Landscaping: A Different Kind of Green

Last July I purchased my first home, and since then I’ve been scouring the place for upgrades that will increase my efficiency to save money long term. I started with easy things like replacing all of the high-flow faucet aerators, swapping out 65 watt incandescent lighting for 9.5 watt LEDs, and replacing the existing appliances from the 90s with ENERGY STAR® qualified models. After all that was complete, I sat back…for about 15 seconds, and then got to work looking for the next project. When it comes to property upgrades, there’s always something to do.

So in my great quest for sustainability, it became pretty apparent that landscaping had to be one of my next tasks. Here are some interesting facts I learned about irrigation from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA):

  • About 30 percent (or 7.8 billion gallons) of the water consumed every day in the United States is used outdoors, with the majority of that going to irrigation.
  • A typical household uses 10,000 gallons of water, in addition to rainwater, each year. Imagine what an apartment community or hotel consumes!
  • By planting native landscaping, you could reduce your watering demands by up to 66 percent.

We all know many areas in the U.S. are experiencing drought conditions, so it is obvious why water conservation is essential. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) predicts that the drought is going to persist and expand in California, the Southwest, and the southern Plains due to dry and warm conditions. According to recent news reports, Southern California would have to rain every day for months to get back to normal reserves.

From the stats provided by the EPA, you can see that there is a lot of room for improvement. First take a look at the plants, trees and grass that you currently have on your property. Do they require a lot of water? If so, this blog is for you!

Native Landscaping
Native landscaping is the concept of planting species that are naturally occurring to reduce the required water and maintenance, as well as combat soil erosion and preserve resources. Native plants are adapted to the sun, rain and soil in your area, so they tend to do better, not require fertilizers and are more resistant to pests and disease. If you aren’t sure what is local to your area, check out this native plant list where you can pick your location then select a link based on what you are interested in.

When planting your new landscaping, be sure to group plants together based on their watering needs. For example, you wouldn’t want to put a flowering shrub that needs moist soil next to a dry cactus or succulent. By doing this you avoid over- and under-watering and save water.

Using the Proper Tools
After I’ve planted the perfect native plants in my yard, what next? Even though your new landscaping needs less water, it still needs some, and that is where irrigation controllers come into play. A controller can be installed to turn on irrigation when it’s least likely to evaporate before hitting the ground. This is usually between 4 a.m. and 7 a.m., when the air is cool, wind is calm and sun isn’t too hot yet. One step above that is a WaterSense® certified controller, which turns on and off based on the weather and the current conditions.

Another option to consider is drip irrigation. A soaker hose has a lot of very small holes and is placed along the roots of your plants that need moist soil. The water comes out slowly and very little evaporates because is it not being sprayed into the air. But, as with any type of irrigation, make sure to keep an eye on it to ensure it’s not overwatering or running off onto an impervious surface.

In spring, WaterSense® promotes sprinkler spruce-up with these four steps:

  • Inspect your system for clogged, broken or missing sprinkler heads and replace where necessary.
  • Connect sprinkler heads tightly to prevent water from pooling in puddles and harming plants.
  • Direct sprinklers away from driveways and sidewalks to water only where needed.
  • Select a watering schedule that adjusts with the seasons, or replace your clock timer with a WaterSense-labeled irrigation controller, which uses local weather data to water only when needed.

Save Water in the Summer

Kelly Thompson is the Assoc. Manager of Sustainability at HD Supply Facilities Maintenance. She is LEED® Green Associate accredited and is the San Diego Green Building Council's Marketing Committee Co-Chair as well as a member of Sustainable Surplus’s Marketing Committee. Kelly has participated in various environmental projects such as carbon footprinting, the LEED building certification process, and corporate social responsibility reporting.