Water Wise

Yay!!!  the rain barrel fairy visited us last night.  We’re part of DC’s RiverSmart Homes program, which is a group of subsidies designed to encourage people to reduce their landscaping’s environmental impact.  This includes less pesticide, fertilizer, and water use through planting local natives, reducing storm water runoff through using rain barrels, permeable pavement, and rain gardens, and finally cutting the heat by planting shade trees .  It’s an amazing program, so long as you’re patient (9 month wait list!), but it’s well worth the wait.  We recieved a 135 gallon rain barrel, fully installed, for a copay of $30.  DC Greenworks did the installation, and they we’re great and very informative: they also do green roofs which we hope to do someday.  Now we can collect rain from our roof for watering the veggies.  If anyone’s looked for a barrel of their own, they know that the materials alone cost $200 for a decenlty sized one.  I’ve had friends get their entire yards landscaped- with $1,200 worth of plants and labor- for a copay of $100: flowers, berries, and ground covers etc.  It looks great!

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We finally got a significant amount of rain: for the first time 6 weeks!  The great thing about planting native plants is that they’ve evolved to deal with DC’s heat, bugs, and occasional dry spells.  The two front beds of flowers are mostly native species (above), and i’ve only watered once over the past month, and they’re growing like mad and covered with flowers and buds.  What does a lawn look like without water for a month?

Some watering tips:

  • Mulch heavily- i have 2″ of shredded leaves on all the beds, 6″ around the base of my trees.  also adds organic material to amend the soil
  • Water deeply- 1″ of water at a time, encourages deeper roots.  frequent light waterings creates shallow roots and easily stressed plants when the heat is on.  you can put an empty tuna can in the garden as a cheap 1″ water gauge
  • Well spaced plantings- putting plants closer shades the soil for cooler roots and moisture retention.  Not too close though, they’ll compete for resources too much; i’m still trying to find the balance
  • Timing- watering in the morning allows it to sink in deeply, and gives the plants a chance to soak it up before the sun is hot.
  • Location- water at the base of the plant if possible.  spraying the leaves encourages mildews, especially if watered at night since the water won’t evaporate for many hours

About Ryan

Urban gardening at it's best (sometimes it's worst)! Adventures and learnings from going 100% lawn free in a D.C. row house.
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