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Water Wise Plantings

Water isn’t scarce here. We have the Finger Lakes to the south and Lake Ontario to the north. But that’s no reason to waste water. After all, most of us have to pay for each gallon we use. Luckily, we seldom have to irrigate our established landscapes.

New plants do need supplemental water if they don’t receive at least an inch a week from precipitation. Once they’re established, they will also like at least the inch a week. However, the roots of many established plants find a reliable water source, except when we experience a drought. You may have to irrigate some of your plants this season because rainfall for the year is well below last year’s level. Keep an eye on your plants and irrigate any that begin to look droopy and stressed.

When planning new landscape, or changes to your present landscape, here are some water conservation techniques to consider:

• Check the nursery tags of the plants you’re planning to buy. They should have a section on water requirements. Look for those that say, “Drought Tolerant.” No plant is drought loving, except possibly some succulents that won’t grow here anyway. But there are plenty of drought tolerant plants at area garden centers.

• A landscape of all drought tolerant plants might not satisfy your aesthetic desire. In your design, you can group your plants according to water needs to conserve water. If you do have to irrigate, you’ll be able to snake soaker hoses around the group and water them all for the same amount of time.

• Use the terrain in your yard for water conservation. Plant those that need the most water in the lowest area of your yard and those that need less water on higher ground. Then, when it rains, the plants on the higher ground will receive the water they need and the excess will flow downhill to supplement the rain falling on the thirstier plants. You can see that principal at work in nature. You seldom see trees like willows or cottonwoods growing on a hill. They’ll be in the lowest, soggiest place. On top of the hill, you’ll find plants that aren’t fussy and need only minimal moisture.

• Use mulch liberally. Organic mulch, such as wood chips, is one of the best water conservation measures. The mulch absorbs water and then releases it slowly. It prevents a belly gushing rain storm from flooding the site. Lots of rain all at once runs off before it can soak into the soil. Mulch holds the water and releases it gradually. As the mulch decomposes, it returns organic matter to the soil to nourish the plants. Spreading one or two inches of mulch in every planting bed and two or three inches under every tree is one of the healthiest ways to a beautiful landscape. You can buy mulch in bags at your garden center for small properties. For the average suburban landscape, however, it’s less expensive to buy in bulk. We can deliver it by the cubic yard and dump in your driveway for you to spread, or we can spread it for you.

If you incorporate these suggestions into your landscape, you’ll spend less time tending to your landscape and more time enjoying it. You can sit on the deck or patio sipping a nice, cool drink of the water you didn’t have to use to irrigate your plants.

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