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To Water Or Not to Water? Gardening in Dry Times

photo by DonBanana
WikiMedia Commons

Many Colorado municipalities are limiting water use this spring and summer. But with smart water use and proper plant selection, KUNC Gardener Tom Throgmorton says gardening is still a worthwhile endeavor.

The Denver water board is implementing watering restrictions.  The perception is that with limited water it isn’t worth gardening or landscaping this season.  With water conservation we can have our gardens and eat them too.

Part of the reason we were drawn to our communities is the lovely Colorado landscapes.  Cities have beautiful parks and public plantings.  School districts have landscaped buildings and ample athletic fields.  We all enjoy our green neighborhoods.  Because of the potential drought we don’t have to let all of this die.

With a little sacrifice, we can save a lot of water.  Our neighborhood lawns and greenbelts don’t have to be emerald green.  Smart water use can maintain healthy plants even in the driest of years.

Train lawns beginning in the spring to have deep roots. Instead of leaving a sprinkler in one area, cycle the sprinkler.  Divide the twenty minutes into two sets of ten minutes or even four sets of five minutes.  Cycling pushes the water and the roots deeper. 

Aerating and mowing to keep the grass two and a half to three inches long will use less water.  Even with proper maintenance there are areas of lawn that are just too hard to maintain.  Eliminate them and put the right plant or hardscape in.

We grow a lot of flowers and herbs in containers.  Use polymers in flowerpots.  Polymers are gels that hold water and release it slowly.   They can be blended into the container soil.  With polymers the plants will need watered less often.  Polymers in the vegetable garden soil will help use less water there. 

A drip system for shrub and perennial beds would also save water.  A drip system gets the water right to the plant’s root zone.  The system can be as simple as a hose with holes in it.  Or it can be specialized tubing with special drip heads for each plant type.  As the plant grows the drip system needs to be adjusted.  But an adjusted drip system keeps the right amount of water in the right place for the plant.   

Conserve water outside and we can still have our beautiful gardens and landscapes.

Tom has been offering garden advice on KUNC for almost two decades. During that time he has been the wholesale sales manager at Ft. Collins Nursery, Inc. Since January of 2005 he has been the owner and operator of Throgmorton Plant Management, LLC., a landscape installation and maintenance company as well as a horticultural consulting firm. He lives in northern Ft. Collins with his wife and two kids.
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