The words water conservation can be an ominous mouthful to the backyard gardener, but with a few simple suggestions and ideas, you can save water, save money and in one small part, save the environment.
When our thermometers climb next summer, so will our water usage, but we can do many small actions to impact how we save water and use it wisely. Only 2% of the earth’s water is drinkable, usable water, therefore it is imperative that our practices respect this fact.
When I began to look for areas where my own water was slipping needlessly down the drain, it was easy to come up with ways to capture it and use it elsewhere. The staggering part was how much I had been letting go. I started in my landscape for places that were inefficient. Sprinkler heads were changed and pointed in the correct direction or changed to smaller zones with drip lines. This gave me satisfaction as the flowers and vegetable thrived under the water routine. Then we came in-doors to evaluate our water use. A large 5 gallon bucket with a lid and hole in to top became the inside water barrel. All unfinished glasses of water are poured into the bucket everyday. Our vegetables and fruits are washed over a bowl and this water is deposited as well.
After a week of this new experiment there was enough water to give all of the indoor plants sufficient liquid and fill the dog water bowl also. This was exciting and inspired other ways to gather this otherwise wasted resource. Not only do these new practices make us feel more conscience of our part in conservation but also our water bill has actually decreased by nearly $40 per month.
Research done at Kansas State University and Utah State University found that even our thirstiest varieties of turf only require 14-24 inches of water each year. Obviously the majority of this need is in the summer months in hot climates. This fact proves that our lawns are not as greedy for water as we think, but in reality we water too much. Our landscapes will actually keep homes cooler when green and healthy. Watering too often does not allow for the natural gas exchange process to occur, therefore we can cause damage and unhealthy roots systems.
The plan, is to find out how much your lawn and landscaping need. This will vary slightly according to your soil type. If you have sandy soil, water drains through it more quickly, if there is more clay and silt present, the water cannot pass through as fast. By placing shallow containers or cans on 5-10 spots throughout your landscaping before the sprinkler cycle goes on, you can determine how much water is falling on these areas. This helps you to adjust heads, change spray directions and trim back foliage that may inhibit proper water flow. When you see how much water is in each container, you will then adjust the length of time that the water is left on in each zone. Remember, 1-2 inches per week is sufficient for a healthy lawn. Flowers, plants and containers will require more water during hot months that you can supplement with hand watering.
As your efforts increase to conserve water, you will be inspired for ways these ideas and others will work in your lifestyle and habits.
Ways to conserve water:
- Place a bucket with a tight fitting lid and a small hole cut in the top in your laundry room or out the back door. Pour water from glasses that do not get finished into the bucket. Wash fruits and vegetables over a large bowl and put this water in your bucket. Use this to water plants and containers in and around your home.
- Purchase a rain barrel to collect rainwater in the winter and spring. Most quality rain barrels come with a spigot for easy use.
- While waiting for your bath or shower water to heat up, place a five-gallon bucket under the faucet or head to collect otherwise wasted water.
- Only water lawns, plants and flowers when needed. 1-2 inches per week for most grasses and 2-4 inches per week for non-drought tolerant plants and flowers.
- Ensure that your sprinklers are not watering unnecessary things like sidewalks, streets or driveways. Turn the heads or adjust flow to keep it on your plants only.
- Plant drought tolerant varieties of grass and flowers.
- Mulch you beds for greater water retention.
Gabrielle Krake is a graduate of the Master Gardener Program and an avid vegetable and flower gardener. As a family of six, they practice sustainable gardening in the Northend. Information about the Master Garden Program is available through the Ada County Extension Office on Glenwood in Boise, Idaho. Check with your own extension offices locally to find out more about this exceptional program.