Yes you can have your cake and eat it is the message here. By taking the correct steps you can both save water and money and also enjoy a colorful and productive garden. This is the subject of a recent book by Diana Maranhao who has been involved in the landscape/horticulture industry for over 35 years. I came across an article by Shelly Pierce on the Gardening Know How website which is a transcript of an interview with Diana Maranhao on the topic of water smart gardening.
1) In your book you mention that everybody talks about drought but nobody does anything about it.? Why is that and why is it important that we do?
Typically, when drought is followed by El Nino or heavy rains, people are lulled into a feeling of being water-rich. Certainly, with the extreme weather we are seeing across the nation, homeowners are facing too much water at this time, making flooding the concern.? People generally live and garden in the here and now and don?t give much thought to the future. Come spring, we will, once again begin seeing the water-deficit issue come to light. The public will be reminded that they live in water-stressed, arid, hot, windy climates, that the previously wet winter did not make up for years of water-deficit, and that the water we have on tap will not support the increase in population. One year of heavy rains or even subsequent years of rain/snow fall will not correct the problem, only providing a season or two of relief. Depleted aquifers take years to re-charge, outdated infrastructures require funding that will increase water costs, ongoing water quality issues threaten local supplies and short and long term droughts are becoming the new norm.
Too much precipitation brings storm water runoff problems, root rots in heavy saturated soils that lead to stressed plants and a whole host of other cultural issues. A great deal of the precipitation falling now is running down the gutters and it comes in the cooler months when plants are slowed in growth and don?t need the water. Precious little is diverted, directed or saved for when it is needed.? Ironically, the practices that strengthen a garden to be more water wise also provide solutions for dealing with too much water. Rainwater harvesting, terracing, berms, basins, permeable surfaces, creating healthy, supporting root systems, mulching, and protecting the soil from erosion all contribute to slowing the flow of water and diminishing the after effects, as well as surviving drought. They are really just sound horticultural practices that lead to a thriving, tough-as-nails landscape. If people begin planning and making changes to the way they garden now, then they can meet future water challenges, while making every drop count.
2) Does a switch to gardening water-smart require radical changes in our practices and in our landscape?
For some the changes may seem radical and daunting if they are new to conserving water in the landscape. Maybe they live and garden in a typically precipitation-rich environment, but find themselves in a short-term drought or facing rising water costs. The plants in high-rain/snowfall areas will have to adapt to less water and the homeowner faces the challenges in creating a new environment to help the plants do that. Some gardeners have made a design choice and cannot see how their tropical or formal garden can work as a water-efficient landscape without beginning anew and compromising their style. Homeowners may have inherited water guzzling landscapes that were planted long ago when water shortages were not a threat. In today?s world, they are facing serious water deficits issues, higher water prices and struggling landscapes.
Creating a water-smart garden can be as little as adding a thick layer of mulch to the existing garden and altering watering habits to water the plants when they need it. Minor changes in the way we garden, like allowing a plant to grow into its natural form, providing deep, slow watering, and creating a well draining soil are water-smart practices that create strong plants with deep, anchoring root systems that get the nutrients they need from the soil. Evaluating the current landscape helps the gardener set priorities which leads to decisions of what plants they really want to keep and replacing the others with water-thrifty plants. An analysis of the current, antiquated irrigation system leads to more efficient watering, just by replacing sprinkler heads with low-flow, even distribution heads or retrofitting the spray system to drip irrigation. These are all minor changes that are easy to do yourself, not costly in terms of time or money and you will see water savings immediately, both on the water bill and in a healthy landscape.
See more at Gardening Know How