YANZUM Gardens
Since 1989 All rights reserved 1989 - 2013
Spring Flowers sculpture, recycled from bed springs
(above photo) "Spring Flowers" garden sculpture created by author from old recycled bed springs.

Watering Your Lawn & Garden Responsibly

My very enlightened friend Jeremiah has been telling me for a long time now that the next major world crisis is going to revolve around a shortage of water. I believe him. We're already beginning to see hints of what the future has in store for us.

On May 16, 2009 I read an article in the newspaper about the serious water situation in Tampa, Florida. There was a photo of their water holding reservoir. It was nearly empty. Citizens are forbidden to water their lawns and also they are asked to conserve water in other ways because the situation is very serious. Tampa built a desalinization plant to make sea water potable, but it's been riddled with problems since it was installed in 2003. Combined with the expensive leaking new reservoir and the recent 3 year drought, well, you can see Tampa has a very serious water shortage problem. They aren't alone

A while back  I was in Atlanta visiting friends. The friend I stayed with was out of town, so he asked me to water his plants on the deck, but he warned me to be very careful and not let anyone see me. The reason was, Atlanta was also going through a severe water shortage and outside watering was forbidden. They were going through a long period of drought. All of Atlanta and the entire metropolitan area receives its water from the Chattahoochee River. Lake Lanier north of Atlanta acts as the “reservoir”, but due to the drought, the water was being siphoned off much faster than it was being replenished. To add to the dilemma, the millions of people in the Atlanta metro area are not the only ones who depend on the Chattahoochee for their drinking water. Both Alabama and Florida have been fighting with Atlanta for years about who controls the water and how much each should get.

Water the lawn, not the street
Water the Lawn, NOT the street

I live in central Florida where it seems everyone has a well for watering lawns. This creates some problems because it makes it much too easy for people to waste water, especially since it's not going through a meter and a bill isn't sent each month for payment. When I first moved here there weren't many watering restrictions that I knew of. Now we are only allowed to water 2 days per week and only before 9 AM and after 5 PM. Logically I assume this is to avoid water from being wasted by evaporation in the heat of the day. As I ride my bike or walk around the neighborhood, it's obvious that many people either are oblivious to the rules, or they simply don't care. Maybe, like the infamous Leona, they think the rules apply to everyone else, but not them. I constantly see lush green lawns being watered in the middle of the day and I can't help but think about the needless waste. I often see sprinklers running mid day at one home nearby even though there is no actual lawn....just weeds poking through the sand. I don't understand how people can be so thoughtless.

We all pay the price in the end with tighter restrictions and less water to draw from. Each year we hear increasingly more reports about our fragile Florida aquifer that we all depend on for our drinking water, as well as all of our other water needs. Collectively we are going to suck the thing dry if we don't change our ways. Well, I exaggerate to make a point. We won't suck it dry, but eventually we'll be sucking salt water instead of fresh water, which will render it useless as we go thirsty.

I know other parts of the country are having similar water shortage experiences. We're all in this together so we must all do our part to conserve our precious natural resources, especially water. We all depend on fresh potable water for our very survival. Just like with food, if we are greedy and take more than our share, someone else will likely go hungry. We may not be to that point yet, but we're rapidly approaching it, so why not do the right thing and start conserving now. We can no longer afford to be selfish. Water only when it's your turn, do it at the allotted times and make sure you have a rain gage installed on your automatic sprinkling system. There is nothing more wasteful than a sprinkling system running in the rain. There are many other ways of conserving water at home, but for this article I'm focusing on the outside.

Lawns are probably the most thirsty of all plant material to keep it looking good. Some types of grass are worse than others. If we must have a lawn, it should be a drought tolerant variety. What I would prefer to see is for more people to do away with their lawns altogether, trading them in for gardens. That's what I did shortly after I moved here. Section by section I removed the grass and replaced it with many varieties of plants. I now have my own personal botanical garden surrounding my home. It requires far less water than my former lawn did and I never have to pollute the air by mowing it. Over time I've replaced a lot of those plants with drought tolerant plants that always look great even when there is no rain for long periods. I highly recommend this idea. It has many benefits including less maintenance, requires much less water and it's beautiful to look at. I did away with my sprinkling system long ago, preferring when necessary to water by hand held hose, making sure the water goes directly to the plants instead of being wasted with a mass coverage. It takes a little more effort but it's the right thing to do for our environment. Using this hands on approach also forces me to look at each plant, one by one,  to make sure they are all in good health.

Mulching around plants is a great way to keep the plants cool and moist, requiring less water for the plant to stay in top shape. Natural  mulch such as chipped wood, like compost, breaks down in time, adding more nutrients to the plants, thereby reducing a need for chemical fertilizers. 

Using native plants and plants such as succulents that have low water needs is also a great way to reduce the need for frequent garden watering.

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Tip:  Conserve water by diverting rain water into a rain barrel from your down spouts. Use this recycled water on your plants.

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