Water Smart Landscapes

MOSAIC Group Guest Blogger: Mary Kay Woodworth, Georgia Urban Ag Council, http://www.urbanagcouncil.com/
Simply Flowers
Atlanta’s weather is unpredictable – summer heat in March, back to winter in April, and already temperatures in the 90’s in May! Rainfall has been scarce, and dry conditions can make landscape success a challenge. But don’t let a hot, dry summer discourage your plans to design, plant and grow a beautiful landscape!
Landscapes add beauty and value to your home while providing important environmental benefits. The plants in a landscape add valuable oxygen and remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. They can also keep our homes cooler in summer, reduce erosion and stormwater run-off, and provide wildlife habitats. Research has shown that a properly planned landscape that has been carefully installed and properly managed will be healthier, less prone to insects and diseases, and will require less irrigation.
Embracing “water smart” concepts that enhance efficient watering is one of the best and easiest ways to save water—and money. Besides conserving water, proper watering will also keep your landscape plants healthy and beautiful throughout the year. A water smart landscape doesn’t mean giving up your lawn or making dramatic changes to your landscape or lifestyle. There are many simple ways to be a good conservationist and enhance the environment, and being a water smart gardener helps you achieve these goals.
The goal of “water smart” landscaping is to maintain healthy lawns and landscapes while using less water.  Here are some easy steps to becoming water smart!
Water efficiently!
  • Target water to plants that show stress, and use a hand-held water hose or low volume irrigation system to apply water to only those plants that need it.
  • Water at night or early in the morning to avoid losing water to evaporation. Current state outdoor water use rules require that in-ground irrigation systems limit their use to the hours between 4 p.m. and 10 a.m. Other applications are permitted at any hour.
  • In-ground irrigation system users should have annual professional system audits to inspect for leaks and determine if retrofitting with more advanced technology would be beneficial. Add rain sensors, soil moisture meters and ET (evapotranspiration) controllers to your system.
Put the “right” plants in the “right” places!
  • Select plants adapted to the site and environmental stresses. Drought tolerance is important, but also consider potential insect and disease problems, sunlight and soil requirements.
  • Turf has aesthetic value, offers outstanding erosion control and is an ideal surface for recreation – and can be used in a water smart landscape. Choose the best turf for your particular sun/shade and use requirements; after establishment, it will need less supplemental irrigation.
Use mulch – liberally!
  • Mulch prevents water loss from the soil and soil-borne diseases.
  • Mulch reduces weed competition and insulates the roots of plants from heat and cold.
  • The best mulch is organic, fine-textured and matting; three to five inches deep is sufficient.
Add organic matter to your planting beds and lawn!
  • It improves the soil structure, increases water and nutrient holding and reduces erosion.
  • Add organic matter uniformly across the planting area, working it into the existing soil (not individual planting holes) to enrich the soil, improve drainage and make rooting and watering more uniform.
Water smart landscaping will ensure that you have a beautiful landscape that is not only water efficient, but money saving! Additionally, incorporating these best management practices today will allow your landscape to survive during drought and thrive during Georgia’s wet years.
Happy gardening!
For additional information on Water Smart Landscapes:
Call your local University of Georgia Cooperative Extension office at 1-800-ASK-UGA-1.