Going Green To Save Green

Three or four months ago I began noticing a new idea on television. If you watch the news on NBC, you’ll know what I am referring to. It’s the idea to “Go Green”. Sure, the concept of going green has existed for decades…”Recycle, Reuse.” However, in a time when we’re paying double or more for the price of gas then we did last decade, the initiative is bound to resonate in the minds of consumers. Don’t worry, I’m not about to lecture you on the need to ride your bike to work when it’s 100 degrees outside. Instead, I intend to give you a few ideas on “Going Green To Save Green” in your landscape environment. If you do your own landscape maintenance, these few ideas will cut down on the frequency and time required for upkeep. If you hire someone to maintain your yard, you’ll save money by cutting down on how often they trim your plants or remove your weeds. The key factor is how you water your landscape.

The type of irrigation that exists in your yard and how it is used can affect more things then you realize. First of all, if you are not using an automated irrigation system (one that has a programmable timer), then you must be watering your plants manually. You may be watering with a garden hose or manually turning on a drip irrigation system that does not have a timer. The major problem associated with this method is the need to remember on a regular basis as well as not forgetting to shut it off. Either method can result in over-watering and/or runoff.

Over-watering will have its share consequences. Firstly, over-watering on a regular basis can lead to plant disease and/or weak root systems. Secondly, runoff equates to watering where it isn’t needed. Not only does this translate into wasted water but, it will encourage weed growth. Watering weeds demands more time on the weekend to remove them (not to mention the cost of weed killing solutions) or having to pay your landscaper to work more frequently in your yard. If you are watering with a garden hose, you may be applying the water at a faster rate than can be absorbed. This prevents enough water to penetrate the entire root zone. Plants being watered using this method will tend to have shallower roots. Shallow roots can be over stressed during a hot, dry spell. Over time, your plants life span will be shortened dramatically. A shortened life span means money spent on replacement plants. Thirdly, over-watering can lead to your plants growing at a faster rate requiring them to be trimmed more frequently than if they were on a timed schedule appropriate to the need they have.

If installing an automated irrigation system is not an option at this moment in time for you, then consider the following suggestions to maximizing the potential from watering your plants manually. Create berms (dirt mound 2-3 inches high) that surround each plant. You can easily fill these natural bowls to capacity using a garden hose. This will allow the ground to absorb the water at its own pace. This will keep you from having to stand in front of each plant with the water trickling out of your hose, waiting for the water to be absorbed. If you have a drip system without a timer, creating berms can help prevent runoff (especially if your plants are on a slope) if you forget to shut it off. Secondly, you should aerate the dirt surrounding your plant. Aerate is just a fancy word for loosening up the soil so that the water can penetrate easier. If you have hard soil surrounding your plants, you can use a shovel, pick axe or a cultivator. Use caution that you do not damage the roots closest to the surface. Thirdly, consider applying mulch and/or gravel (more than likely you already have gravel as a part of your landscape) around the base of your plant. This will help keep the roots cooler by retaining moisture, minimizing water loss due to evaporation. Gravel can also help minimize runoff. Finally, consider setting the alarm clock on your cellular phone or kitchen stove clock if you leave your watering unattended.

It is easy to overlook how short our water supply is in the desert southwest considering we have no restrictions imposed upon our usage. With an average of only 12 inches of rain, there is not an abundant supply. However, if this fact is a difficult one to change your habits of water usage, remind yourself of the immediate consequences of demanding time and/or money to maintain your landscape due to not having an automated irrigation system.  Be on the look out for future articles of how to “Go Green To Save Green” in your outdoor environment.

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