Friday, October 15, 2010

Blog Action Day 2010: Water from the Sky is Best for Plants

The water in this beautiful alpine lake comes from the sky and
the snow pack, yet still needs some processing before
it's drinkable by humans. Plants on the other hand think
this water is wonderful.

Pure, clean drinking water is something that most of us take for granted, yet almost 1 billion people around the world would love to have just one cup. This year's Blog Action Day theme is Water, and we as gardeners can do our part to help everyone on the planet have a bit more of it. It's much simpler than you might think to use more of what comes from the sky and less of the water that comes out of the tap. Best of all, rainwater is much better for your gardens then tap water, as it contains no chlorine, fluoride or other chemicals used to make our drinking water pure. One of my post's from last year, Waste Not, Want Not: Creating Gardens and Landscapes that Make Best Use of Rainwater, can give you more ideas to help you help save this precious resource.

All of the rain water that flows down our driveway is
filtered through this dry stream bed as
it seeps into the gardens around it.

So how much water does an average family use on their yards in a season?  Well, the number of gallons are all over the board, but the percentage of water used for landscaping versus overall household use is fairly constant, at between 50% - 65%.  That's a huge amount of processed, purified drinking water to use just to satisfy our need to have green lawns, lush flowers, and a nice yard.  Just think if much of that water could be saved for other things or not have to be processed at all. Our resources would not be depleted so quickly, far less chemicals would be used and put back into the water supply, and our gardens and yards would be much healthier. 

How can you make a difference?  Try these simple things to get started:
  • water your gardens and landscapes one less day per week or month,
  • water only when and where your plants need it,
  • use soaker hoses or drip irrigation instead of sprinklers,
  • check your irrigation system for leaks and/or bad timers,
  • use the rain that falls naturally from the sky to water your gardens instead of sending it down the sewers and into the streets,
  • choose water wise and/or native plants that naturally use less water,
  • use rain barrels to harvest water from your roof if your state allows it,
  • replace some (or all) of your lawn with ground covers, perennials and ornamental grasses.
There are almost as many gardeners in the world as there are people without clean drinking water.  If each of us helped just one person somewhere on the planet by changing our watering habits, think of the positive change we would make!

To follow Blog Action Day 2010 on Twitter, check out @blogactionday, or #BAD10. Or, if you want to see the live feed, check out and pledge your support or add your blog post.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Wordless Wenesday - A Light in the Forest

A single Aspen shows its beautiful light at the end of our property,
surrounded by Ponderosa Pines, Gambel Oak and lots of wildlife.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Grasses Steal the Glory in the Fall

The Rocky Mountains make a beautiful backdrop for this public garden

Fall is my favorite time of year, as I love all the rich colors it brings.  Golden aspen leaves, orange and red oak leaves, and various shades of native shrub leaves all work to make a tapestry of color.  But my favorite plants for beautiful fall color are not trees or shrubs, rather the many types of ornamental and native grasses putting on their finest for the fall show.  Many native grasses are so beautiful in all seasons, and are welcome in the gardens as well as in the wild.  One of the best places in my area to check out ornamental and native grasses is the public garden at the Colorado Springs Utilities Conservation & Environmental Center.  This Xeriscape Garden is free to walk through anytime of year, and provides residents with plenty of ideas for waterwise gardening in the high desert environment where the mountains meet the plains. 

Ornamental and Native Grasses are used throughout the gardens
in both irrigated and non-irrigated areas.

Ornamental grasses provide foundation plantings 
with color, texture and movement.

Giant Sacaton (Sporobolus wrightii) is a Southwestern native,
low water replacement for Miscanthus.

The delicate seed heads of Switch Grass (Panicum) sway with the
slightest winds while the its leaves shimmer in the sun. 
Both native and cultivated varieties are available from many nurseries.

Some grasses turn brilliant red in the fall, while others stay golden or blue. 

Isn't this a gorgeous shade of red?
Seed heads are one of the best features of grasses.

Schizachyrium scoparium - Little Bluestem is native to much of North America

Now, if the photos above aren't enough to convince you about the wonderful properties of grasses for your gardens, think about this: 
  • Native and ornamental grasses provide four seasons of interest with color, sound, texture, and movement.
  • They need very little fertilizer.
  • They're mostly free from pests and diseases.
  • They give food for wildlife especially birds.
  • Most need much less water than other plants in your landscape.
  • The only thing you need to do to them is give them a nice haircut early in the springtime when new growth begins.
So this fall or next spring, try to add a few grasses to your gardens and watch the show begin!
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