by Sharon Hanna ©2002
Here are some hints to help you conserve water, loosely adapted from a recent American Landscape Nursery newsletter. Let your neighbours and friends know; they'll appreciate it in the long run, and so will the planet.
1. Place your plants in groups according to the amount of water they need. This way, you won't over- or under-water parts of your lawn or garden. Sloping garden? Place drought tolerant plants at higher elevations, and thirsty ones at lower elevations. The water from the higher areas will trickle down to the water-demanding plants.
2. If at all possible, try to water in the early morning, before 9am. Mid to late afternoon watering loses much to evaporation, and evening watering encourages diseases like mildew. You'd be sick too, if you went to bed wearing wet pyjamas.
3. Water slowly and deeply. Wear a Walkman, or practice meditation and/or deep breathing as you water. Use the opportunity to slow down and get up close and personal with your plant material. What a delight, for example, to be surprised by the first indescribably RED flowers of Lobelia cardinalis…If you like to water by hand, watering wands are effective, and put the water more or less where you want it to go.
4. Invest in a new good-quality sprinkler, and recycle that old leaky hose. Leaks waste water.
5. Avoid placing watering devices where they waste water on a driveway, deck or porch. Use a drip watering system. This can save up to 60% of the water used by sprinkler systems.
6. Mulching holds in moisture, and reduces evaporation. Keep up with regular mulching, pruning, composting, and taking care of your plants. Strong plants require less water than weak ones Use grass from the mower, shredded pea vines, hay, or whatever suitable, disease-free material you have handy. Even newspaper makes good mulch.
7. Avoid babying your plants (except newly-planted ones). Like people, plants need to work out to develop strength. It's fine to pamper the newly planted, though, as they need time to establish strong roots. (Babies don't need to lift weights!)
8. Keep the garden as reasonably weed-free as you can manage; weeds compete for water. Move container plants to shady areas during particularly hot and sunny spells. This will not only reduce water loss due to evaporation and watering, but keep your plants from 'blowing out' in the heat - blooming too quickly and rapidly fading…
9. If you have a lawn and you can stand it, practice 'letting go' - let your lawn go dormant. According to some experts, we may not be lucky enough to have a choice one of these days.
10. Choose an alternative to lawn such as wild flowers or tough ground cover. Most lawn grass will re-appear and green up quickly come rainy season.
Sharon Hanna is a writer, master gardener, vegetable seed specialist and garden communicator living in Vancouver, B. C. She works in an old-fashioned perennial nursery seasonally, and propagates plants in every possible way. Sharon's special interest is nurturing and attracting beneficial insects.