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Gardening With Water Use In Mind

2011 August 15

By Amber Lefstead

This year, for the first time in my life, I purchased a gardening spade and seeds for my garden. I love a beautiful garden, but the task of creating and maintaining one has always been daunting. But from the moment I began, I fell in love with it. There is something so satisfying about gardening—feeling the dirt crumble between your fingers as you loosen the earth, planting a seed and watching it grow into a beautiful flower.

That’s not to say it isn’t hard work. It is. But, seeing your yard transform into something beautiful and beneficial for the environment makes it so rewarding. Before I started my garden, it was barren with a Magnolia tree stump in the middle. Now, it is full of flowers, ground covers, and mulch. The flowers feed the neighborhood bees, butterflies, and birds, while the ground covers and mulch blanket the soil, keeping it moist and cool.

After planting my garden, the real trick has been maintaining it. With this hot, dry summer in Washington D.C. , that has been no easy task. As temperatures rise during the peak water season, it’s a good time for everyone to consider their outdoor water use. Peak water season is usually late July and early August and is the time when residential water use is highest.

Water use was a big concern in creating my landscape. I work for the EPA WaterSense program and, among other things, I create educational materials for consumers on water-efficient landscaping, so I kept water in mind at every step:

  • I purchased low water use plants and seeds that would need minimal supplemental water
  • I amended sandy soil patches with compost to help hold moisture at the root zone
  • I loosened plants’ roots from their potting soil before planting to encourage deep root growth
  • I covered exposed soil with mulch to hold in moisture and minimize evaporation

I also make sure to water at night or in the early morning to minimize evaporation. And I water deeply and infrequently to encourage the plants’ roots to spread into the surrounding soil so they are resourceful and drought tolerant. In the next year or so after their roots establish, they should need minimal supplemental water beyond normal rainfall. I’ll let you know how that goes!

About the author: Amber Lefstead joined EPA in 2009 as the Outdoor Coordinator for the WaterSense program. Her recent low water use garden installation was inspired by her work at the Agency.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

9 Responses leave one →
  1. Mark permalink
    August 15, 2011

    Very interesting information one thing that I do which I picked up from another article was to use less fertilizer over the summer months which keeps the growth down of your lawned areas. This will greatly reduce the amount of water needed. This was news to me but a great source of information here is the link to the article

  2. Virginia Hamm permalink
    August 15, 2011

    Go for designs and plants that require the least amount of work. Put tall things away from the edges of the walkways so they can’t fall over into the walkway, and you do less cleanup. Mulch bare areas once a year in late fall, not in spring.

    Two ideas… 1) Use native plants and flowers because these are already adapted to local variable conditions, and are more likely to survive insects or periods of drought or cold than imports. You’ll never have to water, once they start to grow.

    2) Use perennials, not annuals, to reduce work required to keep the garden going. For example, cone flowers (also tolerate dry well) instead of impatiens. Lavender, albeit an import, also tolerates dry pretty well and you get good-smelling stuff.

  3. joan permalink
    August 15, 2011

    Thanks, Amber, for the commonsense gardening tips.
    The whole key is doing a little planning ahead of time, not just buying plants on impulse when your are at the garden center.
    I am going to put the link to the water efficient gardening in our employee newsletter.

  4. armansyahardanis permalink
    August 15, 2011

    Water and Flower : Where’s Beetle ?

    Wow, the Earth…… You are wonderful, beautiful and colorful. Could you spreads them to the other planets by beetle or debris or lighters or the others to become like you ? If you deal, all of human and species should follow you to there by peace, not gun and war…!

  5. Ellen Hope Vuillier permalink
    August 15, 2011

    Amber; All I can say is fantastic job!!!!! Congratulations! Looks awesome!

  6. JORDAN permalink
    August 19, 2011

    Very interesting information one thing that I do which I picked up from another article was to use less fertilizer over the summer months which keeps the growth down of your lawned areas.

  7. KAV permalink
    August 21, 2011

    I have perennials throughout my yard. What do you think about planting perennials in large pots I have along my driveway? Which ones do you think would work well in an area that gets the long afternoon sun with some shade?

  8. Aznatural1 permalink
    August 23, 2011

    Thank you for the inspiration. Do you use a soaker hose buried under the mulch to water the plants at night/early morning? How do you water the garden? Can you list the plants you put in the yard?

  9. http://www.bijoy.net permalink
    September 23, 2011

    Use perennials, not annuals, to reduce work required to keep the garden going. For example, cone flowers (also tolerate dry well) instead of impatiens. Lavender, albeit an import, also tolerates dry pretty well and you get good-smelling stuff.

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