Archive for June, 2010

10 Timely Tips for Saving Water in Your Garden

Daylilies and other flowers blooiming in summer sun

With only a little water, your garden will grow!

Even if you live in a climate such as we do here in Arlington, MA, fresh water may be an increasingly scarce and expensive commodity. One way to conserve water is to design a landscape plan that cuts down on the need for irrigation.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, converting to a water-efficient landscape can reduce your outdoor water use by 20% to 50%, or as much as 10,000 gallons a year. That saves money, too, shaving between $30 and $70 off the average annual household water bill.

Often called xeriscaping or drought-tolerant landscaping, low-water landscaping also makes yard maintenance easier. Here are 10 strategies that will save water and still let you enjoy a beautiful, healthy garden.

  1. Choose native plants – Plants that originated in a particular part of the country have had eons to get used to that area’s normal rainfall, soil, and climate. That means they require less maintenance and little or no watering once established. Sites like eNature.com or H2ouse can help you find the best species for your area. Note: Just because you see a plant in your neighbor’s yard doesn’t meant it’s a native!
  2. Skip the super-sizing – “Pick plants that grow only to the size you want them,” advises Margaret Grace, principal of Grace Design Associates in Santa Barbara, Calif. “If you need five-foot-high screening between you and a neighbor, don’t put in something that grows nine feet high. You’ll have to chop it back all the time.” That’s a huge waste of water, not to mention extra work.
  3. Mulch to reduce evaporation – Putting two or three inches of mulch on top of the soil around your plants is a great way to reduce water loss. Mulch also cuts down on water-stealing weeds. The best mulch options are natural ones like compost, bark chips, and pine needles. These organic mulches gradually break down and add nutrients to the soil. Inorganic materials like rocks and pebbles are a more permanent option, although in some climates they can hold too much heat. A quick tip: Don’t pile mulch up in huge cones against a plant’s stem or it will trap too much moisture, which leads to fungus and rot.
  4. Make paths porous – Paths made of pebbles, gravel, or non-mortared concrete pavers or brick allow water to percolate down to your plants’ roots instead of running off into a storm drain. No mortar does mean more room for weeds to grow, though.
  5. Lose the lawn – The average American family uses more than 20,000 gallons a year watering the lawn. If you need grass for a play area or just like to feel the blades between your toes, you can still cut water use by replacing some of that conventional grass with varieties that need less water. Bermuda or buffalo grass can use 20% less water than fescue or bluegrass, according to the University of California Cooperative Extension. Keep it long, too. Raising your mower blade to three inches helps shade grass roots so they lose less water through evaporation.
  6. Put thirsty plants together – Grouping plants with the same water needs means you don’t waste water where it’s not necessary. Create a “mini-oasis” near the house, where thirsty plants can benefit from roof runoff. Farther out, make a “transition zone” for plants that need supplemental drip irrigation. Farther still is a “natural zone” for native plants that can survive on rainfall alone.

    Mixture of summer flowers in bloom with purples and yellows prominent

    Smart gardening saves water

  7. Plant and water when it’s cool – New plants and transplants need far less water if you put them in the ground in early fall or early spring, when it’s cooler. Similarly, water in the morning so you’ll lose less to evaporation in the heat of the day.
  8. Do donuts – Trees and shrubs need extra water the first couple of years to help their roots take hold. An efficient way to keep them moist is to mound several inches of soil into a donut-shaped berm out about as far as the branches reach. Use a hose or bucket to fill the donut dam to the top. Water will absorb slowly instead of running off. Another option: Attach a $25 – $30 drip irrigator bag to the tree.
  9. Follow the sun – Use dry-soil plants in sunny areas, and plants that require more water in shady areas where evaporation is slower.
  10. Create the illusion of water – Yes, you can have a water feature in a low-water garden. In fact, a small pond or fountain with a recirculating pump uses very little water. Pumps start as low as $10. Bonus: Water features attract birds and butterflies.

If you live in or around Arlington, MA, check out the listing of green, sustainable landscapers on the Eco-Friendly Partners page of my CyberGreenRealty web site.

Until next time, Peace!

-TMC

Nearly 200 in Attendance at Arlington MA Mass Ave Project Update Meeting

Picture of traffic on Mass Ave in Arlington MAAn estimated at 200 people crowded the Arlington, MA Town Hall Auditorium on Tuesday, June 22, 2010, as the engineer representing the town explained the next steps to be taken as Arlington moves toward a 25-percent plan to revamp Mass. Ave. from Pond Lane in Arlington to the border of Cambridge MA at the intersection of Mass Ave and Alewife Brook Parkway.

Rick Azzalina of Fay, Spofford & Thorndike offered a PowerPoint explanation followed by comments taken from as many as 50 in the audience. YourArlington.com invited two groups with interests in the project — East Arlington Concerned Citizens and the East Arlington Livable Streets Initiative– to comment.Sign welcoming visitors to Arlington MA

East Arlington Concerned Citizens said it would offer comment following the Town Hall session. Livable Streets provided a copy of its comments presented June 22.

Earlier, Laura Wiener, the town Planning Department’s point person for the project, wrote in an e-mail: “We have responded to many of their comments, resulting in some changes to the plan.”

The session was the first since East Arlington Concerned Citizens met with town officials in early May to discuss their concerns about the state’s reaction to the town’s earlier submission.

You can get the Massachusetts Department of Transportation status of the project online, and read more about it at the Town of Arlington’s web site.

What’s your opinion of the Mass Ave update project? Do you think it will help improve property values in East Arlington? Why not share your thoughts, both for or against the project?

Until next time, Peace!

-TMC

Soulful Song, Heartbreaking Video Inspires Clean Energy Action

Please watch this video, then go to the Environmental Defense Fund web site to send a letter to your Senator, demanding action NOW on energy reform.  If AIG is too big to fail, our environment and ecology should be “way too big to fail,” don’t you agree?

Send a letter to your Senator today, and thanks!

Until next time, Peace!

-TMC

Arlington MA Farmer’s Market Opens June 9, 2010

Picture of produce truck delivering fresh produce to Arlington

Yummy, yummy in my tummy!

Summer is finally here! And all the fresh produce (seasonal, of course), will be in abundance at the opening of Arlington’s Farmer’s Market on Wednesday, June 9th. The new hours for this year will be 2:00pm – 6:30pm, at the usual location in Arlington Center in the Russell Common Parking Lot behind Park Terrace and just off Route 60.

The market has one of the areas largest selections of farm fresh produce and locally raised, meat, local cheese, eggs, fish, honey, maple syrup, and flowers. They also have wonderful baked goods from local area bakeries and restaurants, so you’re bound to find something to whet your appetite.

For more information and to sign up for their mailing list, visit the Arlington Farmer’s Market web site for more details.  And for other eco-friendly vendors and businesses in the Arlington area, visit my Eco-Friendly Vendors web page at CyberGreenRealty.com.

Until next time, Peace!

-TMC

Do YOU plan on attending the Farmer’s Market?