Tuesday, December 11, 2007

A Landscape Designer's Drought Survival Guide: Tips for helping your landscape survive future drought conditions

Article Courtesy of Hollingsworth Design Group, Fayetteville, GA.

The drought of 2007 will certainly be remembered by Georgians and the residents of our neighboring southern states for many years to come. It seems like daily I hear someone say something like "I've never seen Horton Reservoir so low." or" Have you seen Lake Kedron?" To say we need rain is a gross understatement. This drought of historic proportions has put our state's rainfall total at 15" below normal for the year. State and local officials are working hard to protect our precious water resources and we residents are trying to conserve wherever we can.

With statewide bans on outdoor watering our landscapes are suffering. At times like these we are reminded that taking a few steps to conserve water in our landscapes before a drought hits really pays off. Mulching planting beds, core aerating the lawn, water reclamation and sprinkler system optimization are just a few ways we can do just that.

Mulching and Aeration

During the winter months most plantings including lawns need very little water. For the most part winter rainfall is sufficient. Supplemental watering with sprinkler systems is rarely needed for established plant material. Plants need moisture in the winter to in large part, act as an insulator. That's right, when the air temperature drops below freezing, a hydrated plant will remain above 25 degrees fare height. If a plant is not hydrated and the air temperature plunges to 10 or 20 degrees below freezing, the plant will also get that cold. This is when we start loosing plant material. Keeping plants hydrated prior to freezing temperatures is a good idea.

But what can we do during a watering ban to help our plants survive frigid temps?
One suggestion is to apply a sufficient layer of mulch around your plantings to help them retain moisture. The mulch acts like a barrier that protects the subterranean moisture from evaporating via sun and wind exposure. Increase your lawn's ability to absorb water by core-aerating. Aeration sends spikes into the soil throughout your lawn and creates pathways for water to travel below the surface compared to just soaking in from the top.

Water Reclamation

Water reclamations methods from the past are making a come-back. Many Fayette residents are now installing rain barrels and cisterns. Rain captures can be stored and used later to water plants, wash the car, etc.

Rain barrels are above-ground containers that are connected to the home's gutter system via the downspout. You might be amazed how much water travels through your gutters during a short rain shower.

An advanced water reclamation is the cistern. Used for thousands of years by many different cultures, this "old school" approach offers plenty of modern benefits. A cistern is a large, underground tank that stores water collected from the gutter down spouts. A series of buried pipes carry rain water from the downspouts to the underground reservoir. A 110volt pump provides pressurize water flow water spigots above ground when water is needed. Cisterns come in a variety of shapes and sizes. They range in capacity from about 500 - 3,000 gallons or more. Prices start around $2,500 for a standard system installed.

Sprinkler System Optimization

Sprinkler systems are wonderful tools that when utilized properly allow us to grow beautiful landscapes that would not otherwise be possible. Manufactures of sprinkler components have provided an array of products designed to optimize efficiency and conserve water.

Unfortunately, many systems are not installed to take advantage of these advances in technology and many homeowners are not educated on the proper use of their system. Consequently, a lot of water is wasted.

During the growing season, the average home in Fayette County will use thousands of gallons of water each week if it runs just three times. If you have a sprinkler system, consider implementing the following suggestions to maximize your conservation effort.

*Install a rain sensor to avoid running the sprinkler during or to shortly after a rain shower.
*If your are having significant runoff of sprinkler water during operation, it indicates that your run times are too long or the soil is compacted and not absorbing the water and should be aerated.
*Using a rain gauge, calculate the amount of water being delivered to a zone based on the run time. Lawns require 1" of water per week and shrubs approximately 1/3" per week.
*The average sprinkler head operates best at 55 psi. The pressure coming through your county water meter can be double that number. Install a pressure regulator and adjust to the proper psi.
*Hire a certified sprinkler company to inspect your system and make sure is operating properly.

It will rain again

Hopefully the drought will end soon. The National Weather Service has released predictions for rain fall levels for late Winter and Spring 2008. They anticipate normal rainfall amounts to return for our area. Hopefully, with the water restrictions still in place, our reservoirs will begin to fill up.

Let's work together to continue practicing water conservation measures even when rainfall is abundant. This will help protect our water supply for the future and it is just the right thing to do.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

a great rain barrel can be found at www.aquabarrel.com