Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Tips for Back Yard Sustainability + Water Conservation

Healthful and sustainable landscapes. 
Homeowners Associations and Condo Communities are asking Crabapple LandscapExperts for tips about keeping water use low, recycling and applying organic techniques to boost their sustainability quotients, so the LandscapExperts have assembled some advice. Many of the communities we service are LOHAS communities, an acronym for “Lifestyles of Health and Sustainability.” This is a demographic focused on health and fitness, the environment, personal development, sustainable living and social justice. If you would like to schedule a presentation about this topic for your community, ask your LandscapExperts Rep.

Several components are crucial to backyard sustainability and water conservation.

Pinestraw mulch
Mulch is the primo, Number 1 way to conserve moisture in the landscape. Organic mulch insulates the soil surface, protecting it from water loss and temperature fluctuation. Ten Benefits of Organic mulch are discussed on our blog. A layer of 2-3 inches of coarse mulch is plenty. Spread the mulch out under the tree or shrub canopy, and keep damp mulch away from the bark of trees and shrubs

Recommended Types of Organic Mulch
Pine Bark Nuggets
Shredded Hardwood mulch
Cypress Mulch
No dyed mulch
No rubber chips mulch

Recycle Plant Trash by Composting
Make “Black Gold” a.k.a. humus, from discarded plants rather than bagging plant waste and having this valuable source of organic matter carted off-site.

It is easy to make organic compost because of the action of friendly fungi and beneficial bacteria that break down (rot) plants into rich, dark brown humus for you. The decayed organic material is used as a plant fertilizer, to improve the soil structure, and as a mulch. At the simplest level, the process of composting involves making a heap of damp organic matter (brown leaves, green weeds and veggie waste) and waiting for the materials to break down into humus after a period of weeks or months.

In composting it is pretty much WYSIWYG – what you see (add) is what you get. You can toss in a layer of topsoil or even cow or horse manure to contribute to the process and improve the finished product.

These Bad Actors Have No Business in the Compost Pile:
Diseased plants
Insect-infested plants
Chemical-laden grass clippings
Weeds loaded with seeds

When the compost looks like dark brown chocolate cake it has become humus, and it can be forked or tilled into the flower bed or used to topdress the landscape plants. Mulch can be applied over the top. Read more about how Crabapple LandscapExperts recycleplant waste and make our own deluxe compost

Water Conservation
Soaker Hose
Equally important to backyard sustainability is the wise use of water. Newly planted plants are the most at-risk members of the landscape, and must be watered once or twice a week if there is no natural rain, until they "become established." This term means the roots grow out of the original container root ball and out into the surrounding native soil to anchor the plant and to obtain water. Use a long-term watering sleeve for trees, or position a recycled gallon-milk jug filled with water next to the plant for immediate spot watering. 

Irrigation Systems
Have your LandscapExperts design and install a carefully monitored Irrigation system for your planting areas and save water. Or Crabapple can update or renovatie an existing irrigation system in order to greatly improve watering efficiency

The LandscapExperts often discuss water-wise irrigation tips:
Test for moisture
Make sure the soil doesn’t crust over
Don’t over water
Don’t waste water
Water deeply after long intervals (once a week)
Water in the morning
Focus on the most important area of the landscape (often the front)
Use cool water
Choose the right tool

Soaker Hoses 
The use of soaker hoses. The Soaker Hose technique was developed in the arid Israeli desert in the 1940’s after WWII. Water seeps or trickles out of a semi-porous hose at a very slow rate that the soil can completely absorb with zero runoff, thus efficiently making use of every drop of water.

A simple, inexpensive, manual timer on each outdoor spigot is invaluable in restricting the amount of water to a targeted amount.

Water Breaker Nozzle or Shower Nozzle
Water Breaker or Shower Hose Nozzle 
Conserve water with the proper watering tools, Direct, hand-watering the roots of the plants using a water breaker nozzle for a gentle shower (those hard jet sprayers or fine misters need not apply) uses the minimum amount of water but achieves the maximum effect. 

Water Wand
For homeowner gardens, a 3-foot water wand directs the water to the plant roots for improved efficiency. Water the roots, not the leaves. 

Plant Selection
Choose the right plant according to sun or shade and moist or dry soil conditions
Replace thirsty Fescue lawns with better-adapted Bermuda or Zoysia turf
Choose native plants that have evolved in these climate conditions over millinea 
Slow transporation (evaporation of water from leaf pores) with waxy-leaved plants

Strategic Use of Shade
Protect your landscape from the heat of the sun by utilizing or planting shade trees.

The many strategies that Crabapple LandscapExperts employ can help the backyards in your community to be more sustainable! 


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