A.: Though a cactus garden is a great example of a Water Smart landscape, it is only one type of water conservation gardening. Here in Georgia, our winters are too cold to support most cacti species, but we have plenty of drought and heat tolerant plants that should be first on your list when planning a new garden or redesigning an existing bed. Sun loving, heat loving and moisture intolerant plants are the backbone of a Xeriscape or Water Smart landscape.
Let’s start by discussing what these terms mean. The word ‘Xeriscape’ is a fairly recent term (1970s) coined in Denver, Col., to describe water efficient landscaping. Xeros is the Greek word for “dry.” Some homeowners think it means “zero water” because it sounds similar, but that’s not so. Every living thing needs at least some water – we just need to use the plants that require less.
The term “Water Smart” has been used by many state conservation organizations to describe a way of conserving water in everyday life that includes the use of Xeriscaping in our yards, along with smart water use in our homes.
ConserveWaterGeorgia.net publishes a list of basic guidelines to help you get started thinking about how to plan and plant your garden in effective ways that conserve water, help your plants thrive in our climate during drought conditions and save you money on your water bill (and on replacing plants that don’t thrive) as a bonus benefit.
• Water Efficiently
Irrigate at night or early morning, water seldom and deeply, water the root zone
• Put the Right Plants in the Right Places
Read the plant tags; look for low water need species, group plants according to water needs
• Add Organic Matter to the Soil
Compost helps retain moisture while lightening up our clay soil so that water will drain properly
Mulch holds moisture in the soil. Spread 2 to 3 inches thick under the entire canopy of the plant
• Harvest water from Alternative Sources and use it to irrigate plants
Collect water in rain barrels; place a bucket under the AC drip pipe to gather gallons of water
• Know the Rules
Find out the current water restrictions in your area; they change with the season and the weather
Take a few minutes and check out this great website: www.conservewatergeorgia.net. There are several checklists and audits at ConserveWaterGeorgia.net that homeowners can use to assess how Water Smart their landscape is, and plenty of information on how to improve your garden in efficiency and beauty, and to help your flowers and landscape plants thrive.