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Save money and water with smart lawn and garden tips

August 5, 2009

Even if your region is one of the few areas of the country not experiencing repeated drought seasons, it still makes sense environmentally and economically to conserve water as much as possible in your gardening and landscaping efforts.

“Nothing shouts ‘green’ quite like a thriving garden or a lush landscape,” says Susan Thayer, an irrigation and water conservation expert, “…except, perhaps, a beautiful yard or garden that’s been nurtured with green practices that conserve precious water.”

While drought in some mid-northern areas is expected to improve, dry conditions will likely persist in areas such as California, Texas, Florida and North Carolina, according to the Seasonal Drought Outlook map. One thing that isn’t likely to change anytime soon, however, is the need to cut costs and conserve resources during an economic recession.

Conserving water makes sense environmentally, and can also help your family reduce your water utility bill this summer.

It is possible to grow a thriving garden and nurture a lovely landscape while minimizing water consumption and saving money on your water bill. A combination of native-friendly plants, smart agricultural practices, alternative water sources and efficient irrigation can help keep gardens and lawns growing healthy throughout dry spells.

Here are some tips for conserving water and saving money by reducing your water bill in your corner of the planet.

• Choose drought-resistant native plants for your landscaping needs. Your options won’t be limited to cactus, either. From ornamental grasses to shrub roses, many drought-tolerant native species also offer bright color and visual appeal. Look for plants that do well in the driest conditions found in your geographic region. Your local Cooperative Extension office can help you identify plants that are right for your area. You’ll also find plenty of ideas online at sites like www.gardeners.com.

• Groom soil for optimum water absorption and retention. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service recommends adding water-retaining organic material to your soil. You can also reduce evaporation by using mulch in landscaping beds.

• Look for alternative water sources other than the outdoor tap—such as collecting the water that drains from your air conditioner. Consider collecting roof runoff in a rain barrel for use in flower beds and vegetable gardens.

• Irrigate efficiently with low-volume irrigation systems and smart watering practices. Many communities now require all newly-built homes to use low-volume irrigation in their landscapes. On average, micro sprinklers and drip irrigation uses 80 to 90 percent less water than traditional irrigation systems.

Irrigation manufacturers like Mister Landscaper are responding to increased consumer demand for low-volume systems by offering micro sprinkler and drip products that homeowners can easily install on their own. Mister Landscaper’s Micro Sprinkler Starter Kits efficiently and slowly irrigate flower and vegetable gardens, as well as areas where trees and shrubs grow. They are available in the plumbing department at Lowe’s Home Improvement stores or online at www.misterlandscaper.com. The system also offers a variety of retrofit products that allow you to replace or add on to an existing underground pvc sprinkler system so you can convert 120 gallons per hour (gph) heads to a 10 gph micro spray or 1-2gph dripper.

“The key is to apply water only exactly when and where it is needed,” Thayer says. Drip and micro spray irrigation provide optimum efficiency with minimum waste and over spray.

• Design your landscaping to minimize evaporation. Windbreaks and fences slow the movement of the wind over the ground and the evaporation it causes, according to the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

To learn more about low-volume irrigation, visit www.misterlandscaper.com. For more information about water conservation, go to www.nrcs.usda.gov.

from the August 5 – 11, 2009 issue

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