Water Efficient Landscaping

Anyone who drives through Prairie Township can see that many of its residents take great pride in the appearance of their property, especially their lawns and landscaping. As the summer winds down, it is a good time to consider making some changes for next year. Changes that could further enhance the lawns and landscapes while also reducing the amount of resources needed to have that "perfect yard."

The following is from a pamphlet published by the United States Environmental Protection Agency. The pamphlet, Water-Efficient Landscaping: Preventing Pollution & Using Resources Wisely, provides guidance that can result in a beautiful water-efficient lower maintenance landscape.

According to the U.S. Geological Survey, 26 billion gallons of water are used daily in the United States, of which approximately 7.8 billion gallons (30 percent) are devoted to outdoor use. When planning future landscaping projects or updates consider the following for a more water-efficient project:

  • Proper Planning and Design - Consider existing vegetation and grouping plants by their water needs, sun, shade and soil requirements.
  • Soil Analysis and Improvements - Soil has the most influence on water requirements. Soil conditions vary from site to site and may even vary within the limits of a single property. Additionally, different plants have different soil requirements.
  • Appropriate Plant Selection - A water-efficient landscape should focus on preserving existing trees and shrubs and using plants native to the region. Established vegetation requires less water and maintenance and native plants require little additional water beyond normal rainfall. Most ornamental grasses are drought tolerant. Select drought tolerant perennials instead of water demanding annuals.
  • Practical Turf Areas - Turf requires large amounts of supplemental water and more maintenance than other vegetation. Use turf where it can highlight a house or building and where it supports a practical function such as a child play area.
  • Efficient Irrigation - Manual irrigation is the most water efficient typically using 33 percent less water than an automatic irrigation system. Automatic irrigation systems can be made more efficient if controlled by devices that can detect the moisture in the ground or detect rainfall. These systems activate only when watering is needed. Systems that spray a fine mist or jet water high into the air tend to loose water due to evaporation and wind. A soaking type system is preferred; one that waters the roots versus watering the leaves.
  • Use Mulches - A balanced use of mulch is important. Mulch assists in retaining water and retarding weed growth. It also provides a source of organic matter to the soil. However, too much mulch can be detrimental by restricting water flow to the roots of your plants.
  • Appropriate Maintenance - Typically a water-efficient landscape requires less maintenance than a conventional lawn. With a water-efficient lawn water and fertilize only as needed, not on a schedule. Cut turf only when it reaches two to three inches, not on a regular schedule; and remove no more than one inch at a cutting. Significant moisture is lost from the turf if more than one inch is removed. Lastly, avoid shearing plants and using high nitrogen fertilizer during dry periods, this only encourages water-demanding new growth.

In addition to having a beautiful lawn, the benefits of a water-efficient landscape are many. Lower water bills are the result of reduced water consumption and the decreases in wear on the treatment and distribution infrastructure. Lower heating and cooling bills are the result of the proper placement of native trees and shrubs. Controlled irrigation reduces unnecessary stormwater runoff and reduces pollution due to the wash-off of excess fertilizers and insecticides. The most important benefit is the additional time to enjoy your yard due to the reduction in the amount of maintenance.