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Water Wise Gardening Can Be Beautiful

by Stephanie Suesan Smith on October 15, 2010

Water wise gardening can be beautiful.  Mention water wise gardening, xeriscaping, or conserving water and people immediately think of cactus and rocks.  I think this is because the movement started in the arid Southwest, where that is what the landscape looked like before it was irrigated.  In most areas, however, that would be as wasteful of water as planting a Saint Augustine lawn is in the desert.

Water wise gardening is becoming increasingly important in a world that is running out of water.  Wars have always been fought over water.  Think of the range wars in Texas and other places, or the wars in Dufar and other places going on now.  The days when a lawn with a mustache of shrubs along the foundation and two trees stuck in the yard is the norm are numbered.

drip irrigation

Drip irrigation before planting and mulching

Water wise gardening has two parts.  The first is the irrigation system you use, the second is the type of plant you put in your garden.  Drip irrigation systems are 20 percent more effective than sprinklers.  In Texas during the summer, sprinklers waste about half of their water through evaporation before it hits the ground, and your plants.  Not only is that expensive, it is terribly wasteful.

Drip irrigation is not hard to put together.  Most Extension Offices have pamphlets on how to do it, and some hold hands-on clinics.  When a new bed goes into the Heritage Garden of Hunt County, we hold an irrigation class to demonstrate the process of installing drip irrigation in a bed.  The picture to the left shows the rows of pipe with emitters before the plants come up enough to cover it with mulch.  Mulch helps hold the water in and keep it from evaporating.

The second part of water wise gardening is using plants that are adapted to the level of rainfall in your location.  Instead of a lawn of thirsty Bermuda grass or Saint Augustine, you can plant native plants.  Texas has some spectacular wildflowers.  Every location has something that grew there before people came in and planted lawns.  You can come up with some really spectacular landscapes.

Water Wise flower bed

Water Wise flower bed, Dallas Arboretum

This is a flower bed at the Dallas Arboretum planted with different species of plants who are adapted to our rainfall.  Some of the plants are native, some are not.  The Native Plant Society works to get people to plant native plants suited to their location instead of water hogging imports.  The Wildflower Center has a similar mission, although they try to cover only Texas wildflowers.

Water wise landscaping is important.  As more people try to use the available water, it will become scarcer.  Each person will have less water to use.  Do you want to waste your water on a lawn that will go dormant and brown in the summer, or use it efficiently on a beautiful landscape that will look good most of the year?

This post was written for Blog Action Day 2010.  Bloggers all over the world are writing to raise awareness of the scarcity of water and the role that plays in death by disease or violence.

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{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

commonweeder October 15, 2010 at 7:07 am

Even here in New England we are thinking more about using native and drought resistant plants in our gardens. We just had one of the driest summers on record. I only water the vegetable garden, and soaker hoses are available everywhere.
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Stephanie Suesan Smith October 15, 2010 at 7:12 am

It is effecting the whole world. And as the gap between the haves and the havenots increases, it will effect more and more people. Being water wise is just common sense, but common sense seems to be in short supply.

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Patricia October 15, 2010 at 10:49 am

Hi stephaie
As always you are right on topic. We have just had one of our driest winters on record and our farmers are desperate. No rain equals no crops. A lot of people here are now landscaping with drought tolerant plants and removing their lawns. We have to realise we can’t have “English type” gardens in our hot Mediterranean climate. I’m just glad the lovely lavender survives with very little watering once it is established. We are on water restrictions here being allowed to only water once a week so that is making people think twice about what plants they can grow too.
Patricia Perth Australia
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louis vuitton bags October 16, 2010 at 12:03 am

Thanks for this beautiful suggestion because every country main problem of water. So this is a easy guide to planning, planting & maintaining beautiful Water Wise Gardening .

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ConnieFoggles October 17, 2010 at 10:10 pm

In Florida, the state and counties are proponents of saving water while gardening. We have local free gardening classes that teach about Xeriscaping. There are public service announcements about it also. We also have strict watering rules, which I believe are necessary.
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Stephanie Suesan Smith October 18, 2010 at 5:21 am

More and more states and local areas are mandating or at least strongly encouraging water wise gardening. There are still home owners associations that dictate a lush green lawn, though, at least in Texas. I read about clashes in the newspaper every so often. Fortunately, the courts are siding with the water wise gardeners more often now.

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Perfect Grass October 23, 2010 at 1:17 pm

This is definitely a big issue in southern California where I live. And you’re very right, when people think of low water use landscaping they generally think of cactus and other desert plants. But like you said, “In Texas during the summer, sprinklers waste about half of their water through evaporation before it hits the ground, and your plants. Not only is that expensive, it is terribly wasteful.” Half of being water wise is using efficient systems that make full use of the water they give off. This is a really great article. Thanks for sharing.
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Heirloom Vegetable Seeds February 7, 2011 at 6:17 pm

My mom has a drip irrigation system at her house, since it runs off of well-water. It’s really something. With everywhere seeming to be short on water, why don’t you think more people look to use systems that are more efficient?

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Stephanie Suesan Smith February 8, 2011 at 5:18 am

I think they believe there will always be enough water and they do not know how to build an irrigation system. They also look at the one time cost of such a system versus the long term cost of wasting water.

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Ron from garden plants September 18, 2012 at 9:25 am

Water Wise Gardening is not just beautiful is really an great idea and will save a lot water.
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