Here’s a cool way to save energy in your gardens and grounds: water wisely. What? Doesn’t this just save water? Well, yes and no.
Of course being careful with water is a good idea in and of itself. In the arid and drought-prone regions of the country, landscaping specifically to use little or no extra water – known as xeriscaping – has come to be not only acceptable but even required in some towns. And even in regions that have traditionally received plenty of rain, new weather patterns are changing our old ways of thinking about where, when and how we water.
But consider this: the water in our hoses comes to us via pumps that are run by electricity. Thirteen percent of U.S. electricity is spent on supplying water, and 30-80% of this goes to outdoor watering. So, yes, when we irrigate carefully and minimally, we do conserve water. Beyond that, though, we also reduce our consumption of energy.
If you’d like to keep your landscape looking good and at the same time save energy through wiser watering, here are some tips to keep in mind.
The Plants in your Landscape
- Select plants to fit the moisture conditions of your site. Before you choose plants to buy, no matter how pretty they may be, pay attention to your site’s sun, shade and the type of soil itself, as well as how much water might be draining toward or away from the place where you’re thinking of putting the plants. Even moist soil will dry out in full sun, and dry soil will hold moisture longer in the shade.
- Group plants according to their moisture requirements. Vegetable gardens, fruit orchards and other food plants that definitely need water should be concentrated for that purpose. You can also group special “pet” plants that you know will need extra care. Let the rest of the landscape be low- or no-water.
- Consider this once-radical but increasingly acceptable idea: let your lawn go dormant (i.e. tan) during the heat of summer. In nature, grass naturally goes dormant during dry spells: the roots stay alive below ground and when moisture returns, grass blades pop up again full of life.
- Use mulch generously to help hold moisture in the soil. Mulch can be made of chopped leaves and twigs, or your own compost. Avoid colored mulches, which are often made from shredded construction materials: a potentially toxic and always energy-expensive option. Note: make sure mulch doesn’t rest against the base of a tree or shrub, where it will soften the bark and ultimately harm the plant.
The Overall Landscape
- Position gardens at the base of slopes, where rainwater will naturally run toward them. Or shape the ground so surface rainwater flows where you want it to go.
- Use collected rainwater instead of hose-water. For some people, a single rain barrel that catches water from the roof can be appropriate. In other situations, a cistern or larger water-holding container will be preferable, either above- or below-ground. The right solution depends on the size of your gardens, the rainfall in your region, and your own temperament.
- Set up a greywater system, in which water from your sinks, tubs and washing machine can be captured and re-used to irrigate the landscape. This new technique is not allowed in some places, and not recommended for watering food, but it’s a great way to save energy and water, where appropriate.
- Spray irrigation uses twice as much electricity as drip, so whenever possible use drip lines or soaker hoses, not sprinklers.
- If you need to water with sprinklers, avoid using them on sloped land, where a lot of the water will run off and be wasted. Consider alternatives: mulched beds, woodland plants in the shade, a wildflower meadow in the sun, etc. And if you absolutely need to irrigate your lawn to keep it green all summer long, make sure the soil is as absorptive and spongy as possible, to get the greatest benefit from your water expense.
- For installed irrigation systems, use “smart controllers” that regulate the frequency and duration of watering based on current, present-time weather information obtained from satellites.
You get the picture? There are so many ways we can save energy by reducing the amount of water we add to our landscapes. Give one or two of them a try! And tune in again in two weeks to discover a completely new way to lower your home’s utility bills.
Energy-Wise Landscapes at Go Green America TV by:
Author, Landscape Architect, Eco-Conscious – Sue Reed
Category: Energy-Wise Landscapes
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