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Michael Wheeler: Tips on being smart with water usage for your yard
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Having a water-smart landscape is more than just having a water-efficient irrigation system. It is about looking at your landscape and changing your gardening practices to improve water use.

Let’s begin by looking at design.

Separate your landscape into different areas of water needs, including high, moderate and a low water use areas. Then group flowers and plants according to those levels.

The high water area should be small. But it also should be a focal point such as around the front door.

Moderate water areas are spots that receive water during establishment and times of stress. You can tell if a plant is under stress by its pale green color, wilting or leaf scorching.”. You can tell if a plant is under moisture stress by its pale green color, wilting or leaf scorching.

Low water areas are landscape sections that only receive rainfall as its source of water after plants are established. Generally, 60 percent of the landscape should be low water use. About 10 percent of the landscape should be high water use. The remaining 30 percent can be moderate.

Going along with the same idea, gardeners should put the right plant in the right spot. Obviously, consider a plants drought tolerance, sun exposure, light intensity, drainage patterns and wind conditions. If the plant is adapted to the area’s conditions, it will have a better chance of survival.

Here are more tips to improve your landscapes water efficiency:

Have the Hall County Extension Office test the soil for its fertilizer requirements. Adding too much fertilizer can create a stress by having rapid growth during times of drought. Over fertilization during normal rainfall increases the amount of routine pruning required through the growing season. Pruning by itself increases growth, so you tend to see a compounding effect.

Add organic matter to the soil where you can. This improves water holding capacity and root growth, allowing plants to have a strong root system during drought.

Add mulch to flower beds. Mulch adds organic matter over time, reduces watering needs and acts as weed control. So all of the water in the soil goes to the plants you want and moderates soil temperature extremes.

Mulch lawn by grasscycling.

Grasscycling is the practice of letting the clippings stay on the turf to act as an organic matter layer. Clipping your grass at the appropriate time will ensure you don’t get the clumps of dead grass in your yard and the clippings will decompose quickly.

Over a season, grass clippings can add as much as 30 percent of fertilizer to the lawn. Another thing to keep in mind, grass clippings are not what contribute to the buildup of thatch.

Irrigate in the morning to reduce evaporation losses and disease pressure because the foliage is not wet for an extended period.

Better yet, use soaker hoses or drip irrigation. This keeps the foliage dry and delivers the water to the root zone directly.

Practicing these ideas and concepts will allow you to reduce your water use footprint significantly.

The smart use of this precious resource is important due to the fact that it is used for so many other needs. Even in times of rainfall, it seems like we are always about two or three weeks away from water stress conditions. So plan accordingly and stay smart.


Michael Wheeler is county extension coordinator for the UGA Cooperative Extension office in Hall County. You can contact him at 770-535-8293, His column appears biweekly and on

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