April showers, May flowers and June tomato towers

With water resources looking to be tight throughout much of northern Nevada, many of us are wondering what we should plant in our gardens this year – or should we plant at all.

If there are no April showers, should we scratch the May flowers?  Should we grow tomatoes or corn or petunias?  Mr. Vegetable, where are you?

Nasturtium

Nasturtium – colorful and edible.

First things first… get the garden off to a good and healthy start.  

  • Clean out the debris like leaves and dead plants that has collected over the winter.
  • Till the garden by double digging or even consider the new trend which is triple digging.  You have to dig down to the third shovel depth to till. This is done in Africa with amazing results in production.
  • Add compost.  Tilling plus adding compost will improve soil quality and help it hold more water.
  • Use mulch this season because it keeps more water in the soil and lowers evaporation.  Wood mulch, straw and even newspapers and grass clippings all do the job.

Be sustainable in your plant choices and practices.

Growing food is not a waste of water – it puts the most locally-grown food possible on your table.  Just do it wisely.

Here are some tips:

  • Grow more edibles than ornamentals.  Tomatoes have many uses on the menu and are easily consumed.  Pumpkins, on the other hand, are generally more ornamental and tend to overrun your garden if you’re not careful.  Scale back on the pumpkin patch and devote more resources to food crops.
  • Dress up your edible garden with companion flowers.  Nasturtium aren’t just pretty, they taste good in a salad.  Marigolds help deter pests.  Using dual purpose flowers like these in your garden gives more bang for your water buck.
  • Plant in blocks, rather than in rows.  Putting plants closer together creates shade that holds in moisture.
  • Control weeds.  They will suck up moisture your veggies need.
  • Use containers to grow some herbs, veggies and summer annual flowers.  Potted plants generally need less water than those planted in the soil.  Containers can also be watered efficiently with drip irrigation.
  • Recycle water from the kitchen.  After swishing a head of lettuce in a big bowl of water to clean it, pour the water on the pot of herbs outside.  It’s a few more steps, but the effort reminds us how precious our water is and that we need to use it wisely and even “twicely” whenever we can.

Productive landscapes add value to our lives and are a responsible use of resources.  This year, plan ahead and water wisely.

REDUCE AND DIVERSIFY WITH X-E-R-I-S-C-A-P-E!

Reducing turf areas, lowering water costs and bringing a more organic look to the landscape was the big ‘to do’ for us in 2009. In other words, Xeriscaping was back into favor with homeowners, designers and contractors. I have a good feeling it’s going to top 2010 project list again.

Now, before you get the idea this translates to a few cacti, scotch broom and a cover of river-rock mulch, you just might want to take a new look at Xeriscaping. At its most basic, this is a practice designed to help make low-water-use landscaping an easily recognized concept. Here in the Truckee Meadows, water costs, mandatory watering schedules and plant deaths have demonstrated Xeriscaping is a smart choice and can look magnificent.

Xeriscaping represents a multi-step approach to incorporate soil amendments, compatible plant material and efficient irrigation into a well thought-out design. Try to look at your landscape in a simpler way and choose appropriate plants, native and naturalized, for our area. Use plantings that will survive and thrive Northern Nevada’s climate. And think organically at all times; part of your overall earth-wise gardening solution will conserve water with native and adapted plants and consume less synthetic pesticides and fertilizers, while reducing emissions from lawn equipment.

Planted veggies line a walkway

You don’ have to sacrifice style and grace to create a beautiful Xeriscaped garden. Instead of roses, peonies and Hydrangeas in flower beds, showcase the plants in a pot or urn that can be appreciated close up and maintained easier. For a green, clipped European-themed garden, you can spend a lot less effort, money and water using native plants to achieve the great designs and the first place to start is by asking questions of your landscaper or nursery. They have the professionals on staff with the native plant knowledge to steer you in the right direction.

 

 

 

Xeriscaping can reduce landscape water use by 60 percent or more and increase property values by as much as 15 percent, according to Colorado WaterWise – an agency focused on promoting water-efficient landscaping


Be Water Smart

Drip irrigation is gaining popularity in our state as we’ve begun to experience more drought and watering restrictions and should be part of our commitment to the intelligent use of water. Drip products are made of control zone components that control water flow (valves, filters and pressure regulators), distribution components that get water where it needs to go (blank tubing or dripline emitter tubing) and emission devices (drip emitters and low volume microsprays).
Drip systems are often the perfect solution for sparse planting schemes. Applying water directly to the plant roots without watering the areas in between, you not only cut down water use but also help prevent weed growth. It’s also ideal for plantings near buildings and paved areas, greatly reducing runoff and overspray that are wasteful and can ruin wooden structures – such as your fence or the side of your house.

Grass is still OK!

Xeriscape garden does not have to look dry and desolate, and it doesn’t require the absolute absence of turf grass. We loves turf and use it frequently in moderation as in a ‘turf medallion’ in an arid-type garden, or as a focal point, a destination or a way to set off the plantings that surround it. Your landscape will still benefit from turf’s summer cooling properties and even more exciting, the sizeable water expense savings.

Also, you might highlight interesting architecture and use brightly painted yard art, urns, stones and plants with colorful flowers, foliage, fruit and bark to lend year-round intrigue to a Xeriscape.

For any questions about how you can produce a wonderful Xeriscaped landscape, give your landscape professional or nursery a call. They’ll spend the time to provide you with smart, affordable ideas on how you can transition your old-school yard into a stylish, sturdy outdoor environment designed for Nevada.