Landscape Horticulturalist Paul Simon from the National Gardening Association knows a lot about water, including this fact that most people don’t know: the water that we use today is the same water that’s existed on earth since its formation millions of years ago. And there’s just as much of it as there ever was: the total quantity of water stays constant as it is recycled time and time again through the earth’s weather cycles. This recycling is called the hydrologic cycle.
Once people understand that, they’re curious about what it means for people living on the planet. In particular it creates the question: why should we save water, if the same amount is still going to be around forever?
Water is a precious and valuable resource. Wars have been fought over it, and may be fought again. Clean water is a particularly valuable commodity: one in 10 people on the planet do not have access to clean safe drinking water, which comes out to about twice the population of the United States. The water crisis is the number-one global risk based on impact to society (as a measure of devastation), as announced by the World Economic Forum in January 2015.
So that puts it in a different perspective, doesn’t it? And it follows that wherever you live, conserving water is very important. But what does water conservation mean for gardeners who want to keep their lawns green and their plants happy?
Let’s talk lawns
Many people just automatically put their water sprinklers on. They don’t think about it; it’s automatic. But maybe it’s time to start thinking about it! Everything you do has consequences. Most people, by just turning on their sprinklers every day, are actually over-watering their lawns. The reality is that you should only water when your lawn needs it. Here’s the scoop: lawns generally only need about one inch of water per week. That’s not that much! You can easily check to see if your lawn needs water by stepping on it. If the grass blades spring back quickly, then you don’t need the water. Don’t turn on that sprinkler! But if you step on them and they stay flat, then you can assume that your lawn needs watering.
How many times have you seen sprinklers, especially on commercial properties, that weren’t aimed properly? Fairly often, if you’re like most people. Aim the sprinkler! Your driveway doesn’t need to be watered. The sidewalk doesn’t need to be watered. This is offensive and insulting to everyone in the world who doesn’t have access to water: it’s waste, pure and simple. Don’t do it.
The best time to water your lawn and garden is early in the morning, between 4:00 and 6:00. Yes, that early! It should really be done before sunrise.
Why is that? When the sun comes up, it starts to evaporate the water particles in your lawn. So watering early ensures the water can get in there, that it can infiltrate into the soil, and that the lawn soaks those particles up and get to use it. You’ve also probably heard that watering when the sun is on the lawn or plants isn’t a good idea, as it can essentially burn them. Do it early!
Consider implementing some easy-to-install green solutions. One way to do this is simple and effective: you can store rainwater in barrels to reuse! Choose the downspout adjacent to a garden where you intend to recycle the water to empty into a rain barrel.