There was a time when many thought of water as a renewable resource. We wish it were true. Although our water supply does get recharged (some years are better than others), the distribution of this water varies. Each year, the gain isn’t necessarily equal to the loss—sometimes we take more than nature gives.
Out West, waterwise gardening is a way of live. However, here on the East Coast, we get a lot more rain, but we also experience long periods of drought. If Raleigh’s annual rainfall came an inch a week, there would be little need for a waterwise design. But it doesn’t. Summers, in particular, can be hot and dry. It wasn’t until we were experiencing the worst drought in 100 years, with outdoor watering restrictions and no major rain in sight, that most gardeners began to take note.
Waterwise gardening is not new, but gardeners seem to have drifted from understanding the benefits and techniques of waterwise design. This strategy is not limited to gardening in a drought, but is a practical and effective way to garden anywhere, while at the same time promoting good environmental stewardship of our land and water.
The main way to achieve a waterwise design is to group plants with similar needs together. A waterwise design will save you countless hours of watering, plus the cost associated with that. But you’ll soon realized a water-saving design will also cement in your head a map of your garden and thereby simplified my plant purchases.
In the past before acquiring a plant, I’m sure you consider a plant’s sun requirements. If it needed extra water and you loved the plant, you didn’t pay much attention to where to plant it. What a waste! To water with a waterwise design, when you select a plant, think of not only the sun requirements, but water requirements as well. You’ll soon know exactly where in your garden the plant can go, based on the map of your waterwise garden. Today, If a plant doesn’t meet your sun requirements AND watering needs, within the appropriate bed, put the plant back on the cart. Although it will be hard at first, Bee Better promises you’ll have no regrets. With so many great plants out there, just keep looking for those that meet your waterwise needs.
Remember, too, waterwise isn’t limited to drought tolerant plants. It’s a planting scheme that uses all different kinds of plants, from agaves to tropicals, and places them into efficient beds based on their various watering needs. The beds in a waterwise garden are divided into three gardening zones: oasis, transitional, and xeric.
The oasis zone is the area closest to the water source. These sources can be drain spouts, rain barrels, or a faucet and hose. Also include the area around the front door as an oasis, where you can easily water your container plants with water collected indoors.
The transitional zone is the area away from the house, about midway from the home to the end of the property. Plantings here should be sustainable, requiring only occasional supplemental water. Typically, these areas are island beds, driveway beds, or raised beds.
The xeric zone is at the property’s perimeter. These plants should be tough and should not require supplemental water. This area can be filled with dependable, drought-resistant plants.
It’s not difficult to be water wise. Get a rain gauge, and pay attention to the local rainfall. Only water when plants need watering. Even the thirstiest plants, once established, only need about an inch of water a week. (However, container gardens may need daily watering in the heat of the summer.) Remember to mulch—it’s moisture-trapping ability will be your best defense against drought!
From our Director!
Being water wise goes beyond plant choices and bed placements. Think about other garden features as well. Our Director, Helen Yoest, has a major focal point in her front garden– is a six-foot tall, three-tiered fountain. It is a fantastic feature for sound, attracting wildlife, and it’s good looking, too. The fountain is refilled with water from harvested rain.
Helen uses a 250-gallon converted food storage container. These containers abound, since they have only a one-time use. After their initial use, they either go to the landfill, or clever people find ways to repurpose them. They make great rain harvesters for gardeners, and only slight modifications are needed. Helen’s harvester sits at the corner of her property on the south side—the same side the fountain is on—but the harvester is next to the house. The drain spout diverts rainwater into the harvester, with overflow going to an oasis bed. There is a hose hooked up at the bottom of the harvester. When the fountain needs re-filling, all she needs to do is turn the valve. If harvester doesn’t have water to refill, she doesn’t turn on the fountain. Yet, it still provides water for the wildlife when it’s not running. When the fountain is running, it’s a signal to all that we are rain rich, for the moment anyway. “While I enjoy the fountain most when it’s running, I also value its silence, which means water is being conserved and used only when available,” says Helen. Silence makes a major statement in Helen’s garden, Helen’s Haven and in waterwise design.
This makes no sense at all to Bee Better. Capture it, redirect it, use it, but don’t waste it!