Despite the recent rain, the drought persists. As it continues, we all must become even more aware of the water we use. It's imperative that we do not waste. I've listed water-saving techniques in this column before, but the information bears repeating.
Use water wisely: First and most important, do not over water. Most of us are surprised at how little water many plants need. When water was plentiful, over watering was common. We no longer have this luxury.
Use the most conservation-minded watering devices: This may not be the underground, automatic system many of us have. With cooler weather, the grass requires less water than flowers, so adjust the timer to reflect this. Also skip using the system when the grass doesn't need water, and selectively hand water dry areas. It takes more time and work, but it takes much less water.
Choose plants that need little water: Limit plant material to those that can survive with the least amount of supplemental water. The mantra of many in the landscape industry is now "Right plant, right place." An appropriately chosen plant will require less water than exotic choices. Native plants make as much of an impact in our landscape as thirstier plants but will help conserve water. Also, group plants together by the amount of water they need.
Consider landscape options that require no water: Use hardscape items in gardens more generously. Hardscape consists of walkways, fences, sitting areas, statuary and borders. These can be done in beautiful ways and cut down on water use. When you add hardscape, make sure to account for drainage issues that may arise.
Replace lawn: Rethink the use of grass, and try other ground covers and shrubs instead of the typical large expanses of lawn surrounded by a few beds of plants.
Collect water outside: Set up rain barrels in your yard, so that when it rains you have water on hand to use. Use the stored water for container plants and flowers. It doesn't take much rain running off the roof to fill the barrels. It is not okay to fill the barrels with the hose on your watering day. This defeats the purpose.
Reuse water: When you boil eggs or pasta, use the water for container plants. Make sure it cools before pouring it on the plants. You can also catch the water out of the faucets at the sinks and in the shower while you wait for cold water to turn warm or hot.
Capture gray water: Gray water, the water from your washing machine and shower/bath, can also water your landscape. If you plan on installing a system to save gray water, use organic soap in your laundry and steer clear of chemicals, such as bleach. Also check with local authorities on the codes. You may want to consult an expert to help install the system.
It's imperative that we all conserve water. It's up to each of us to take conservation seriously. Yes, it may be inconvenient at times, but in the long run it's what's best for everyone.
Mary Collister can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.