Recently, I was energized to have a conversation with Kristen Fefes, Executive Director of the Associated Landscape Contractors of Colorado (ALCC). The ALCC is the industry trade organization for landscape contractors, who become members of the organization by agreeing to a code of conduct with respect to Best Management Practices. These BMPs relate to commercial and residential landscape installation and maintenance care throughout Colorado.
This year, the number one topic on the industry plate was the watering restrictions imposed by our recent drought. How, as an industry, do we serve our customers as well as make money for our businesses, and families when our fortunes are so dependent on weather issues?
In my comments with Kristen, I advocated that the water utilities, such as Denver Water, and others, take a longer term view of the problem of landscape water scarcity, and regularly (annually) encourage homeowner and landscape conservation efforts through educational and public awareness events.
Teaching homeowners to conserve landscape water as much as possible in any give year, helps the entire community move to a new paradigm. Rather than take draconian measures in one year, and create the wrong emphasis on the problem (I am using less water, and I get to pay more for the privilege!!!??), I would suggest that through regular water conservation practices, we treat each year as an opportunity to find new water savings in our landscapes. While it might take 10 years or so to convert homeowners and their HOAs to a new look, I would advocate that this is the right approach for the long term health of our communities amidst certain future water scarcity issues.
Certainly those who work in the landscape industry have the knowlege to share different water-saving practices with their clients.
Here’s a suggested survey: Look at what outdoor activities actually take place around your home. Define practical turf zones to accommodate the volleyball net, croquet set-up, or just a place to use the summer slip and slide. Move the swingset to a corner of the lot (within view of Mom’s kitchen window) and place the structure on a non-irrigated (and more forgiving) mulch bed. Use hardscape near the backdoor to define an outdoor eating and living area, or deck.
After assessing your individual needs, choose to regularly irrigate only the practical turf areas, and provide less, or no water to those areas in your landscape that don’t require water. Invest in a good irrigation audit. Find, and fix the leaks, address sprinkler coverage issues, (often this just means adjusting, or replacing a head), and be a better outdoor water consumer. Use mulch, and follow other sustainable practices that improve the health of our landscapes.
We (and our plants)struggled through the beginning of the summer on a two-day per week watering schedule. Now that we’ve added a third day to our watering schedules, I’m very impressed with the health of much of our plant material. Even though we have had extended hot weather – another 95 degree day is forecasted for the Front Range – we have learned that deep, infrequent watering works. It is a best practice that we all can embrace.
Let this be a lesson for future summers. It won’t be long before sprinklers are blown out, and the garden put to bed for the winter. Remember the success of this summer,and resist the urge to change your clock next spring.
You’ll be helping your landscape, as well as conserving water!