Water Wise Gardening
Water wise gardening starts with more than a conscience awareness of how often and when to water existing plants, trees and shrubs in your garden or yard. It is requires knowledge of the soil, drainage, drought resistant plants, and maintenance practices.
The soil is composed of many important elements that determine what type of care and maintenance it will need to produce healthy plants. It is no secret that in Colorado we have clay. Dense clay soils absorb water slowly but retain it well. According to Sunset’s Waterwise magazine (2008), watering is best done slowly and less often. Organic matter is often essential for successful and productive gardens as well. Run off and puddling are common in dry soil climates and the addition of organic matter, found in manure, compost, peat moss or mulch improves aeration and water penetration not to mention reduces weeds. Some organic compounds are sold nitrogen fortified which aids in the water efficiency.
Equally important in soil and plant satisfaction is drainage. Slow drainage of water to the plants roots is best. Use of gypsium or calcium sulfate in some clay soils will improve drainage as it loosens up the clumps that are often formed after watering. Of course, water management is key to plants health as well. I find letting the top 2-3 inches soil dry out between waterings produces best results.
Using drought resistant plants can also help with a healthy and sustainable garden. According to Lehndorff and Peter’s, Best Garden Plants for Colorado, flowering quince, bayberry and rhododendron are great options for Colorado rock gardens. Robert Stockwell, Owner of Succulent Garden Nursey in CA, recommends succulents as great options for low-water plants. Many other options can be recommended by a Landscape Designer. Also, simple water economy is achieved without deprivation by scheduled waterings, reducing your plants need for water and installing efficient watering systems. Details can be worked into your specific garden’s maintenance needs.
Every garden requires regular maintenance. Mulch helps moderate extreme moisture and temperatures improving conditions for steady root growth. Less water is lost in evaporation or to wind so plants produce better. It also helps resist soil erosion particularly important in sloping landscapes. Weed control is also important and can be combined with fertilizing. While mulch is a good option for reducing weeds, other methods may also be needed. Often, nitrogen fortified fertilizers will promote growth while herbicides are developed to control weeds. Specific weeds targeted are noted on the label and come in granular or liquid forms.
Utilizing these methods for a water wise garden will not only give you great results but free you up from constant maintenance and high water bills in order to manage your gardens. If you treat your soil with the care it needs on a consistent basis, you, your plants and the community will be happier for generations to come.