Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Responsible Gardener: water conservation and a green thumb

Watering Can by WallHave I mentioned that it has been dry here in Ohio; I mean really really dry. It's not that there haven't been wet weather systems moving through the area but several counties, including ours, have been missed by the rains associated with the systems.

Just yesterday the water authority banned lawn watering because the emergency reserves are so low. Then this morning we took our walk which skirts along the stream behind our house and except for a couple of puddles it is either sandy mud or bone dry. That would explain why we haven't seen the ducks lately; they have obviously migrated over to the medical center's lake.

This is an older plat which was once totally private wells but migrated over to the water authority. Most lots still have their well-heads even if they are not connected any longer. The neighbors with the large organic garden that gets watered twice a day must still use a well because this county has the steepest rates around in wet weather. We have a well and a functional pump but no pressure tank or tap.

We don't have a lot of vegetation to worry about. My biggest issue is the flowers I planted to hide the scar left from the willow that fell over and had to be removed. Because the area gets full sun since the tree is gone I bought Geraniums and Blue Salvia which are sturdier than average summer flowers. However, they still need some water regularly and tree scars are very porous until enough leaf mold and compost get worked in to fill where the roots are decaying away.

Having grown up in farming and endured dry spells I have collected a few hints over the years for managing water consumption and still maintain critical plant investments:

1. If you have the option to make changes in planned plantings, switch to hardier and more drought-resistant varieties. That strawberry patch you wanted to start might need to wait another year.

2. Use mulching material around plantings to choke out weeds that rob moisture and also to hold any moisture in the ground. This can be processed chipped mulch or mulching fabric; I still have free mulch from the tree removal.

3. If you must water vegetables and occasionally flowers, do it before the sun rises or after it sets. Also sinking watering holes helps to draw the water under ground where it evaporates more slowly; or at least water as close to the ground as possible instead of throwing it in the air to evaporate. Cutting the bottom off a 16 oz beverage bottle and pushing the neck deeply into the soil creates a funnel to draw the water underground and reduce run-off.

4. If you are allowed and must water a lawn, like new sod or a patch, read #3 and remember long, deep and infrequently is better than short, shallow and often. The same applies if you have new or stressed trees or shrubs. Those funny-looking soaker hoses really work but be careful about pushing anything into the root spread of trees or shrubs lest you kill them.

5. Cut back on grass mowing and get used to it being longer than you are usually comfortable letting it get. When it finally starts raining, your grass will thank you by soaking up that moisture in the roots you have encouraged to spread out. Also think of the money you will save on gas and oil that you aren't pouring into those machines.

So now you are all set to show your green-thumb savvy. Happy gardening!

Here are links to more information about dry weather gardening:

http://www.gardening-tips-guide.info/water-conservation.html

http://progressivegardening.com/droughtwaterconservationlinks.html

http://www.epa.gov/seahome/watcon.html

http://www.montgomerycountymd.gov/content/dep/greenman/drought.pdf

2 comments:

DS Writer said...

Thank you very much for these links

At A Hen's Pace said...

Just catching up here and wondering where in Ohio you live? I grew up in Urbana, if you know where that is--west of Columbus an hour or so.

Jeanne