Written by Todd Michaels
Turn the faucet on, and you’ll think the water can run forever. But water is a precious resource, and if reservoirs are low, that can lead to a long, dry summer. In Nashville, soil and water conservation is serious business. The amount of water you use in your backyard makes a difference.
Managing water consumption is a plus — not only for the environment but for your utility bill. There are several ways you can preserve and control the amount of water you use on your lawn and garden.
Unlike invasive species, native plants adapt to the environment and climate without needing extra water or fertilizer. Add some of Nashville’s native plants like wild blue phlox, coreopsis, and cardinal flowers to your landscape. Nashville gets an average of 4 to 5 inches of rain per month — plenty of water to irrigate shrubs like spicebush and azaleas. Add mulch to help plants retain the moisture. Growing native plants in the landscape means less yard work (and who doesn’t like that!).
Yard Water Conservation
Occasionally (and especially during a dry spring and summer), you’ll need to take a hose or sprinkler to the lawn and garden.
- Water before the hot sun appears to allow moisture to soak in (between dawn and mid-morning or after sunset).
- Turn automatic sprinklers off in the rain.
- Water evenly so that some areas don’t grow faster than others.
- Adjust sprinklers to water only the lawn and flowerbeds, not the driveway.
- Mulch plants and flowers to keep water from evaporating on hot days.
- Monitor the soil by digging 1 to 6 inches deep. If the soil is moist, you won’t need to water.
- Design a tube for watering plant roots. (Cut off the top of a plastic bottle, insert it into the soil. Pour water into the bottle). Direct watering keeps moisture away from plant foliage; this deters fungus and mold).
Rain falls onto your roof, don’t waste all that lawn-preserving water! Rain barrels catch water run-off for use in grass, gardens, and flowerbeds. It CANNOT be used for drinking because the excess water picks up chemicals and bacteria from roofing materials, birds, leaves, and debris. In Nashville, a 1,000 square foot roof yields about 600 gallons of rainwater. Set the barrel to drain under a downspout and cover it with mesh netting. Stored water is a great alternative to tapping city resources – and the best part? Rain barrel water is free.
Save Water Indoors
Conservation begins at home, and that means inside, too. Fix leaky faucets and toilets. Turn off the water when brushing your teeth and washing your face. Place a bucket under the showerhead to collect water while it’s warming up (use it to water your garden.) Every little thing we do to save water ensures Nashville’s city well won’t run dry.
Todd Michaels is a conservationist with degrees in biology and botany. He writes about eco-friendly landscaping and recycling efforts around the country.