7 Basic Steps for Creating Water Efficient Landscapes


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7 Basic Steps for Creating Water Efficient Landscapes

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7 Basic Steps for Creating Water Efficient Landscapes

  1. 1. Directory Here in the Portland metro area, water useTHE SEVEN BASIC STEPS. .......................................4 . can double or triple due to outdoor watering.1. PLAN AND DESIGN...............................................5 This can be a problem because of the limited2. COMPOST AND CULTIVATE.................................6 storage of our reservoirs and the typical lack3. CREATE FUNCTIONAL LAWN AREA......................7 of summer rainfall in the Pacific Northwest. By reducing summer water use, utilities can4. PUT THE RIGHT PLANT IN THE RIGHT PLACE.....8 Native Plants...........................................................9 potentially delay building new storage facili- Perennials...............................................................9 Ornamental Grasses................................................. 10 ties and transmission lines, and developing new sources of drinking water – all costly in-5. Water Wisely.................................................. 11 Watering Lawn........................................................ 12 vestments for communities. Sprinkler Systems.....................................................15 Methods............................................................... 16 Passive................................................................ 16 Hand or Container............................................... 16 Sprinkler.............................................................17 Important Terms..................................................... 186. Use Mulches...................................................207. Keep up the maintenance............................ 21Additional ideas forsustainable landscaping................................ 22RESOURCES. ......................................................... 23 . ~2~ ~3~
  2. 2. There are many steps we all can take to make sure Plan 1 and Designwe are managing and maintaining our landscapes Begin by creating a master plan. Your plan can range from a drawnefficiently. This booklet outlines a variety of ways sketch to a professional survey. A thoughtful design can allow you to install your landscape in phases and avoid costly mistakes.to use water wisely, while also achieving beauti- Your yard is made up of numerous microclimates. A microcli-ful and unique landscape and garden options. mate is an area with specific growing conditions, such as sun ex- posure, humidity, soil type, and wind direction that affect how well plants will grow. It is important to note these areas in your plan, as they will help you design your landscape and select ap- propriate plants for each area. You may want to begin by dividing your yard into four differ- ent light exposures – north, south, east, and west. What kind THE of light is available during various parts of the day – bright sun- light, filtered sunlight, or shade? Remember, morning sun- light is cooler than afternoon sunlight. Next, be sure to include the location of existing structures, trees, shrubs, streets, and important views you want to keep (or eliminate). You can then identify specific types of plants and hardscape you would like to incorporate in yourThe seven steps listed in this booklet can help you landscape. Alternatively, based on light exposures, you can becreate a water-efficient landscape. Individually, more general in your approach:none of these steps are new or revolutionary, but consider placing a tree that thrives in partial shade in the northwestwhen these seven basic steps are incorporated into corner of your yard and shrubsone holistic method, the result is a landscaping that love the sun in the southern part of your landscape.approach that combines the necessary elements to If you need help with your landscape layout, consult a landscapeachieve a beautiful and water-efficient landscape. professional who can provide advice, critique your plan, or de- velop a design plan for you. ~4~ ~5~
  3. 3. Compost 2 and Cultivate Create Functional Lawn Area 3Soil amendments are very important to water-efficient land- Lawn requires more water and maintenance than most other plants.scaping. Understanding the basic characteristics of your Evaluate your need for grassy areas to ensure that they are practicalsoil is important for plant selection and watering practices. and functional for your specific requirements. If you have moreSoils in the Portland metro area are typically comprised of lawn area than you think you will need,clay or sandy loam. Clay soils are fine-textured soils and may or are capable of maintaining, theseinclude mixtures of clay, silt, and sand. Generally, the finer lawn areas can be reduced by creat-the soil texture the slower the water will penetrate, which ing more low-water use plantings or acan result in a wetter soil that will remain moist long after hardscape. Alternatively, new variet-being soaked. If extreme, this can cause rotting problems ies of lawn are being developed that,for some plants as well as increased run-off (water running once established, require less upkeepoff the surface because it is being applied faster than the soil and watering than standard varieties.can absorb). The Turf Grass Water Conservation Alliance (http://www.tgwca.org) is anAdding organic soil amendments, such as compost, will im- independent foundation that tests andprove the absorption rate of clay soils and the water-hold- certifies grass mixture varieties that caning capacity of sandy soils. Compost  can easily be created survive under reduced or limited water.at home by using food scraps, plant clippings, and leaves. You can also ask your lawn and gardenSimilarly, you can grasscycle or mulch mow your lawn to add specialist for recommendations.nutrients and organic matter into your lawn’s soil. Either Consider lawn alternatives such asway, organic amendments provides nutrients for your plants ecolawns, groundcovers, and low wa-and increases the water–holding capabilities of your soil, re- ter-use plants for areas where thereducing the need to water and fertilize. Testing your soil with are steep slopes and/or irregulara do-it-yourself kit or through a local lab will help identify shaped spaces as these areas can bespecific improvements you can make to your soil for what difficult to water and maintain.you want to grow. Hardscapes are also great ways to enhance your yard and reduce the need for watering. Hardscapes are the “hard,” non-plant elements of your landscape. Examples of hardscapes include patios, decks, fire pits, walkways, steps, arbors, and fences. ~6~ ~7~
  4. 4. 4 Put The Right Plant In Native Plants Native plants are plants that originate in a spe- cific ecoregion and that naturally grow well in that area’s soils, climate, and geology. Adding The Right Place native plants to a garden can provide habitat for local wildlife and enhance the native char-Different plants need different amounts of water, sun, and shade acter of the Northwest. Once established, na-to survive. Since some areas of your yard may be hotter and drier, tive plants are low maintenance, require little toor wetter and cooler, than other spaces, these areas should be no pesticides or fertilizers, and survive well onplanted with plants that share similar water, sun, and shade needs available water if planted in conditions similar- e.g. don’t place a rose with a cactus. Placing the right plant in to their native habitat.the right place will reduce the amount of water required, as well asthe time and effort needed to maintain your garden. In the Pacific Northwest, we have a spectacular variety of native Perennials Lupineand non-native plants that grow well in our local climate and soilconditions. For more information on identifying proper plant Perennials are plants that come back year after year without replanting. There areselections, the USDA hardiness zone rating system was developed many different perennials to choose fromto help you match plants with appropriate growing conditions. that can be grown in a variety of microcli-The Willamette Valley, including the Portland metropolitan area, mates. Once established, and if planted inis rated Zones 8a and 8b. This same area is rated zone 6 in the the right place, many perennials will re-Sunset Western Garden Book. Plants rated for these zones are quire little supplemental water and main-hardy enough to survive winter temperatures as low as 10-20 tenance. Whatever landscape conditionsdegrees Fahrenheit. you have, a variety of perennials are avail- able to provide a profusion of colors andIf you’re not sure about what kind of plants you want in your gar- textures. As with many new plantings, it’sden, the following information about native plants, perennials, important to water these plants for the firstand ornamental grasses will help you choose the right plant for year or two until plants are established.the right place. Purple Coneflower ~8~ ~9~
  5. 5. Ornamental GrassesHistorically, grasses have provided Water Wisely 5food and shelter throughout theworld, but they are growing in The greatest waste of water is watering too much, too often.popularity as landscape plants. Many are drought-tolerant and The type of sprinkler system you select, the time and frequencyideal for water-efficient land- you dedicate to watering, and the attention paid to your soil and scapes. Throughout their growing plant’s needs will help you water more efficiently and will resultseason, their changing color, in healthier plants.size, and form provide landscapeswith different colors and textures. Be sure to water early in the morning (before 10 a.m) or later inThey also make good groundcover the evening (after 6 p.m.) when temperatures are cooler, the air isor background plants. They can calmer, and evaporation is minimized. If watering in the evening,soften hardscapes such as side- be sure to avoid water left standing on plants overnight as this canwalks and retaining walls, and promote mold and disease.some varieties can provide privacyand wind protection. Grasses can Another key to watering efficiently is to regular-grow in wet soils or dry soils, in ly adjust your watering schedule as the weatherfull sun or part shade. changes. Japanese Blood Grass Test your plant’s water needs by checking theThere are many unique and interesting ornamental grasses, soil on the surface and in the root zones ofnative plants, and perennials available in the Northwest. Take your plants. Push a screwdriver into the soil,time to evaluate your landscape needs and choose appropriate dig a small hole, or use a soil probe to deter-plants for the microclimates in your yard. Check with your mine soil moisture content near the plantlocal garden center staff if you have questions about plants roots. It is important to note that water needsthat will do well in your landscape’s conditions. The Great vary from  plant to plant, so check with yourPlant Picks website (www.greatplantpicks.org) is another re- local garden center or landscape professionalsource that you may find useful. on your vegetable, perennial, shrub, or tree’s specific watering needs. Soil Probe ~ 10 ~ ~ 11 ~
  6. 6. Watering Your Lawn 3. Use this chart to see how much time it will take you to waterAs a rule of thumb, an established lawn requires about 1 inch one inch.of water per week – more during the peak of summer andless during spring and fall. You can tell if your grass needswater through a few simple steps: 1.) observe its color – grasswill turn from bright green to dull blue or grey-green if itneeds more water, 2.) if the grass no longer springs backfrom your weight and you leave foot prints when walkingacross it, then it needs water.To figure out how to measure 1 inch of water with yoursprinkler system, try this: 4. Set your  watering schedule. We recommend watering 2 times per week, either before 10 a.m or after 6 p.m when temperatures are cooler. 1. Place two watering gauges at two different places within your For example, if after 15 minutes your gauges have H an inch sprinkler’s spray range. Then of water in them, you will need to water a total of 30 minutes run your sprinkler for 15 min- per week to get the recommended 1 inch. utes. (You may also use a tuna can and a ruler to conduct this test)  Water Schedule Example2. Find the average amount of water (in inches) collected in your gauges. To do this, measure the amount of water in each gauge. Add these If run-off occurs, you will need to run your sprinkler for a short- amounts together and divide by er time period so that you are applying only the amount of water two. This is the average  amount that your soil can absorb. Use watering gauges to figure out how of water your sprinkler puts out much water your system distributes during this time, and then in 15 minutes. figure out how many times you will have to water each week to put    down the recommended 1 inch per week.(This will provide you with a good guideline amount.  For increased accuracy, For example, if it takes your sprinkler 40 minutes to water an inch but run offrepeat steps 1 & 2 several times, placing the gauges at different distances from starts occurring after 20 minutes you might opt to water for 20 minutes at 6 a.m.,your sprinkler.) let the water soak into your soil, and then water again for 20 minutes at 8 a.m.    ~ 12 ~ ~ 13 ~
  7. 7. Take The Next Step:This part of creating your watering schedule may take some trial and If you have an automatic sprinkler system, you will neederror to get it right, so keep repeating this process described in the to program your watering schedule  into your sprinkler’sabove example until you have applied water for the total number of controller.  Then you can use the Consortium’s  Weeklyminutes you have scheduled without experiencing run off. Watering Number  to fine tune your system’s settings throughout the growing season (The Weekly WateringAeration and dethatching can also significantly increase the soil’s Number is the amount of water in inches that your lawn willability to accept water. Aeration involves making holes in the lawn need each week from April-September. This informationby “coring” which involves extracting plugs of soil. Regularly can be found at: www.conserveh2o.org/outdoors.aerating your soil in the spring or fall (or both, if possible) canhelp correct excessive soil compaction which can cause water Sprinkler Systemsrunoff. Aeration can also promote moisture infiltration into When choosing a sprinkler system, select efficient equipmentthe soil, more efficient use of fertilizers, and enhanced root that uniformly delivers large drops of water as close to the groundgrowth. Deeper root systems provide better insulation from as possible and to the areas you need to water rather than a systemsummer hot spells and thus require less frequent watering. that randomly sprays water. For lawns, choose small rotors overMany landscape companies offer an aeration service or you can spray heads as they will put water down in a more uniform mannerrent or buy aeration tools to do it yourself. Check with your in a way that the soil can absorb it without running off quickly.local nursery or a lawn care professional for more information. A well designed sprinkler system will help you use water moreThatch is comprised of grass stems and roots and other organic efficiently and avoid water waste as long as you regularly checkmatter. Generally, microorganisms will eat the organic matter that your system is properly programmed, scheduled, andand provide food for the individual grass plants, but sometimes maintained. Knowing how much water your plants need, andlawn ecosystems can get out of balance due to too much or too periodically monitoring and maintaining your sprinkler sys-little water or too much fertilizer. This can cause the decay tem are the keys to saving both water (about 30%) and money.process to decrease resulting in additional thatch build up. In Oregon, all landscape sprinkler systems are required toWhen a thatch layer starts getting thicker than H inch, it may have backflow protection installed between the water sourcebe necessary to remove some of it to improve the condition and the sprinkler equipment. Backflow protection preventsof the lawn. Dethatching a lawn can be as simple (and contamination of the potable water system from pollutantslaborious) as vigorously raking the lawn or more complex, that may exist in the sprinkler system. Contact your locallike vertical mowing. Vertical mowing dethatchers mow the water provider for specific information regarding backflowgrass vertically with spinning blades, cutting and pulling up rules and regulations. thatch to the surface. ~ 14 ~ ~ 15 ~
  8. 8. In some situations filters may be necessary for sprinkler Sprinkler: In this method, water is sprayed over large areas ofsystems, especially drip systems to keep particles from plantings simultaneously either by a single sprinkler attached toclogging up the equipment. Pressure regulators are also a hose or a sophisticated underground system. Some sprinklersgenerally necessary for drip systems since they function better may have timers or controllers to regulate time and length ofat lower pressure (15-30 psi) than the pressure coming from watering cycles. Downsides to this method include the potentialthe source (40-60psi). A timer or controller is required if for water to be applied at far greater frequency, volume, or rateyou wish to automatically operate your sprinkler system. than required and/or than soils can readily infiltrate. Mainte- nance issues such as malfunctioning sprinkler heads, leaks, orMethods Of Watering other problems that may lead to waste. Passive Water Harvesting: This method takes advantageof our abundant rainfall by diverting stormwater run-off into C Pop-Up Spray Systems - Among traditional automatica designated area in your landscape called a “rain garden.” spray systems are pop-up spray heads that can be adjustedDuring the rainy season, water is distributed over the rain to spray areas ranging in size from less than quarter circlegarden’s soil surface by gravity and allowed to slowly infiltrate to a full circle. The disadvantage of spray heads is that theyinto the soil. Plant rain gardens with native plants that are often less efficient than rotor or drip systems, becausenaturally can withstand flooding part of the year and a period they put water down on the ground faster than it can be ab-of “drought” during the drier summer months. Downsides of sorbed. All heads should be of the same type and producedthis method are the vast amounts of water lost to evaporation by the same manufacturer to get a more uniform distributionand a potential for insect infestation - depending upon the of water and simplify maintenance.volume that is used and the length of time it takes to infiltrateinto soil. Rain gardens should only be installed in areas not C Rotor System - Rotor systems areprone to landslides. Inquire with your local storm water generally more efficient than spraymanagement agency for more information regarding proper heads because they apply water at aplacement and downspout disconnect policies. much slower rate, allowing the soil to absorb moisture more efficiently.Hand or Container: Water is applied either by container New rotor systems are specifically de-or hose to plants as needed individually. This can be a time signed to apply water at less than half-intensive, but efficient method for watering as long as you an-inch per hour and with a radius ofmonitor your water use and application rates. It may not less than 15 feet. Application patternsbe practical for large landscapes due to the volume of water and each sprinkler head’s radius arewhich must be transported and/or placed onto the plant adjustable making it possible to con-material for each watering period. form to irregularly-shaped areas. ~ 16 ~ ~ 17 ~
  9. 9. C Drip System - Drip is potentially the distribution uniformity, areas that don’t need water often get best and most water-efficient way to water overwatered and areas that need more water don’t get enough. trees, shrubs, perennials, groundcovers, This is often indicated by brown spots in your lawn. and vegetable gardens. This is because drip uses a fraction of the water that over- Moisture Depths In Soil After Watering head spray devices use. It does this by ap- Uniform Non-Uniform plying water slowly and directly to plants at ground level thereby minimizing water loss through evaporation and allowing the soil to absorb the water.Drip systems are comprised of drip tubing that is laid throughout aplanting bed and feeds water directly to the base of the plants through The Most Common Causes Of Poor Distributionemitters. There are many different types of drip emitters, including Uniformity Include:drippers, bubblers, soakers (inline emitters), and micro-sprayers. • unmatched precipitation rates of sprinkler heads/Drip systems can be customized to meet each plant’s needs. Separate nozzles due to mixed equipment typeszones should be used for each type of emitter. • improper operating pressure • broken or leaking equipment Drip systems require meticu- • irregular spacing of sprinkler heads lous and regular maintenance to • poor design and improper installation maintain efficient performance. • obstruction of plant material or structuresIf improperly maintained typical home-managed systems can use interfering with sprinklersmore water than conventional sprinkler systems. Also damage, • watering during hot and windy conditionsleaks, and other problems may not be as visibly noticeable as they • clogged, worn, or obstructed sprinkler nozzlesare with conventional systems and thus can remain uncheckeduntil significant damage to plants or soils becomes evident. Head-To-Head Coverage Sprinkler systems should be designed to operate with head-Important Sprinkler System to-head coverage to maximize distribution uniformity. Head-to-head coverage means that water from each sprinklerTerms To Understand head reaches to just beyond the next closest sprinkler head.Distribution UniformityOne of the most important characteristics of an efficient sprin-kler system is making sure that it is designed and maintainedto distribute water as uniformly as possible. The main problemwith a non-uniform system is that dry spots occur. With poor Rule: Sprinkler Radius = distance between sprinklers ~ 18 ~ ~ 19 ~
  10. 10. 6 Use Mulches 7 Keep Up The MaintenanceMulches come in two forms – organic C ater-efficient landscaping means paying attention to Wand inorganic. Organic mulches in- your soil, water, and plant needs. Routine maintenanceclude aged manure, compost, bark such as pruning, pest control, and fertilization will keepchips, or wood chips; inorganic mulch- your plants healthy and your landscape at its peak whilees include gravel and river rock. saving water.All mulches increase the soil’s ability to C ontrol thatch and aerate your lawn annually to ensure that Cstore water by covering and cooling the its roots are receiving the right amount of water.soil thereby minimizing evaporation. They also reduce erosionand help with weed control. Use about 2-3 inches of organic C eeds compete with plants for nutrients, light, and water, so Wmulch for weed control, but do not bury the crowns of plants as weed frequently by hoeing or pulling weeds by hand. Remem-this may cause them to be smothered and rot. Also, if mulch is ber, a good layer of mulch will help with weed suppression. too deep, water will have a difficult time reaching the plant roots.Since inorganic mulches can absorb and reflect heat, care in se- C ater and fertilize plants only as needed. Rather than adher- Wlecting plants for these areas is critical. ing to a rigid schedule, become aware of what your landscape requires and learn to recognize and react to the indicators. C ake every drop count – check that your sprinkler system is M providing the right amount of water at the right place. Walk through your landscape and check for leaks or blocked, broken, or misaligned sprinkler heads. If you need help with your water-efficient landscape, consult a landscape professional, or seek advice from your local garden center. ~ 20 ~ ~ 21 ~
  11. 11. Additional Sustainable Landscaping Ideas ResourcesLandscapes can offer great benefits to the environment if o The Hardy Plant Society Of Oregondesigned and maintained with sustainability in mind. Water 503.224.5718 or www.hardyplantsociety.orgconservation is a great first step. Here are a few more ideas tohelp you make your yard more nature-friendly. o Native Plant Society Of Oregon www.npsoregon.orgC Provide a diverse habitat for birds, bees, and butterflies by using native plants to create a layered landscape with ground- o Great Plant Picks covers, shrubs, and trees. www.greatplantpicks.org o Turf Grass Water Conservation AllianceC Reduce your energy use and carbon footprint by reus- http://www.tgwca.org/ ing materials, using hand tools instead of power tools, and Information on third-party certified waterwise grass varieties (when possible) shopping locally for plants and supplies. o Metro Natural Gardening ProgramC Reduce polluted runoff into rivers and streams by creat- www.oregonmetro.gov/garden ing a rain garden to collect the storm water. Or, consider disconnecting your downspout and re-directing run-off o Landscape Irrigation Tutorials into your garden area. Be sure to check with your local www.irrigationtutotrial.com water provider for downspout disconnection regulations. o Irrigation AssociationC Reduce or eliminate your use of pesticides and soluble www.irrigation.org fertilizers to protect water quality. Information on irrigation and certified irrigation professionals o Oregon Landscape Contractors Board http://www.oregon.gov/LCB/index.shtml Regulates Oregon’s landscape construction industry (education, licensing, dispute resolution and enforcement) Sources: Barbara Ashmun, Garden Author Steve Schmidt, American Ornamental Perennials Bleeding Heart ~ 22 ~ ~ 23 ~
  12. 12. For more information regard- ing water-efficient landscape practices, please visit the Regional Water Providers Consortium Website at www.conserveh2o.org, or con- tact your local water provider.REV. 2012