Listen to Your Mother (Nature) This Earth Day

Posted Tuesday, April 23, 2019

April 22 is the 49th anniversary of Earth Day. This year, celebrate the water planet by using water outdoors the way Mother Nature intended and making every drop count this spring planting season. From selecting regionally appropriate blooms to knowing when and how much to water, you can be a water-saving force of nature this Earth Day with a lush and low-maintenance landscape.

• Watch your water budget. If you’re designing a new landscape or rethinking your current one, the WaterSense Water Budget Tool (https://www.epa.gov/watersense/water-budget-tool) can help you plan for water efficiency. With inputs such as zip code, yard size, and plant types, you can determine if your landscape design uses an appropriate amount of water for your climate.

• Localize your landscape. Think outside the flower box by choosing plants native to your region, which require less water to supplement normal rainfall. Not only will these local beauties thrive in your soil and climatic conditions, but their low maintenance and increased pest resistance will save you both water and time.

• Play zone defense. Assign areas of your landscape different “hydrozones” based on sun and shade exposure, soil and plant types, and type of sprinklers. Then adjust your irrigation system or watering schedule based on those zones’ specific watering needs. That way, you’ll avoid overwatering some areas or underwatering others.

• Mulch to maintain moisture. Give your landscape a mulch makeover and reuse your yard debris by topping off flowerbeds with dried leaves, grass clippings, or tree bark chips. Adding a layer of mulch around shrubs and flowers will help retain moisture, inhibit weed growth, moderate soil temperature, and prevent erosion so you can spend less time watering and more time watching your garden grow.

• Timing is everything. Know how much water your landscape actually needs before you set your sprinkler. It’s generally best to water lawns and landscapes in the early morning, because significant amounts of water can be lost due to evaporation during the heat of the day.

• Tune up your system. Homes with clock timer irrigation systems use about 50 percent more water outdoors than homes without irrigation systems. Inspect irrigation systems to prevent additional water waste due to incorrect programming, a sprinkler head pointed in the wrong direction, or a leak.

• Look for the label. If you have an irrigation system that uses a clock timer, consider upgrading to a WaterSense labeled controller. Labeled models act like a thermostat for your lawn, using local weather data to determine when and how much to water, reducing waste and improving plant health.