeper root development. Plants with deep roots develop greater tolerance to dry spells.
17. Install a drip irrigation system. You'll save up to 60 percent of the water used by sprinklers.
18. Move container plants to shady areas. Watering them over the root area of a tree puts excess water to good use.
19. Remove weeds. Weeds rob water and nutrients from valuable plants.
20. Watch the weather. Don't irrigate if rain is predicted. Skip at least one watering after a good rain. Cut back watering times and frequencies in cool and/or humid weather.
For more information, see http://virginiagreen.org/be_water_wise.htm