With potential drought this year, local experts advise on Murray landscapesMar 04, 2021 12:13PM ● By Shaun Delliskave
The Conservation Garden Park provides information for homeowners interested in “flipping” their parking strip. (Photo courtesy of the Conservation Garden Park)
By Shaun Delliskave | [email protected]
Low snowpack combined with exceptionally dry soil means that landscapes will be starting the season stressed. However, just as with people, stress can make plants more robust and build resilience. The Murray Journal spoke with Cynthia Bee, outreach coordinator with the Conservation Garden Park (8275 S. 1300 West), about what steps homeowners can take as they plan their gardens for 2021.
“This year, local gardeners should be especially careful about water use. Low, careful landscape watering is the first critical activity,” Bee said. “Landscape watering comprises about 65% of the annual water use for most homeowners, so it’s the clear place to cut back. While it’s tempting to push the blame for water overuse on cities, businesses, or schools, water delivery to single-family homes comprises roughly 75% of drinking water use. It’s us. And that’s good news because we can each do something about the issue. Yards never need daily watering, even at the hottest times of the year.”
With water rates moving to a tiered system, cutting back on outdoor watering can save homeowners money. Water used on lawns contributes significantly to most water bills, but Bee says smart watering can save homeowners money.
According to Bee, “The greatest water waste happens when people ‘set and forget’ their irrigation controllers and water as though it’s July from too early in the season until long past when water should be turned off. Scheduled landscape watering should not begin until May 15 and end by Oct. 1. Even in the heat of July, landscapes should not be watered more than three times per week. All Utah homeowners can qualify for a rebate for weather-based smart controllers by applying through www.UtahWaterSavers.com.
“Another error is watering planting beds with overhead spray. This puts six times more water on shrubs and perennials than they need as well as watering the entire soil surface, wasting water and creating ideal conditions for weed growth. To control weeds, control water. Drip irrigation applies water slowly to plant roots, where they absorb it beneath the mulch layer, which reduces water lost to evaporation. Overhead spray irrigation should only be used on lawns.”
Changing the parking strip from lawn to water-wise plants can save 8,000-10,000 gallons of water per year.
“Many Murray homeowners have already ‘flipped’ their park strips from lawn to attractive, water-wise plants. Murray is actually leading the charge in many respects with park strip flips. It’s caught on quickly, and in some neighborhoods, roughly 50% of the homes have flipped their strips in the past couple of years,” Bee said.
Conservation Garden Park consists of approximately six acres of demonstration gardens and water-wise landscape exhibits and an education center. Conservation Garden Park teaches homeowners, landscape professionals, and students how to conserve water in the landscape through efficient irrigation, use of water-wise plant materials, and water-efficient maintenance.
As for what are the best plants to select for your yard, Bee suggests homeowners become familiar with “Localscapes.” The Conservation Garden Park offers Localscapes classes via live webinars and on-demand online courses (localscapes.com). They are available to Murray homeowners free of charge.
“The greatest challenges are created by poor landscape layouts. The Localscapes design method, created specifically for Utah, teaches homeowners how to improve their landscape layouts to reduce maintenance, irrigate efficiently, improve curb appeal and create yards that work for the way individual families choose to live,” Bee said.
As for vegetable gardens, the Conservation Garden Park advises gardeners to improve their yields, extend the season and reduce weeding by installing raised beds. Raised-bed vegetable garden aisles should be mulched with gravel. Raised beds should be drip irrigated and covered with a fine layer of organic mulch. The mulch insulates plant roots, keeps moisture around the plants and reduces weeds.
The Jordan Valley Water Conservancy District operates Conservation Garden Park. More information can be found online at conservationgardenpark.org/.