Water-wise gardening info and tools available
In the wake of one of the most severe droughts in recent history, nursery and landscaping businesses are taking extra steps to educate consumers about water-wise gardening techniques that can help maximize the benefits of rain to minimize long dry spells.
With water restrictions in place in many communities across the state, some consumers have simply opted not to purchase plants or use landscaping services. But homeowners and plant lovers do have options that allow them to enjoy their plants and gardening.
“Right now, everyone in the green industry is down on their knees praying it will rain,” said Tina Mast of Raleigh’s Homewood Nurseries. “We want people to know they can come out and replace the plants they lost during the summer and fall drought of 2007 and we’ll help them figure out the best species and layout for their yards and gardens.”
Homewood, which is on a private well water system, is helping its customers by giving away free milk jugs of water and stocking rain barrels to catch recyclable water. It has also developed educational brochures and Web site tips.
A new promotional campaign, Water-Wise Works! also seeks to educate the public on how they can successfully grow plants in the home landscape even during periods of drought and water restrictions. The Water-Wise Works! campaign partners the NCDA&CS with the N.C. Green Industry Council and N.C. State University’s horticulture department. Water-Wise Works! emphasizes six important areas that will help homeowners maintain an attractive landscape with less water. A central component of the campaign is the Web site www.TarHeelGardening.com, developed by the N.C. Nursery and Landscape Association and NCDA&CS.
“I think there’s a misconception that you can’t buy plants and shrubbery during a time of drought,” said Bill Glenn, an NCDA&CS marketing specialist. “But with the expertise of the people in our green industry and a little extra effort, you can. The Web site TarHeelGardening.com offers a number of tips and techniques people can use in their gardens and yards.”
Water-Wise Works! practices promote an environment that encourages healthy plant growth and uses careful planning and research on the best species and layouts of plants, trees, flowers and turf grass that match the landscape site. These practices greatly reduce the need for irrigation.
“Good horticulture practices such as proper plant selection, site preparation and landscape maintenance practices are key,” said Barbara Fair, assistant professor of horticultural science and N.C. Cooperative Extension landscape specialist at NCSU. “We need to use all the tools available because none of these methods alone will work.”
It’s most important to choose tough plants that can withstand both extremes, Fair said. In choosing a landscape, don’t create a desert landscape in response to current dry conditions, because in the last four years there has also been very rainy weather, she said. As homeowners look to the future and normal rainfall returns, they may want to consider planting hedges of drought-tolerant evergreen plants such as holly, arborvitae, eastern red cedar and spruce.
“Homeowners may also want to consider using rain barrels or other water harvesting methods such as cisterns to make the best use of the rainfall we do get,” Mast said. “As our lakes begin to fill back in, water restrictions will be lowered, but it’s always good to have additional water on hand.”
Homeowners can also help their landscape plants survive by keeping them healthy. For example, use care with string trimmers or mowers around woody plants to avoid damaging them. Some thin-barked species will never recover from a bark injury.