Water Conservation: How you can do your part

Water conservation: How you can do your part at home and in the garden

The current 35% water conservation state mandate for Beverly Hills has us all thinking about how to make the best use of every drop! There are many options to manage water used to maintain our landscapes. Most importantly we must preserve our mature trees and shrubs. Lawns can easily be reduced in size or replanted with climate appropriate ground cover. We complied a list of ideas that we feel should assist you in your conservation efforts and help you maintain the feel and beauty of your home landscape. Below this list, you can see what we have done at Robinson Gardens to successfully conserve water usage by 35% – 45%.

In the garden:

  1. Reset the irrigation clock to run one time per week during winter and two times per week in mid-summer, early in the morning before sunrise to avoid water evaporation.
  1. Run irrigation zones for eight to ten minutes, depending on how long it takes to collect 1 inch of water in a tuna fish or cat food can. It’s better to water longer but lest frequently, so roots grow deep in the soil and stay cooler and away from drying heat.
  2. Shut the irrigation system completely off after it rains. For each inch of rain, keep the irrigation off for 5 days.
  1. Learn to “read” plants for drought. Look for color change or leafs flagging before you water. Then only water the plants that are asking for water, use a watering can to water to avoid running the entire irrigation and wasting water.
  1. Upgrade your irrigation system so shady areas that need less water are on a separate station, verses a sunny location, which should be on its own station, because it will need water more frequently. Have efficient spray heads installed.
  1. Consider replanting water loving plants in the garden with climate appropriate plants.
  1. Lock the irrigation box so one person is in charge to prevent someone from running the clock manually, using water needlessly.
  1. Artificial turf is not a viable alternative to live plants in terms of environmental ethics. It is 40% hotter than natural turf and creates problems by off gassing toxic fumes and ultimately ends up in a land fill taking thousands of years to decay.
  1. Use the car wash; they are required to recycle water.
  1. Do not use water to wash walks, driveways, or hose down the house etc.

In the home:

  1. Run clothes washer and dish washer only with full loads.
  1. Instead of running water for several minutes waiting for hot water, heat it on the stove or in a tea pot to use for hand washing dishes
  1. Wash dishes in a plastic basin in the kitchen sink and when finished use water in the basin to water out door plants.
  1. Shut off water in shower while lathering up, and turn on just to rinse off.
  2. Toilet etiquette in severe drought: if it’s yellow, let it mellow, if it’s brown flush it down!

Water conservation at Virginia Robinson Gardens

These are the methods used at Virginia Robinson Gardens to reduce month-to-month water use by 35% to 45%

  1. Reprogrammed the irrigation clocks to run just 2 instead of 3 days per 7 day period. Put a master lock on all three controllers so only one person (the Superintendent) can have access to them. Typically, grounds staff will run zones manually when just a few plants require water instead of hand watering just the thirsty plants. This practice wastes a lot of water.
  1. Reduced lawn areas and replaced lawn with Mediterranean plants, resulting in reduced water use in these areas by 75%.
  1. Reduced number of potted plants to be hand watered.
  1. Repaired leaks in irrigation and changed out irrigation heads; installing the highest efficiency type, MP3’s. (Friends funded project)
  1. Repaired leaky faucets and toilet.
  1. Toilets are not flushed after every use. Our motto “If its yellow let it mellow, if its brown flush it down.”
  1. Purchased several rain gages to monitor rainfall. For every ½ inch of rainfall, the irrigation system is shut off for 3 days.
  1. VRG staff and volunteers wash dishes in a plastic basin in the kitchen sink. Instead of sending dishwater down the drain, the plastic basin is carried outside and grey water is used to water plants.
  1. Stainless steel soil probes are used to probe the soil and check the moisture level before adding water.
  1. Plants are used as indicators as to when to water. Gardeners learned to read plants for drought symptoms before adding water. At which time they receive a deep watering to encourage the development of deep plant roots. The deep root rooted plants stay hydrated longer and do not wilt so soon after watering. This saves a considerable amount of water.
  1. Wood chip mulch has been added to planting beds to reduce water evaporation from the soil and help control erosion when it rains.
  2. Water thirsty plants have been selectively replaced with climate appropriate plants that use a fraction of the water. This also saves staff time and they can perform more important functions in the garden.
  1. We track water use on the Robinson Gardens’ water bill month-to-month and carefully monitor usage to avoid higher tier charges.

Post by Timothy Lindsay
Superintendent of Virginia Robinson Gardens
Photo of Harry the cat overseeing replanting: Joshua Johnston

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