Contact: Anne Moore, 218-302-6605 or 800-657-3864
Duluth, Minn. -- Minnesotans can take advantage of easy and inexpensive tips to help keep lawns and landscapes green, reduce water utility bills, and provide a variety of aesthetic and environmental benefits.
Water conservation becomes second nature when the benefits are factored into the lawn-care equation. Using less water helps prevent fertilizers and pet wastes from running off yards into nearby storm drains and local water bodies. It reduces the demand when water use may be restricted and saves money on water utility bills in the summer. In addition, it costs little or nothing to put most lawn-care alternatives into practice.
Here are five steps, listed from lowest to highest cost and labor, to help homeowners save more time and money spent working in the yard:
1. Allow part of the yard to go natural. Stop mowing and start letting native plants provide a more attractive environment for birds and butterflies. Native plants need less water and will be more resistant to local plant diseases. Tip: Add wildflower beds, rock gardens, native ornamental grass beds or even a fish pond because lawns require more watering than planting beds. Drip irrigation targets garden areas and will enhance water conservation efforts even more.
2. Pick up an adjustable lawn sprinkler at a moving sale or garden center. That will enable you to direct spray onto the desired area without wasting water on the pavement or a neighbor’s lawn. Tip: Place an empty tuna can under the sprinkler and water the lawn until the can is full. The can is about an inch high, which is just the right amount to soak the lawn’s root system.
3. Make a rain barrel or watch for them to go on sale. Watershed districts and other environmental groups often sell rain barrels below retail cost at special events. These containers are easy to install below a gutter’s downspout and will collect rainwater for later use. Tip: To choose the right rain barrel for your yard, visit http://www.lakesuperiorstreams.org/stormwater/toolkit/rainbarrels.html.
4. Watch where rainwater collects in your yard’s low spots. When the weather turns sunny, create a rain garden and fill it with flood-tolerant and water-loving perennial plants. Tip: Visit http://www.raingardens.org for inspiration and design ideas. A list of plants that thrive in rain gardens is available at /publications/manuals/stormwaterplants.html.
5. Plant drought-resistant turfgrass, perennials and shrubs. Even planting more shade trees will help keep grass or landscape plants cooler and stay more hydrated. Tip: Add a two- to four-inch layer of organic mulch around trees and plants. This will slow the moisture evaporation rate and limit weed growth.
For more tips, visit http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/feature/backyard/watercon.html and download a backyard conservation tip sheet. Or visit the MPCA’s yard and garden Web resource page at /index.php/yard-and-garden.html