KREN CW NEWS WEATHER SPORTS COMMUNITY Reno Sparks Lake Tahoe, | Want to Save Water? Consider Green Landscaping   ...
KREN CW NEWS WEATHER SPORTS COMMUNITY Reno Sparks Lake Tahoe, | Want to Save Water? Consider Green Landscapingrea...
KREN CW NEWS WEATHER SPORTS COMMUNITY Reno Sparks Lake Tahoe, | Want to Save Water? Consider Green LandscapingCap...
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Want to Save Water, Consider Green Landscaping - Portland, Oregon


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Want to Save Water, Consider Green Landscaping - Portland, Oregon

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Want to Save Water, Consider Green Landscaping - Portland, Oregon

  1. 1. KREN CW NEWS WEATHER SPORTS COMMUNITY Reno Sparks Lake Tahoe, | Want to Save Water? Consider Green Landscaping <<BackWant to Save Water? Consider Green Landscaping By Pat Mertz Esswein Provided by American yards have a drinking problem. for decades, weve bought into theaesthetic of the perpetually green lawn -- watered, fertilized and pest-free. And weve landscaped our yards with exotic plants that crave more water than the climate naturally supplies. Replacing even part of the lawn with flowers and other plantings, such as At 32 million acres, lawns are the these walk-side floral displays, can largest irrigated crop in the U.S. We significantly reduce water use. pamper them with one-third of all the (© Loran) residential water used daily (7 billiongallons); in some regions, its as much as 50% to 70%. The thirst forwater grows with the population and the increasing reliance onautomatic irrigation -- which is so pervasive that it now producessummer water shortages even in relatively wet regions, such as thePacific Northwest and New England.Much of that water might just as well go down the drain -- and muchof it does. Homeowners who find their irrigation systems controller asperplexing as a VCR rely on their lawn-maintenance company, which Reducingall too often sets it and forgets it. The system ends up running on an Water Wasteirrigation schedule meant only for the hottest, driest summer months.Sousing the lawn diminishes its health and creates a vicious cycle of May Be a Jobfertilizing, applying pesticides and herbicides, and then watering some For Professionalsmore. Meanwhile, utilities (including power companies, which providethe power for water treatment) struggle to keep up with demand.April is a good time to initiate strategies that will save you money, time and labor and will do theenvironment some good -- without sacrificing an attractive yard. And green landscaping bringsother benefits. In California, landscape designer Greg Rubin says he spends Sunday mornings onhis own half-acre drinking coffee and enjoying the birds and butterflies attracted to his yard,while he listens to his neighbors mow their lawns. He has thrown away his bird feeders, too,because the native plants provide all the habitat and forage the birds need.Xeriscape gardening for less-thirsty yardsThe term xeriscaping may evoke images of the arid West and a bunch of rocks and cacti. Somecall it zeroscaping, says Jim Knopf, author of WaterWise Landscaping With Trees, Shrubs andVines: A Xeriscape Guide for the Rocky Mountain Region, California and Desert Southwest(Chamisa Books). But the strategy -- also known as water-wise gardening or greenscaping -- (1 of 4)4/4/2008 2:44:23 PM
  2. 2. KREN CW NEWS WEATHER SPORTS COMMUNITY Reno Sparks Lake Tahoe, | Want to Save Water? Consider Green Landscapingreally involves minimizing the areas of your yard that need a lot of life support, he says.In general, the transition to water-wise landscaping has two components. First, you need torethink your lawn, focusing on the minimum size that fits your familys needs. Knopf says youcan make your lawn smaller by simply putting in border gardens. You can also create gardens ormulched beds in areas that are difficult to maintain and water -- along fences, on steep slopes orin corners. If local home buyers expect a big backyard for kids and dogs to romp in, concentrateon the front yard.The second task is to remove water-needy exotic plants and fill your beds with drought-toleranttrees, shrubs, ground cover, flowers and turf grass (such as buffalo and Bermuda). If youreloath to give up all your water-intensive exotics, gather them in one area, where you can quenchtheir greater thirst most efficiently.Your garden can be any style you like. Joanne Kostecky, a landscape designer in Allentown, Pa.,and a past president of the American Nursery and Landscape Association, says she continues todesign gardens that are lush, full and continuously blooming, but she now looks for hardierperennials that need less water to stay healthy.It costs no more to install a water-wise landscape than a thirsty one, and it may costsubstantially less, depending on the plants you choose and whether you avoid expensiveautomatic irrigation. While establishing any new landscape requires more water in the first yearor so, a water-wise one will require less water from start to maturity -- about 20% to 50% less,with more savings if you do without an irrigation system.In San Diego, where hefty water bills have hit homeowners hard, landscape designer Rubinspecializes in native California landscapes that use 60% to 90% less water than nonnativeplants. Rubin has seen residential water bills for 50,000 to 100,000 gallons a month, which heattributes to trying to sustain a Florida-like landscape -- two palm trees, some ice plants and aton of lawn -- in a Mediterranean climate. "The cost might have been $200 to $400 a monthbefore, but now its $600 to $800 a month," says Rubin.His strategy is to plant a "strong backbone" of evergreen plants that differ in color, texture andsize, and place perennials along pathways so that theyre easy to get to for pruning. The cost ofinstallation is about the same as for a conventional landscape ($4 to $7 per square foot), hesays, but his clients get a quick return on their investment because they save on water bills.If your community imposes water restrictions, your plants might not grow as much as theywould otherwise. But they wont die, either, and youll spend less on replacements. Over thelong run, all the costs associated with lawn maintenance will be lower than for a nonnativelandscape. Plus, those border gardens will eventually shield your lawn from view when you dontfeel like mowing it, says Knopf.Before you start planting, check with your municipality or homeowners association to make sureyou dont run afoul of restrictions on such things as grass height. In Colorado, Knopf says, itsillegal to prohibit xeriscaping. Your local government may even pay you to downsize your lawn.In Las Vegas, the Southern Nevada Water Authority rebates homeowners $1.50 per square footof grass removed and replaced with xeriscape (up to 2,500 square feet annually).Rainwater harvesting (2 of 4)4/4/2008 2:44:23 PM
  3. 3. KREN CW NEWS WEATHER SPORTS COMMUNITY Reno Sparks Lake Tahoe, | Want to Save Water? Consider Green LandscapingCapturing rainwater is a smart way to give your landscaping a chlorine-free drink without payingmunicipal rates. A rainwater-harvesting system typically channels the water from the roof viayour homes downspouts into a tank or cistern. A filtration device keeps out roof debris; in largersystems, a pump helps move water out of the tank.In Austin, Tex., where rainfall averages 32 inches a year, a homeowner with a 2,500-square-foot roof could collect almost 45,000 gallons of rainwater in a typical year. In the Mid Atlanticstates, a home with a 2,000-square-foot roof could collect 60,000 gallons.The least-expensive system is a rain barrel, which holds 55 to 75 gallons and costs about $100.You can use just one, or link several together, as a gravity-fed source of drip irrigation fornearby flower beds. Rain barrels are usually made of plastic, and they come with an overflowspout, a valve near the bottom for filling your watering can and a screened lid to keepmosquitoes out. You can also prevent mosquitoes, which need six to nine days in standing waterto mature, by regularly tapping the barrel. Many cities, such as Austin, Seattle, and Cary, N.C.,sell barrels at a discount. You can also purchase them from nursery and garden retailers or fromonline sources, such as meet larger-scale needs -- such as supplementing your lawns irrigation system, creating afire-protection reserve or even using captured rainwater indoors (which requires more-carefulfiltration and treatment) -- you may need a storage tank, above or below ground, that holdsthousands of gallons. Contact a specialist who can help you analyze your situation, supply andinstall the system, and help you maintain it. (To locate a specialist, go to the site of theAmerican Rainwater Catchment Systems Association or Atlanta WaterConservation advertises complete above-ground systems for $1,500 to $7,500 and below-ground systems for $5,000 to $10,000. In Texas, Rain Catchment Systems says that it averages$1 per gallon of capacity for design, materials and installation. (For a guide to rainwaterharvesting, visit the Web site of Texas A&M Universitys office of cooperative extension.)Some cities offer rebates for installing such systems (Austin gives home-owners up to $500toward the cost of installing one that handles more than 300 gallons). But you may need apermit first. In Colorado, for example, capturing rainfall (even in a rain barrel) is prohibited. Andwater-conservation expert Amy Vickers, in Amherst, Mass., worries that well-meaningharvesters who go gung-ho providing for household use may further disrupt the natural processof groundwater recharging and contribute to the low-flow problems of creeks and rivers.A rain gardenRunoff is another aspect of the water-conservation problem. Because plots are often compactedand scraped clean of topsoil during development, theyre less absorbent to start with -- and turfgrasses absorb less water than other kinds of vegetation. Water sluices off our yards into ourbasements or onto neighbors yards; into our watersheds, polluting drinking water at its source;and into municipal storm drains, increasing the load on water-treatment plants.A cost-effective solution for most people is a rain garden -- a shallow depression lined withtrees, shrubs and plants that mind neither drought nor inundation, cope well with the heavynutrients in storm-water runoff and absorb many times the amount of water that turf grassesdo. A rain garden will capture the rainwater and allow it to percolate into the ground, where itwill recharge streams, aquifers and wells, says Dick Peterson, of Austin Energys Green-Building (3 of 4)4/4/2008 2:44:23 PM