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Publix GreenWise Market Magazine - Fall 2011

Create a Water-less Garden

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Trim your water bills with these expert tips for a healthy, eco-friendly yard.

Manage Your Turf
  • Limit lawns to 1 inch of water per week. Irrigate in one or two thorough waterings to create a drought-resistant root system, explains Pamela Crawford, coauthor of Easy Gardens for the South (Color Garden Publishing, 2009).
  • Raise your mower to optimum height for your type of grass. Taller grass reduces soil moisture loss and shades out lawn weeds. Check with your local extension service for the best setting. (Visit to find your local office.)
  • Apply the minimum amount of fertilizer recommended to slow growth and reduce water needs. Leave clippings on the lawn to let nutrients recycle.

Use Mulch
  • Mulch flowers, shrubs and trees to help retain soil moisture and reduce the need to water. A 2–4 inch layer cuts water evaporation loss by 10 to 25 percent, according to North Carolina State University experts.
  • Choose natural mulches, such as cocoa shells or pine straw, which decompose over time and enrich the soil with organic matter.
  • Prevent disease by keeping mulch 2 inches away from tree and shrub trunks, advises Beth Babbit, horticulture specialist at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville. Otherwise, damp bark might breed bacteria.
  • Block weeds with woven mulch fabric, which reduces moisture loss while allowing air and rain to reach the roots.

Pick the Right Plants
  • Group thirsty plants in clusters so you can target heavy watering, advises Babbit.
  • Choose drought-tolerant plants, such as lantana and crepe myrtle, which thrive with little water and will look great even when Mother Nature turns off the faucet.
  • Reduce lawn area. Replace a portion of water-hungry grass with gravel, paving or deep-rooted trees and shrubs that don't need frequent sprinkling.

Water Wisely
  • Limit overhead watering. "Water may stay on the foliage and cause fungus to grow," explains Crawford.
  • Use rain barrels. "You'll be amazed at the amount of water you'll collect," Babbit says.
  • Sprinkle early. Water early in the day when cooler temperatures reduce water loss from evaporation.
  • Install drip irrigation to deliver water directly to the roots of trees and shrubs. These easy DIY systems use up to 50 percent less water than conventional sprinkler systems.
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