Saturday, July 21, 2018

In the Garden – 5 Water-Saving Tips

Ruth de Jauregui
Golden Barrel Cactus
Credit: AcrylicArtist / Morguefile.com

Water-saving measures in the garden help both the budget and environment, especially during the hottest days of summer. While some gardeners prefer a rock garden that supports a variety of cacti and other succulents, others yearn for a tropical paradise. No matter what your preference, you can design a garden that nourishes your soul while saving water and money.

Compost
Credit: suezoo / Morguefile.com
1) Amend the soil with compost and well-decomposed manure. Adding organic matter helps sandy soil hold moisture and lightens clay soil so it drains better. Slowing the water as it moves through sandy soil gives the plants' roots an opportunity to soak up the moisture. Amending clay soil with organic matter helps water move through the soil. This reduces the all-too-familiar cycle of clay soil -- sticky and heavy when wet and transforms into a concrete-hard surface when dry. In addition, compost and manure add nutrients to the soil.

Salvias
Credit: tony7 / Morguefile.com
2) Select plants that tolerate some drought. Nearly all plants require some water, but a willow tree requires much more water than a maple or oak (and its roots may invade your water and sewer lines). Salvias, for example, not only provide color but also attract bees, butterflies and hummingbirds. Several varieties are native to the Southwest and tolerate dry conditions. Native plants are already adapted to local conditions, though plants from other parts of the world that feature similar climatic conditions may also thrive in your garden.

3) Add a rain barrel under the downspouts to save rainwater for a dry day. Rain barrels vary in size and design, but essentially allow you to save water and use it in the garden later. Build a solid base under the rain barrel; water weighs 8 pounds per gallon and a barrel may hold up to 50 gallons. Raising the barrel allows the water to travel through a hose from the spigot to the garden.

Female Ruby-throated Hummingbird
Credit: AcrylicArtist / Morguefile.com
4) Install soaker hoses or a drip-watering system. A simple battery operated timer allows you to set up a watering schedule that automatically turns the water on before the sun rises and turns it off before the water runs off into the gutter. If possible, water in the very early morning. The plants have a chance to soak up the water before the sun rises. A drip-watering system also allows you to apply the correct amount of water to each plant according to its needs by simply adding more emitters over the rootball.

Wood Chip Mulch
Credit: louiedemo / Morguefile.com
5) Mulch. Add 3 to 6 inches of organic mulch, such as bark chunks, over all the bare soil in the garden. Pull the mulch 4 inches away from plants' stems. Mulch shields the soil from the hot sun and slows water evaporation, thus helping maintain a consistent moisture level around the plants' roots.

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