Monday, March 26, 2012

Green Up Your Lawn and Garden--and Your Wallet

Welcome to Week No. 2 of Re: a weekly post of ideas for living a greener life. If you are interested in guest posting on a "green" topic, please contact me. Relevant topics include anything related to reducing, reusing, recycling, reclaiming and repurposing.

Can you believe how quickly winter slipped into spring? Seems brown has given way to green virtually overnight. Yes, spring definitely has sprung in the Midwest.

In our neck of the woods, precipitation was relatively scarce during this past winter. Nothing wrong with that from a driving perspective. But as the daffodils, tulips and hostas begin to shoot skyward, the lack of moisture can be problematic.

Before you drag out your hose or awaken your sleeping sprinkler system, pause a couple minutes to take in a few tips on using water wisely--a move that can help you beautify your lawn and garden, while keeping your water bill in check during the growing season.

Water Saved Is a Penny Earned

Water covers about 70 percent of the earth's surface. Of that, only 3 percent is freshwater--97 percent is saltwater. And, of the freshwater, 68.7 percent is trapped in glaciers and unavailable for drinking water.

The average American household uses about 100,000 gallons of water annually--inside and outside. Here are just a few of the ways you can help reduce the amount of water you use outside this year.

Choose your watering time wisely. Watering between 4 a.m. and 7 a.m. is ideal to minimize evaporation. Up to 30 percent of water is wasted through evaporation when you water midday. Why water in the morning instead of the evening? Lawn care experts say watering at night can promote the growth of fungus, which can be deadly to a green lawn.

Also pay attention to the wind, as a significant amount of water evaporates when the winds are strong--not to mention that most of the wind-blown water lands somewhere other than where it's needed most.
Save rainwater for outdoor use. Okay, I feel a tad bit guilty listing this one even though it truly can help cut your water bills. Collecting rainwater for later outdoor use is a relatively inexpensive and easy step--and yet I haven't put my money where my mouth is. Shame on me. But I did hint about a rain collection barrel for Mother's Day.

You can find a suitable barrel at nearly any price point ranging from under $100 up to several hundred dollars, depending on your wants and needs. Barrels come in many shapes and sizes, ranging from utilitarian in appearance to something slightly more stylish.  The one above, available from Sears, looks somewhat more decorative than most. Check your local garden shops or hardware stores to see what's available in your area.

Recycle other sources of water.  Don't let everyday sources of water go down the drain. Instead, capture and use water from your air conditioning condenser, dehumidifier, bath or cooking. Consider saving the water from boiling eggs or potatoes, letting it cool and using it on your container plants. My grandma never let a good pot of water go to waste. What potato water she didn't reuse in cooking always went into the garden.

We live in an older house that doesn't have a whole-house dehumidifier. Living in the Midwest, we have enough humidity and square footage to run two portable units almost constantly for six or more months of the year.  I collect enough dehumidifier water to keep 25 or so large outdoor pots moist during the entire growing season.

If you reuse household waste water such as bath or dish water, be sure it is free from bleach, automatic dish washing detergent and fabric softener, all of which can damage your lawn and plants.

Install a rain sensor on your sprinkler system. Don't you think it looks goofy to drive down the street on a rainy day and see the neighbors' sprinklers running full bore? If your sprinklers are competing with the rain, you might want to install a rain sensor that will let your system bypass a watering cycle when it rains. In the long run, the device will pay for itself in lower water bills--ours did.

Fix any leaks in your faucet or hose.  If you hose has any leaks, patch it with plumber's tape or purchase a new one. If leaks at the junction of the faucet and the hose attachment are spraying your money all over the side of your house or dripping it into the ground below the faucet, try replacing the rubber gasket inside the hose attachment. Tighten the hose as much as possible when you attach it to the faucet.

If you're looking to cut your total water bill in half, these simple tips likely won't do that. But, following even a couple of them can help mitigate the spikes in your outdoor water use during the summer months. Every penny counts. And, even if you didn't save any money by putting these ideas into practice, you could feel good knowing that you're helping to conserve that precious 3 percent of the earth's fresh water.

Have an outdoor watering tip to share? Post yours in the comment section.

Make it a great day!


  1. Great tips on saving and reusing water! Thanks for stopping by my blog the other day! I appreciate your kind words. I wanted to email you back but was unable.... Thanks again!

  2. Hi and Happy Monday-What great tips. I am a little concern with the lack of snow and rain myself.I am hoping that the rhyme April showers brings May flowers will be right this year. Have a great day.Hugs, Anna

  3. Great tips on reusing water. I think here in Michigan we take careful water use for granted because we are surrounded by water. But we also did not get that much snow so watching our water will be really important this year. Thanks again, Laura

  4. I LOVE your reusing water tips. I need to work harder on that.

  5. Great post! I'm after my husband all the time for turning on the shower and then wandering off for 5 minutes before he gets in. Aggravates me!!


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